Who we are - Brier Island Trails Committee (BITC)
The Brier Island Trails Committee (BITC; the Committee) 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 are usually held at the Westport Library at 6:15pm on the third Tuesday of each month, except July and 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 building a boardwalk into the Big Meadow Bog area. The boardwalk, specifically designed for wheelchair accessibility, permits nature lovers, birders, and individuals to venture much farther into the Bog than would otherwise be possible and to observe plants and migratory birds.
Phase One, completed in 2018 is 250m of trail. 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.
Phase Two, a 345m boardwalk extension and a 250 sq ft viewing platform was constructed in the fall of 2021. Signage and seating areas were placed along the Trail in 2022.
Future plans will see the trail extended 110m where 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.
It is hoped to upgrade the dry land trail to Jimmy’s Pond, and the crusher dust section from Phase One to boardwalk, making them more accessible.
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.
In 2021, the Brier Island Trails Committee (the Committee) completed Phase Two of The Big Meadow Bog Trail. The accessible boardwalk Trail is now 587 metres long (one way) and ends with a 225 sq ft viewing platform. In March 2022, the Committee started a three-year fundraising campaign to construct the next Phase: approximately 250 metres of The Big Meadow Bog Trail. Your financial support will help complete this next Phase.
When you contribute, your business or name will be listed on a donor sign as a Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Friend donor. We can list “In Memory of…” if you wish. Please see the donor sign on the home page showing donors for Phase Two. Donation information follows:
To donate and receive an income tax receipt:
A. Donate through the NS Trails Federation website at http://nstrails.com/donate-now/
In the pulldown menu select Brier Island Trails Committee and complete the form.
B. Send a cheque to
Nova Scotia Trails Federation
5516 Spring Garden Road, 4th Floor,
Halifax NS, B3J 1G6
Attention: H. Stilwell
When you donate through Nova Scotia Trails Federation, you will receive a tax receipt from Canada Helps. The Committee will receive your donation less 10%, which is shared with Canada Helps and Nova Scotia Trails Federation.
To donate and NOT receive an income tax receipt:
A. Send an e-transfer to Brian Bowerman, Treasurer, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
B. Send a cheque, payable to: Brier Island Trails Committee, PO Box 1263, Westport NS B0V 1H0
Please be part of this three-year fundraiser. Your donation will help build a unique local trail that offers recreational enjoyment for all, provides outreach and education about the Eastern Mountain Avens, and highlights Brier Island as an ecotourism destination for birders and nature lovers. We look forward to seeing you on the Trail!
Brier Island Facebook Links
The Nova Scotia Bird Society has been a focus for birders in this province for 60 years. Serving about 600 members, we have much to offer anyone interested in wild birds. Browse through our website for a sample of what we do, and feel free to send us an e-mail if you would like more information.