History of the Dynamite Trail

In the early months of the year 2000, a group of interested citizens met to discuss the possibility of turning the abandoned rail line that ran from Martins River to Mahone Bay into a managed trail. Since abandonment by CN, the rail corridor had become an unmanaged ATV trail with many accompanying problems and complaints by adjacent landowners. From that meeting, nine citizens representing both motorized and non-motorized points of view stepped forward and agreed to work on a plan to develop a managed trail.

Not surprisingly the easiest part of the plan was finding a name for the trail.

Since the main commercial function of this part of the rail line was to transport dynamite from the CIL plant in Montreal and offload to the Dynamite Wharf in Mahone Bay, the Dynamite Trail seemed a good fit.

A Board of Directors was formed from the nine unsuspecting citizens who truly believed the trail could be built and open in three to five years. Also the Board thought it necessary to survey the community and discover what usage people would like to have on the trail. To that end, every tenth person in the phone book and every adjacent landowner was surveyed for their opinion. Unfortunately the results gave no clear answer as 50% were against motorized use and 50% were in favor of motorized use. After two years of trying to build consensus between the motorized and non-motorized crowd and of having Directors leave the Board, it was decided to concentrate efforts on building a shared use trail and determine usage once opened.

Like a good mystery novel that slowly reveals its mini-plots, minefields, albatrosses, and advocates, the Board became aware that building this trail would require stubborn resolve to reach the final chapter. Developing a trail construction plan, obtaining engineering reports on two major bridges, acquiring trail insurance, gaining funding sources, all had to be in place prior to getting a Letter of Authority from DNRR to manage and build the trail. After three years of meticulous building of a paper trail, the Board received its Letter of Authority and began the task of building actual trail. The Dynamite Trail would have to be constructed to standards approved by DNRR. This process involved much work; the trail had to be brushed out, drainage had to be established, bridges had to be decked, surfaces had to brought up to standard, and the funds to do this had to be raised.

A major advocate throughout this project has been the Nova Scotia government through Sport and Recreation and the many government reorganizations of this program. A grant was received to assist with the decking and railing of our two major bridges which was accomplished by the Airfield Engineering Squadron. Brushing out overgrowth began by volunteers however the task required full-time employees to complete the full ten kilometres. This was achieved through a federally funded program directed towards employment. Once the trail was cleared of overgrowth, the task of ditching, culvert installation, boulder placement, trail grading and resurfacing, bollard installation, parking lot building, installing signage, decking and railing five smaller bridges, began in phases as funding would allow. Thanks to a major ACOA grant to the municipality, much was accomplished. The construction phase seemed to take a long time, but in 2014 all standards were in place and the Dynamite Trail was declared open to the public by DNRR.

Shortly after being declared open as a recreational trail, the Dynamite Trail was identified by Bicycle Nova Scotia as a cycling route, meeting the standards set by Bicycle Nova Scotia as a safe place to ride. In 2018 the Dynamite Trail joined the other trail groups from Halifax to Lunenburg to be known collectively as the Rum Runners Trail, one of the three Destination Trails in Nova Scotia. The final step in the evolution of the Dynamite Trail was to become part of the Trans Canada Trail, Western Loop.

The Dynamite Trail Association is now tasked with the duty to operate and maintain the trail; two large bridges and five small ones, keep the vegetation at bay, and maintain a surface suitable for shared use. To do this, fundraising is a major activity. The present Board of Directors is a small group of very dedicated volunteers from the community. In 2023, the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer were part of the Founding Directors and have been in the executive positions since the beginning.

Fundraising to assist in accessing grant money from major donors has been a challenge throughout the years. Efforts included the meter sales program, calendar sales, trail spike program, 50/50 community program, and corporate donations. Surprisingly, the largest amount of non-government money has been received from a few citizens without asking. As mentioned previously, the Nova Scotia government, now through Community Culture and Heritage, has been our largest funding agency, followed by the Municipality of Lunenburg, Trans Canada Trail, and the Off Highway Vehicle fund. However without the work of our volunteers and the support of municipal staff, the Dynamite Trail would be but a dream. Thanks to the vision of those nine interested citizens in 2000, three of which continue their contribution to the Board, this wonderful legacy can be enjoyed for generations.

Members of the community who would like to be part of the Board of Directors are encouraged to contact the Board for an active role.