Q&A with the Natural Resources Education Centre

Last week, Brad Donaldson sat down with Martha Grantham and Amelia Kennedy of the Natural Resources Education Centre in Middle Musquodoboit, NS to discuss their organization.


Q: What are your roles with the Natural Resources Education Centre (NREC)?

Martha: I am the supervisor of the Natural Resources Education Centre.

Amelia: I’m a natural resource educator.


Q: Summarizing, what is the NREC?

Martha: We do education-based programs that are curriculum-related throughout the school year. The NREC is responsible for basically sharing information—and hopefully creating good stewards—largely with the Nova Scotia public, but a lot is with youth. We have 120 acres of woodlands and trails right here in our own backyard, so our programs take place in the building, then migrate outdoors where the best part happens because that’s where a lot of the youth don’t have the opportunity [to go].

Q: Can you tell us a little more about the Nature Learning Place Space, which really seems to be a shining spot of the organization?

Martha: It’s a pretty amazing, neat playground, using natural materials that really evolved out of a community partnership, with lots of sponsors that jumped on board and enabled us to create this great, non-traditional, nature-based [environment] where kids can get back to nature.




Q: What other programs does the organization offer?

Martha: [One is] something called “Grade 4s Outdoors” . And it basically gives every grade 4 student in the province (so about eight thousands of them) a two-night camping pass for any of our provincial camping parks.


Q: How is the NREC associated with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)?

Martha: We’re in a branch [of the department] called Regional Services. It’s probably the largest part of the department, and within that [we work with] private lands, stewardship, and outreach. But it’s really about the outreach. There’s a focus on forestry and biodiversity, wildlife, rocks, minerals, mining, [parks], green spaces [as well].

Amelia: Within the department, [regional services] is seen as the service delivery. So we’re trying to get better at working with the rest of the department to deliver the messages if they have [something on] biodiversity, or some kind of other activity, whether it’s fire prevention—we can deliver that message for them.


Q: What are your organization’s biggest challenges?

Martha: Everyone has challenges with staffing and what not, so we do our best to offer programs and cover off what requests come in. But part of our job, which is really important, is to foster that sense of stewardship. And that’s really what the province is trying to do. [Another challenge is] because of the digital age that we’re in, there are a lot of people in the public that might not be as connected [with nature] as perhaps they were in the past. And it’s also a learning curve for us, too, because we’re navigating the digital world that [keeps] changing. So we know there are other things we could do but sometimes we have limitations in terms of our resources.


Q: What are some volunteer opportunities for people looking to give back and get more involved in fostering a love for the outdoors in their communities?

Martha: We’ve had co-op students from high schools and so on [in the past]. We don’t have a volunteer program per say. We did, for instance, have community build days for the Nature Learning Play Space. That was very much a community effort. And there are opportunities in some of the parks that are friends of [our] organization.



Q: Although there might not be a huge infrastructure for volunteers currently, are they still vital to organizations such as yours and others around the province?

Amelia: Definitely. And it might not be in the same kind of role we [usually] think of. But it’s just so huge that we live in such a beautiful province and just to take advantage of all those natural places and to have an opportunity to take kids outside. And to get them out and looking close at things…and being hands on. It always amazes me how when kids come out here, they’re all looking, listening, and happy to be outside. That’s huge for them. [Some of them] have never had that opportunity. We just need someone to take them there.


Q: Is there one area of Nova Scotia’s natural resources that stands out to the NREC?

Amelia: Some things that really hit home to me is that it’s amazing when we have kids—when we’re talking about wildlife—they’ll throw up their hands [with questions] on wildlife examples that come from Africa or the rainforest. And one of my passions is to speak of wildlife in Nova Scotia and what we have here. If we look closely, it’s amazing what we’ll see. And to talk about some of those adaptations and features, and make the kids really interested and knowledgeable about [our local wildlife] is something I’m really excited and passionate about.




Q: Regarding the NREC’s future, are there any changes, or areas of improvement, you would like to see addressed moving forward?

Martha: We know that not everyone can come here. So we’ll be looking at things that might make it easier for folks. Maybe we can improve our presence on the web, and we’ve been growing [our] social media. We’re looking at trying to be more accessible. And our trails are great but not always accessible to everyone. That’s gotta keep going. There will always be people who need to make a connection with nature. And that’s what we have here—we’ve got the real thing.


For more information, check out the NREC on Facebook, or visit their website.

Slate of 2017-18 Hike NS Courses & Workshops Released

Hike NS’s schedule of courses and workshops across Nova Scotia is now available for 2017-18. Beginning in June through to February, they range from how to share nature with children to how to be a hike leader to navigation. The specific offerings include:Re-Connecting with Nature Workshops; Field Leader – Hiking Courses; Field Leader – Winter Module; Field Leader – Overnight Module; Navigation Maps & Compass Courses; and WILD Connect Course. Dates, locations and costs vary, depending upon the course or workshop. Learn more and view the schedules at www.hikenovascotia.ca.


A for Adventure: sitting down with Chris Surette

By Brad Donaldson

When asked about A for Adventure’s beginnings, Chris Surette can’t help but get excited. “I still get the chills when I think about it,” says Surette when reflecting on how the multi-faceted marketing brand started.

Fittingly, the adventure started here in Nova Scotia, when, in the summer of 2013, Jan LaPierre (another member of A for Adventure) created “Paddle to Sable”, a paddling venture that would travel from Canso, Nova Scotia to Sable Island—an island 200 kilometres off the coast. The trip, along with friend Graham Carter, was aimed at raising money to send children dealing with mental health issues to Brigadoon Village, in Kentville, Nova Scotia.

Nearly four years later, I sit across from Surette (who was in the support vessel during “Paddle to Sable”) in his downtown Dartmouth office as he shares stories from the last handful of years.

The paddling trip was a celebrated accomplishment, but it simultaneously sparked a journey of further adventure across the province.

Paddling was step one. Step two?

“Canso’s still in the rear-view mirror,” says Surette, “and [Jan] pulled out his phone and started reading. And he was like: ‘A is for Adventure, as you’ll come to know.’”

What LaPierre was reading was the beginning of his idea for a children’s book, synonymously named “A is for Adventure”. By the time Jan had gotten to the third letter of the alphabet (C is for canoeing, if you’re wondering), Surette was hooked.

“I could instantly imagine families, and people coming together and being inspired to get outside.”

Roughly two years after that drive home from Canso, Jan and Chris held the first hard-copy prints of their storybook vision.

Through this literary vehicle, the Nova Scotian duo have become full-time adventurers, promoting the outdoors, and acting as ambassadors for the multitude of benefits found outdoors, which recently includes a partnership with Parks Canada.

Surette believes the importance of a children’s book is to create a foundation of adventure within the younger audience. Because, if you can convince that audience to connect with nature, “You’re way ahead,” he says.

Following the success of the book, there was a rise in demand for the brand’s additional online content such as collaborating with Tourism Nova Scotia. The demand led to Chris and Jan quickly adding a third, full-time member, in the form of Brad Sayeau, a Toronto-based filmmaker who had recently moved east.

“We’re storytellers, first,” says Surette. “And in order to do that, video has been a really big platform for us.”

With this addition, the brand continued its production of digital content both in quantity and quality, with all three members sharing in on the brainstorming and production process.

While Surette enjoys recounting the success of his own business, what is reassuring of the brand is the prominence placed on others who share their passion. By adventuring on a regular basis, Surette says it has “opened [their] eyes to realize there was different ways to reach people.” And he insists it has the power to change lives.

The enthusiasm that appears when talking about other people’s stories proves the brand’s intention is built around what Surette calls “CCR” or “creativity, curiosity, and resiliency.”

“The outdoors teaches you how to fail,” says Surette, who isn’t shy of the fact everyone fails at some point. “[But] if you fall down, get back up again.”

Whether it’s sharing this message with elementary schools, facilitating camping workshops with refugees, or hiking local trails for their own pleasure, Surette says the brand emphasises breaking the stigma that adventure has to be something extreme or radical. He believes adventure can be manageable, such as biking around the lake or walking through the neighbourhood park.

And these days, the guys behind A for Adventure can be found all over Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces living up to their motto: inspiring others to get outside.

Visit A for Adventure’s website here for more online content and inspiration.

Hike NS Presents Awards at Tatamagouche Summit

Hike Nova Scotia has awarded a Pictou County trail builder and a Colchester County trail group with its highest awards. At its annual Hiking Summit held in Tatamagouche on the weekend, Hike NS presented Dr. Gordon Young and the Cobequid Eco-Trails Society with Summit Awards.

“The Summit Award is presented to an organization or individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the growth and development of hiking in Nova Scotia,” explains Deb Ryan, Hike NS’s Past President.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Gordon Young has logged countless hours providing leadership to and nurturing the development of trails and growing a hiking movement throughout the Pictou County region. He helped to create the Cape to Cape Trail concept, a long distance trail now under construction with the aim to link Cape Chignecto and Cape George. Learn more about Gordon’s contribution to hiking trail development.

The Cobequid Eco-Trails Society (CE-TS) was formed in 2007 and focuses on the development and promotion of non-motorized trails in Colchester County. It has an emphasis on environmental appreciation and stewardship.  CE-TS and community volunteers have designed and developed the Gully Lake Trail system creating over 30 kilometres of hiking trails. Learn more about the CE-TS’s contribution to hiking trail  development.

The Awards were part of the annual Hiking Summit, a celebration of Nova Scotia’s hiking culture, which is held in a different community each year. This year’s Summit in Tatamagouche from April 29 to 30 was the biggest yet, with 200 people attending. Avid hikers, hiking clubs, trail groups, provincial government, municipalities and others attended the event. They took in guided hikes, information sessions and socials. Local dignitaries were on hand to launch the Summit including the Honourable Karen Casey, MLA for Colchester North, Her Worship Christine Blair, Mayor of the Municipality of Colchester and Jim Baird, Chair of the Tatamagouche Village Commission.

A highlight of the event was keynote speaker Dianne Whelan. She is an award-winning Canadian filmmaker, photographer, author and multimedia artist who is traveling the longest trail in the world, The Great Trail (also known as the Trans Canada Trail).

The Summit was co-hosted by Hike NS, the Cobequid Eco-Trails Society and the Municipality of Colchester. The event was supported by the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage with The Trail Shop as the presenting sponsor.

The 2018 Summit co-host and location was also announced at the event. Next year it will take place in Ingonish , Cape Breton, on May 11 to 13, 2018 with co-host Victoria County.

Hike NS Gets a New Look

Hike NS now has a new look, including a new logo, website and general look and feel.

We’ve got Bits Creative to thank for our new look. Bits.co chose Hike NS as the winner of its Brand Spring Clean Contest in 2016. Check out the Bits.co blog where Bits.co staff explain how they came up with our new look. We’re also thankful to Rivendell Software for revamping our website.

Our new look comes just in time for our ten-year anniversary celebrations in 2017. Hike NS has come a long way, thanks to our dedicated volunteer board members over the years, to our many partners and to our many members.

We’ll celebrate further at our Hiking Summit, taking place in Tatamagouche from April 28th to 30th. Registration closes on April 24th, so if you haven’t registered  yet, please do so here; you wouldn’t want to miss out on the birthday cake or the sessions, hikes, networking and hiking stories!

Celebrating Trails and Hike NS at Hiking Summit

Hiking Summit in Tatamagouche a celebration of hiking culture in NS

Hike Nova Scotia, along with about 200 people with an interest in hiking, walking and snowshoeing, will converge on Tatamagouche from April 28 to 30, 2017 for the sixth annual Nova Scotia Hiking Summit. The Summit is a celebration of Nova Scotia’s hiking culture, and includes sharing best practices, stories and networking. Attendees include avid hikers, hiking clubs, trail groups, provincial government, municipalities and others. Hike Nova Scotia thanks the Cobequid Eco-Trails Society and the Municipality of Colchester for hosting and the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage for its support.


“We’re particularly excited about this year’s Summit because it’s a celebration of Hike Nova Scotia’s tenth anniversary and we’re launching our new look,” says Janet Barlow, Hike NS’s Executive Director. “Tatamagouche and Colchester County have some beautiful trails and keen trail groups. We’re eager to showcase that as well.”

Event Details

Date: Friday April 28, Saturday April 29 and Sunday, April 30 2017 (registration deadline April 24)


  • Friday night: Tatamagouche Creamery Square, 39 Creamery Rd.
  • Saturday: North Colchester High School, 90 Blair Ave. (with lunch at the Legion)
  • Saturday night: Royal Canadian Legion Branch 64, 80 Queen St.

Time: 1:30 pm on April 28 to 4:30 pm on April 28

Cost: $30 for paid Hike NS members and $40 for non-members

Fast Facts

  • Nine guided hikes
  • Keynote speaker Dianne Whelan, award-winning Canadian filmmaker, photographer, author and multimedia artist who is traveling the longest trail in the world, The Great Trail (The Trans Canada Trail)
  • Sessions including: Mi’kma’ki, the Land of the Mi’kmaw and the Verb Based Language of the Traditional Place Names; How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip; We Built It….. And People Keep Coming; Geocaching: not just finding Tupperware in the Woods; How building trails builds a strong rural economy: Sugar Moon’s story; How to Avoid Getting Lost; Cobequid Eco-Trails Society Then and Now
  • Stories from the Trail Pecha Kucha presentations
  • Hike Nova Scotia’s Awards
  • Silent auction
  • Displays
  • Friday and Saturday night socials

View the agenda, directions and other details. 


Find photos on Facebook  or Instagram or use some of the photos on this page.

Social Media:

Share on Facebook  
Share on Twitter
Share on Instagram 


Janet Barlow, Hike Nova Scotia
(902) 717-4408


NS Budget Consultations: Hiking Wish List

The Nova Scotia government is asking for Nova Scotians’ input on the 2017-18 budget. Find more information in the news release and on the Budget page. The deadline to provide feedback is January 16, 2017. 

Consider making a submission yourself about the value of hiking and trails. Here are some things Hike NS cares about:

  • The preservation, protection and development of walking, hiking and snowshoeing opportunities
  • The sound management and expansion of urban and wilderness recreational trail infrastructure
  • The protection of wild lands where hiking takes place or could take place
  • Strong funding for the forthcoming provincial Trails Strategy

Trails are key drivers of a healthy population, providing free venues for physical activity, as well as a contributor to economic development.