Duck 'n Run @McIntosh Run. Update and account

I want to give everyone an update on Duck’n Run trail at McIntosh Run.

Last week the Department of Lands and Forestry inspected Duck’n Run, part of West Pine trail, and the Run bridge. Except for a few details, trails are now good to go. MRWA will install a few caution signs at DLF request, and will open up some sight-lines that we think are important now that shrubs have leafed out. Paperwork for the Bridge needs to be finalized on our end, but hopefully that is not a major delay. DLF was in general very complementary and encouraged application for system Phase 2, ie more singletrack.

Once everything is a wrap, the DLF Waverly office rep will come out for a confirmation visit and MRWA can put a bow on it all.

I personally think this is a big deal. Duck 'n Run links both ends of the McIntosh Run system as laid out in 2014, making much longer rides possible. The alignment was scouted and mapped in 2013-2014, and to see it become real is satisfying for many contributors.

Time-travelling MTBers from that time, before 2015/16, would freak out today: Their world had no Attic, Osprey, Divide, Spar, Schnitzel, let alone West Pine or DnR. The plans for those trails (the Attic has had significant variances) were presented and overall supported by the community in the 2014 consultation meetings in Spryfield.

Thank-yous should start with landowners and managers (HRM and Crown) and Mi’kmaq approvals for a McIntosh Run singletrack – all of it, not just DnR. The sanctioned system helps to lock down from urban development a large area only ~3km from the centre of one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. Having a singletrack system in this location is pretty incredible. As some of you know, approvals didn’t come quickly.

Land-use agreements for trails happened because of overwhelming community support in the public consultations of 2012 and 2014. MTBers yes, but also hikers, conservationists, and long-time local residents who don’t necessarily identify with any of those groups but still thought a shared non-motorized trail system in their ‘backyard’ Watershed would benefit their community, grandchildren etc…

As it turns out, the people that have stepped forward to do the work --from wrangling tax forms to wrangling rocks-- continue to be drawn from a wide range of MTBers, local residents, hikers, conservationists etc. From my perspective, this diversity has been gratifying. Although I’m a mountain biker, it has been my pleasure to have done trailwork with many keen people who aren’t: Scouts, non-English speaking recent immigrants, even life-long Spryfield residents who had never really experienced the granite terrains before and then kept coming out to do trailwork.

Those are just a few stories. Stuff gets done only through volunteers who do trail crew tax forms, knock on doors of the neighborhood etc, and all the other things needed to keep a McIntosh Run project rolling --allowing us to have trails and funding.

Building Duck 'n Run involved 3589 hours of labour: 1238 hours by volunteers and 2351 hours by MRWA crew (which I help direct as a volunteer. Russ and Kaarin are also key here).

Work started near the end of June, 2019, and the last boardwalk was finished by volunteers on December 29th. DnR is 2600m long. ~2450m is new trail, with a short piece of adopted trail that received some work.

Building the first section, with the overhanging rock, was especially slow. It required more than 4 person hours/metre of trail. It was expected to be slow, but it still seemed endless. When we finished in December the total number of hours was close to prediction and we were on budget.

I would be here all day if I start listing everyone that contributed. The Big Three volunteer days that stick out as giant leaps are: AnalyzeRE (20? software developers), Dillon Consulting (for the 3rd year, and also a financial supporter), and Cyclesmith (also a major financial supporter and the reason we got a now-indispensible Hilti rotary hammer midway into the season).

Mountain Bike Halifax’ arranging and payment of a VisionAir helidrop of lumber for the bridge and other structures was essential, and super exciting. Some ECMTB regulars worked on the lower Duck boardwalk --and Bromoc is always ready to print signs. Kim and Peter Dodge, and Eric Martyn, made big volunteer contributions working alongside the crew.

Ducks Unlimited contributed a lot to material and tool costs, as part of the McIntosh Run Treasured Wetland initiative. Everyone should stop to check out the eagles and waterfowl on Duck Pond and West Pine, and the lush wetland above the lower Duck beaver dam. I f’ing love that spot.

The 2019 MRWA trail crew was so great. Thanks Sam, Taylor, Emily, Eric, Alexi, Niall, Jonathan. Like a band, there were core members and players that changed during the season. We were usually 3-5 people. We keep learning to solve problems better in what is a crazy landscape to build trails.

It looks like at least a couple key crew will be back in 2020 and, fingers crossed, trail work will start again soon.

If you want to help in the short term, the best thing you can do right now is email your HRM Councillor before Council’s June 7 meeting, and ask them to support the current Parks and Recreations’s request for Recreational Trail funding. Mentioning McIntosh Run singletrack by name, as an important project that would benefit from this, would be helpful too. It doesn’t matter which Council District you live in. This will help build more trails, and also help solve parking because the trail funding package includes funds that Parks and Rec will use to plan parking.

You could also contact MLA Brendan MaGuire in support of the project.

Thanks so much for reading.

I’m not very good at taking photos systematically during trail building, but here are some taken over the 2019 season – almost all from building DnR. I missed a lot of important days, like Cyclesmith and AnalyzeRE. If anyone wants to add photos, please do.


2012 Consultation.
Russ is timeless @adventurer

A few things have changed since the plan of this era, and some trails planned have not been built yet. However, Duck n Run today is close to the route planned in 2014

Plan as of the Fall 2014 Public Consultations

Tweaking Duck 'N Run route in 2015, but you never know till you dig…

Approved Crown trail alignments as of '16.

May 2019

Refinding and flagging the line. Even brushier now.


June, crew starts


Russ @adventurer
Before completely taking apart and rebuilding a boulder pile covered in organics.

Hiking to work in the morning

Taylor, never a bad day. Never stops.

Backpacking is fun.

Overhanging rock

JT at the overhang

Niall, after we opened it up

Commuting with chainsaw

Cribbing lumber for the bridge

Ed R, Brent, Tony and other carrying it in.

Tony regularly volunteered for a couple of seasons while battling chronic cancer. Except with a couple people, he never talked about it. Tony passed on this March.

Ripping up deep organics, smashing, filling holes. The usual.

Was a boulder field

Moved some stuff, still doesn;t look good. Now what?

Decided to do rockwork on the top half, ladder bridge on the lower.

Carpentry (Taylor)

Planing cribbing lumber (Lawrence, photo by Andrew Feener)

Cribbing is shaped, dryfitted into place. Lawrence drilling granite in the background (Andrew Feener photo)

Making a flat bearing surface for the bridge’s north abutment

Niall’s berm with a view.

Smashing on a hot day. Sam

Deep organic hole grubbed, refilled with an estimated 5000kg of granite.

Back to the bridge for more footing work. HILTI volunteers do a valuable day.

Nice saw… Brian from Hilti.

Brent Hillier, builder and boardmember from the North Shore Mountain Bike Association, visits the crew and comes out for a ride.

Oh, jeeze.

Moving through it

There’s hope.

VisionAir / MBH heli day

Duck Pond heli drop

Filling another hole

Morning at Flat Lake. We jump back there for a few days.

Replaced rotting ladder bridge

Armview Scout Troop, day 1.

Iterative Design/Build process…

Didn’t work, but was a lot of fun.

Borrow-pits / tiny home discussion day.

More dirt than usual here.

Geotextile area, one of several (already under the rock)

Finishing off a project, after hours.



Wetland above Lower Duck beaver dam. Quiet before the storm, of the Dillon Consulting volunteer day.


Adam Lanigan photo

Adam Lanigan photo


Woody (Adam Lanigan photo)

Opening up the lower S-bend. Eric and Alexi

Eric and Alexi

Kim and Sam

Pretty close. It will need more work in 2020 as it packs in.

Commuting through Lion King Rock

Back to Levys Lumber for more roughcut.

Volunteer session at the mucky S-bend,

Lower Duck Creek boardwalk. Footings in progress, with big help from Derek, Jeff, Shawn, Geoff from ECMTB.

Need bridge footings…

Tight blocking…



Upper Duck crossing approach. Kaarin, Alexi, Emily.

It’s coming together.

Commuting to work.

Upper Duck boardwalk. The footings were a lot of work. Boulders moved, winched, split everywhere.

A spot that is never dry, so return to it to slip in a little boardwalk and ditch

Last structure to build, at the junction with the Old Military Road/Lake Loop.

Sill locations, before placement and rock supports.

Early morning hammering in December is the best.

Eric doing rockwork from a wheelbarrow chair.

Alexi carrying in the last lumber needed. Almost 30km of hiking in one day, half of it laden with lumber.
Still smiling.

Last shot of the season.


I am not sure what to say here Lawrence but I think I speak for all riders when I say we owe you and your crew an incredible amount of debt for the history making contribution you have made to the community. We could NEVER repay that debt other than to say that your contribution and legacy work will last an eternity after we all take our last pedal stroke. I can’t believe there are even more trails planned.

Thank you thank you thank you to all the MRWA crew for what you have accomplished. The trails are a huge part of us rider’s lives. I can truly say that you have made our lives better



Best post ever.

Thanks for all of the work by you, your crew and all of the other volunteers and facilitators.


So much awesome in this post! Thanks for the update, @Lawrence.

Thanks to everyone involved. This trail will last many generations I am sure of it.


Just want to isolate this quote:


Lawrence your leadership within the cycling community is outstanding. A huge thank you to you and the entire MRWA team.

there was ducks in the duck pond last night.


Wow. Lawrence, this is really incredible! Thank you.


Thank you Lawrence, Kaarin, Russ and the regular crew that has helped to push this project through. I have only managed to get out a handful of times to help, but will hopefully have some more opportunities to do so this season.

You have built something wonderful, for so many people to enjoy and we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude. I will email my councillor this week.


Thank you Lawrence, Kaarin, Russ, and everyone! What an incredible legacy you guys are building.

I look forward to joining you all soon for some social-distance trail building. I’ve already emailed my councillor.


Thank you @Lawrence, @kaarin, all the volunteers and paid crews! Your efforts will be enjoyed for generations. Can’t wait to see what the next phase looks like.


Thank you both, without your years of tireless work both on the trail and even more importantly the long slow battle to acquire the necessary approval from both the civic and provincial governments none of this would now exist.


Nice! Hope to bring a bike to town sometime and check it out.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped out, Thank you from the bottom of my heart Lawrence and Kaarin, for seeing this through, not just for our generation but for many generations to come. :heart_eyes: :heart: :heart_eyes: :heart: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :heart: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :heart:


A post was split to a new topic: Government Support for Recreation Trails

When you see the work being done over a long period of time, you don’t fully realize how much work goes into a trail like this. Seeing it all together like this, WOW!. We are all in debt to everyone who put time in to this. I am going to email my councilor and MLA.


This post is above par from some of the best PB articles I have read. Awesome documentation.

This should be stickied.

Respect to the leadership who got this done.

Many thanks.


A post was merged into an existing topic: Halifax Recreational Trails Pilot Program

Many many thanks to all the volunteers and trail builders, such an awesome trail system!


Thank you @Lawrence for posting such a detailed and well written piece. And thank you for all your hard work on the trail and behind the scenes. I want to echo your thanks to all you mentioned who helped on this project. When the MRWA Trail Committee met at the beginning of last year I will admit that I was skeptical that Duck N’Run would be finished by the end of the year. But under your leadership with an hard working trail crew and a dedicated core group of volunteers (@kaarin, @adventurer, Kim and Peter and more) you got it done. I am proud to have had a small part in the process and you should be proud too. Here is a photo of the last structure to complete Duck N’Run connecting Spryfield to Herring Cove through the wilderness.


I know “trail elves” is a popular term but it always bugged me a little (not a lot, mind) as it seems to lessen the importance of the work trail builders and maintainers do. Surely there is a way to refer to the people who are responsible for this massive effort without making them sound like little people who work in Santa’s toyshop. I’m at a loss as to what, though.