New sign posts direct tourists around McNabs Island

HALIFAX — Hikers headed to McNabs Island now have less chance of getting lost.

Thirty new signs posts pointing visitors to various attractions have popped up on the island.

“When you’re wandering along the trail, you can meet one of these directional signs and it will tell you what way to go to get to one of the forts or the Victorian Gardens,” said Cathy McCarthy of Friends of McNabs Island Society.

They also include the distance to each site.

The new signage is part of a 180-thousand dollar investment by Waterfront Development Corp. that also includes compostable toilets and a floating dock so more people can access the provincial park.

The aim of the improvements is to attract more people to McNabs, which despite being only about a 20-minute boat ride away from the Halifax Waterfront, has not been visited by many who live in the city.

Since 2009, Friends of McNabs has raised about $500,000 to improve trails that were damaged by Hurricane Juan, and by heavy equipment used to clean up the debris.

“There’s about 18 kilometres of trails, so there’s a lot to improve,” said McCarthy.

The section of Garrison Road that runs from the pier to the newly constructed interpretive centre is basically buried under beach cobble.

McCarthy thinks they will likely have to rebuild the road further inland.

She would also like to see the island’s teahouse renovated, which was built in the 1980s as a place people could go for refreshments, snacks and lunch.

“We want to use it as an Information Centre, so when island visitors come over they’ll have a place to go to learn a bit more about the island,” she explained. “It will also be a place they can go and rest, if it starts raining they can seek some shelter in there.”

This summer, the Friends of McNabs group cleaned out the building, but it still needs a new roof, windows and doors.

The organization is a volunteer group funded by donations and applying for grants, and McCarthy said anyone interested in helping out is welcome to get in touch with them.

She said tourists from around the world are interested in checking out the forts and other historic sites of the the 372-hectare island.

“We’ve had people from the cruise ships who aren’t interested in going to Peggy’s Cove, they want to come to McNabs Island,” she said.

The site is also popular with school groups.

McCarthy said the estimated number of yearly visitors is pegged at about 12,000, but as private boaters pop in on their own, there’s really no way to accurately track attendance.

She thinks the numbers are increasing this year, partially due to a couple of newly launched water taxi companies that make McNabs more accessible.

On Sunday, the organization is bringing over 200 people over the the island for their annual Fall Foliage Tour.

The event has sold out, but McCarthy said people can still join in if they arrange their own transportation through a water taxi service.

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