Outdoors

No car, no problem: A bus pass is your ticket to nature

Trips by Transit help Haligonians access nature by Halifax Transit buses

Exploring nature seemed impossible for Alana Cox after she moved to Halifax from the Bahamas last year.

“I didn’t go out very much. I didn’t do anything,” she said. “I basically stayed inside because I hated the cold.”

Being a newcomer to Nova Scotia and not having a vehicle, Cox, a Dalhousie University student, felt trapped. Then she found Trips by Transit, a non-profit organization that helps people explore nature using public transit.

On Nov. 18, Cox and 15 other people took a bus to Hemlock Ravine Park. The trip was part of a trail cleanup series organized by Trips by Transit. Cox said being in nature reminds her of being at her grandmother’s farm in the Bahamas with her cousins.

“We played like we were Indiana Jones going on adventures. A lot of the times we got lost, but we had fun,” she said.

Trips by Transit was created by a group of Dalhousie sustainability students who loved nature but had no cars, like Cox. They would find a green area on a map, then look for a bus route that would take them there. The group, Adventure by Bus, posted their trips on Facebook and eventually gained attention from people outside the university.

Two years ago, what was once a Dalhousie society became a registered non-profit organization and was renamed Trips by Transit.

Courtney Witter picking up a garbage bag found at Hemlock Ravine.   Nebal Snan

“They wanted to begin reaching the community as a whole and get outside the student bubble,” said Courtney Witter, development and financial director at Trips by Transit.

Many students still take part, but there’s a lot of participation from the wider community, especially in the summer. Trip leaders organize the events for a small honorarium and volunteers make sure everything runs smoothly. On the day of the trip, participants pay the regular Halifax Transit bus fare or use their bus pass.

About 20 people on average participate each trip. Destinations include the Bluffs Wilderness hiking trail, Shubie Park and Sackville Lakes provincial park. Some excursions include yoga or camping. Others are short trips for people who don’t have a lot of hiking experience.

“It’s really wonderful to see all the ways you can access nature just with your bus pass,” said Jessica Needham, a Trips by Transit volunteer.

Dalhousie student Amelia Stead’s first trip was to Hemlock Ravine. She said she sees her home province differently now.

“It made me feel a lot more connected to my home and it made me want to stay here and work here, and live here a lot more,” said Stead.

Amelia Stead poses with the garbage picker.   Nebal Snan

Trips by Transit also aims to increase people’s awareness of environmental and sustainability issues. In their latest trip series, participants picked up garbage they found while walking the trails. They filled about 15 garbage bags from three trips to Dingle Beach, BLT Trails and Hemlock Ravine.

“(In) a more informal discussion, people will feel like they’re not going and being lectured at,” said Witter. “They can talk about it and see what they feel and learn from each other. I really like that aspect.”

After a month-long break, Trips by Transit will continue in January.

Cox, who is now a volunteer, said she will be there.