Who we are - Brier Island Trails Committee (BITC)
The Brier Island Trails Committee (BITC) is a group of community volunteers dedicated to building and maintaining the Big Meadow Bog Trail on Brier Island. Photo at right was taken early on Sunday, 4 October 2020 and shows mist rising from Bog. Photo by J. DeVries.
BITC is a registered non-profit society, formed in 2017. The annual membership fee is $10.00 per year for an individual; $25.00 for a family; and $50.00 for a business or association. Meetings are open to the public and usually held at the Community Hall the third Tuesday of each month, except December. We follow the Public Health Guidelines Act for social distancing and wearing of masks.
To create public awareness of the Big Meadow Bog restoration, BITC is working with NCC to create a system of wooden boardwalks and groomed trails into the Big Meadow Bog area. The boardwalk, specifically designed for wheelchair accessibility, permits nature lovers, birders and individuals to venture much further into the Bog than would otherwise be possible and to observe plants and migratory birds.
Phase One (250 metres of trail) was completed in 2018 (yellow). From the parking lot, 40m of raised boardwalk crosses a salt marsh to a gravel berm (remnants of a former dam). On top of the berm, a crusher dust trail runs for 60m, continuing with 150m of floating (puncheon) boardwalk. At the end of this boardwalk a dry land trail extends to the right, ending at Jimmy’s Pond.
A 400 m extension (in red) crusher dust trail will run from its current ending location southward to the northeast ditch and onto the edge of the Municipal property. Signage and seating areas will be placed along the trail as it is completed. The dry land trail to Jimmy’s Pond will be upgraded making it fully accessible.
Future plans (not shown on map) will also see the trail extended to Municipality of Digby and Nature Conservancy of Canada lands. Here a viewing platform will allow visitors to see Eastern Mountain Avens in their natural habitat, without damaging the bog and the flora that it supports. A return loop of dry land trail though the woods, will offer views of the village of Westport and the bog from a slightly higher elevation.
The Mi’kmaq visited Brier Island to fish and hunt long before Samuel de Champlain mapped the area in 1604-1605. During the 1700s it became a fishing outpost for fishers from Maine, and a few families settled here during that time. In 1783 a number of American colonists who wished to remain loyal to Britain fled to what is known today as Canada; a number of these Loyalists settled on Brier Island.
Historically, the Big Meadow Bog was used for hunting ducks and deer and for berry picking (blueberries, cranberries and Jones berries, also known as bakeapples). Near the boardwalk, an area was dammed and flooded to create a large pond. During the winter, the ice was cut into blocks and stored in “ice houses” to be used in the summer fishery. Jimmy’s Pond can be seen if one follows the trail where it forks to the right.
During the 1950s a series of trenches were dug along the length of the bog with a plan to drain the area and develop land for farming. The plan was unsuccessful but the bog continued to drain, vegetation encroached, and several lily ponds disappeared. The bog was taken over by a colony of nesting seagulls.
Some of this bog area is part of the 1200-acre NCC Nature Preserve on Brier Island and home to the endangered Eastern Mountain Avens. Ongoing research has led to a recovery plan for raising the water level in the bog and returning the area to its natural state.
There is a donation box at the entrance to the trail where you may support the work of BITC. At present we cannot accept online donations or issue receipts. We are working on this so stay tuned.