The Dobson Trail, as it is known today, is the realized dream of Dr. Art Dobson who started scouting for a foot route to Fundy National Park in December 1959.
The trail was carefully conceived and planned from the outset following the standards set down by the Appalachian Trail conference publication, “The Guide to Blazing and Maintaining Trails”. A practical set of plans was outlined by him to scout and layout the trail by sections, to search landownership and obtain permission to cross private land where necessary, clear and blaze a path, erect signs and shelters, and plan for annual trail maintenance. A guide book and map has been published for hikers.
For a decade during basic trail building, interested volunteer groups worked under Dr. Dobson’s direction. Boy Scout troops of Moncton, Hillsborough, Riverview, and Alma eagerly joined the spare time project. It has been said that those trail blazing years put the “out” in Scouting. The Moncton Naturalist Club, Members of the New Brunswick Forestry Department, and the Moncton Travel Bureau helped in various aspects of the work, encouraged by the Albert County Council.
Since the final destination was Fundy National Park, the trail was referred to from the outset as “The Fundy Trail”. As time and work progressed, a Fundy Trail Conference was established for the purpose of monitoring progress. Delegates from each work area met periodically to discuss problems and solutions in the development and maintenance of the trail through the seasons.
In the late 1960′s the Province of New Brunswick, increasingly active in tourism, established motor routes to the Fundy National Park which became known as the Fundy trails. The National Park itself began making a system of fine walking trails through its area which was referred to as Fundy Hiking Trails.
By 1975 members of The Fundy Trail Conference in Albert County held a special meeting for the purpose of organizing a complete grooming of their 57.75 kilometer-foot-path. It was decided then, to obviate any confusion with Provincial or Park Trails, that the name of the trail through the wilderness of Albert County would be changed to The Dobson Trail after its founder. It was further decided that the Conference seek incorporation. A Charter was granted on February 12, 1975, under the name of Fundy Hiking Trail Association, Inc., whose purpose as outlined is to administer the existing Dobson Trail and to promote the building of future hiking trails within its area of jurisdiction.
There are nine sections of the Dobson Trail.
1. Pine Glen to Tower Road…………………………………14.69km
1a. Mill Creek Loop Trail ……………………………………….0.67km
2. Sand Hill side Trail…………………………………………….1.20km
3. Tower Road to East Turtle Creek culvert……………….2.01km
4. East Turtle Creek culvert to Berryton…………………..8.64km
5. Berryton to Prosser Ridge………………………………..7.18km
6. Prosser Ridge to Kent Road………………………………9.21km
7. Hayward Pinnacle Side Trail……………………………….2.30km
8. Kent Road to Elgin-Fundy Road………………………..10.10km
9. Elgin-Fundy road to Old Shepody Road………………..5.93km
Trail users may not be able to articulate what a “perfect” trail looks like, but almost everyone can list the characteristics of a “bad” trail:
- Deep Trenching - The trail is sunken such that hikers feel like they’re walking in the bottom half of a pipe and equestrians drag their spurs.
- Widening - The trail has widened from a single or double track to an unsightly wilderness “freeway” of multiple parallel tracks, all trenched to a different degree.
- Short Cuts - Knowing that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, users create a web of trails, most of which are steep and erosive.
- Tripping Hazards - Regular use and erosion ultimately expose tree roots and rocks.
- Steepness - If a trail is too steep over a long distance one of two things will happen: either people won’t use it, or users will not enjoy their excursion.
- Impact to Natural / Cultural Resources - Erosive trails and multiple trails compound the impact that trails have on rare plants and on archaeological sites.
All of these problems can be tied to one or more of the following three causes:
- Water is the foremost cause of trail problems. The movement of water causes erosion and deep trenches. It also exposes tripping hazards.
- Poor Initial Trail Design can rarely be overcome, even by regular maintenance.
- Inadequate or Inappropriate Maintenance wastes valuable crew time and can sometimes increase trail problems.
Pruning vegetation is an essential and regular part of trail maintenance, multi-use trails should have 10′ vertical and 8′ horizontal clearance (though there will be exceptions for the sake of protecting a tree or skirting around a large boulder).Too often, trail pruning is accomplished in the most expeditious manner possible — a branch intrudes within the walking space of the trail and is quickly lopped-off so that it doesn’t intrude and the debris is indescriminantly tossed aside. However, our goal in trail maintenance is to maintain a trail in as natural appearance as possible. A quick pruning job deals only with the function of trail maintenance, not the aesthetics.
There are 6 elements of acceptable pruning. Each of these elements makes pruning a more tedious maintenance task, but results with a trail that is compatible with the natural environment.
- Do not toss debris! Branches that are randomly discarded usually end up hanging in adjacent shrubs or trees. These dead branches are both unsightly and create a fire hazard.
- Place debris out of view. This element requires the extra effort of dragging branches under and around shrubs.
- Place the butt (cut) end away from the trail. This will help disguise the debris.
- Each cut branch should be touching the ground to promote decomposition. This means that brush piles are not appropriate.
- Pruning should be done sensitively so that the trail appears natural and not as if a chain saw just blasted through. Trail users should not be aware that any maintenance work has recently been done.
- Prune to the collar of any branch stem for the health of the shrub and a more natural looking result. At the base of any branch there is a wide section that contains a plant’s natural healing agents. Any pruning performed away from this collar will expose the plant to a greater risk of infection. A cut at the collar will naturally heal. For large branches over 2″ in diameter, cut from the bottom, then cut down from the top. This prevents tearing of the bark, reducing infection.
- Our “standard” blazing method is: Blue blazes for regular trail, White blazes for side trails to lookouts or access points, and yellow blazes for loop trails
- When available, use pre-cut and drilled vinyl 5 cm x 15 cm (2″ x 6″) blazes. Otherwise, use latex exterior paint. Carry paint in a sealed jar or small can, and scrape away loose bark before applying paint.
- Always use aluminum nails (aluminum nails will not hurt machinery operators if the tree is harvested at some future date)
- Always leave the nails protruding from the tree about one half inch (as the tree grows, it will use this space and if the blaze is nailed on tightly, the tree will actually pop it off very quickly)
- Try to pick large, healthy-looking trees for blazes
- Always make sure that the next blaze is within view when standing next to a blaze; do not over blaze
- It is best to blaze in one direction at a time, rather than both directions at once
- Avoid putting two blazes on opposite sides of the same tree–if the tree falls over, both blazes are lost
- Never nail blazes to power poles (if necessary to blaze a power pole, it should be painted on as aluminum blazes will interfere with people who climb poles for repairs if it is a pole which must be climbed to make repairs)
- If painting on a light-coloured surface such as a power pole, use a brown border around the blaze