With 9 of 10 trails closed, Island Trails Fiona recovery will be long and hard

Island Trails is relying on volunteers for clearing. (Morell River Management Cooperative & Mooney's Pond Centre/Facebook - image credit)
Island Trails is relying on volunteers for clearing. (Morell River Management Cooperative & Mooney's Pond Centre/Facebook - image credit)

Six weeks after post-tropical storm Fiona roared over P.E.I., Island Trails is still struggling to reopen trails closed by downed trees.

Fiona was the most powerful storm to hit the Island in a century. It knocked out power to the entire province, and many were weeks getting it back. The storm also shut down nine of the 10 trails listed by Island Trails, and they all remain closed as the organization relies on volunteers to clear them.

"The damage is so extensive when the drone goes up in the air it's actually difficult, unless the trail is following a stream or something, it's actually difficult to see where the trail had originally gone," said Island Trails president John Jamieson.

Only the North Cape Trail, which had minimal damage, is open.

Volunteer groups, led by a qualified chain saw operator, are doing what they can to restore the trails. The association is also looking for funding to hire professional contractors to help, but Jamieson said with cleanup efforts still underway all over the province there are a couple of problems with that.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

"First you've got to find the money, and I think that's probably the easier part," he said.

"The second part is where do you find contractors right now that are available to come in and do that work?"

The goal is to have one trail open in each county for the winter snowshoeing season, he said.

Changing routes

Even when the trails are open, the damage Fiona left behind will be apparent, said Jamieson.

There is no way debris can be hauled out, he said, and it is better to leave trees and brush in place to replenish the soil.

"It will be noticeable of course and we may have to change the route of some of our trails based on the damage that we're seeing," said Jamieson, but, he added, there will be recovery.

"It's amazing how a forest can regenerate."

For the most part, he said, Islanders have been respecting the trail closures and staying clear, which is making restoration work easier.