After moving back to Digby from Truro, Riley is now the Trails and Open Spaces Coordinator for Municipality of the District of Digby.
He is one of two such municipal employees in the entire province and has gotten right to it.
And if you know Jonathan, you know he’s hit the ground running.
A new opportunity
While Riley has received dozens of calls about potential trails in the area, he’s chosen 14 to start with.
He sees great potential in developing the trails in the Digby area and wants to remove any barriers preventing people from accessing them.
Physical barriers aren’t a problem at trails like Point Prim Lighthouse and the Acadia Valley Trail, where wheelchair accessible beaten gravel paths allow full access to parts of trail.
Not all barriers are physical, however.
Riley wants to get to the root of why more people don’t get outside.
“A common question I get, whether at this job or for a Fundy Erratics hike, is ‘what should I wear?’ The idea that special gear is needed is a barrier itself,” he says.
Some people may also lack motivation to get outside and hit the trails.
“I want people who think they’re better off staying on their couch that they aren’t. Get outside! It’s easier than people think,” he says.
Riley credits his childhood with inspiring his love of the outdoors, having camped and learned things like how to cook eggs over a fire and how to canoe properly.
He wants to see more people get connected with the interconnectedness of nature, using a small blade of grass as an example.
“I am that blade of grass, and where it goes I will eventually go. There’s a reason for everything,” he says.
Developing different types of trails
Riley’s main goal moving forward is to get effective descriptions of trail conditions posted at each of these 14 trails.
He says this is more important than ensuring specific trail conditions, since trails are meant to be different.
“The idea is that, particularly for liability concerns, trail visitors need to have an accurate description of the trail ahead of them,” he says.
“If we know a certain trail gets muddy, bring rubber boots. If another is really steep, use caution. It just needs to be stated.”
Beyond making them navigable, optimizing trail conditions isn’t necessarily top priority, since different trails attract different hikers.
“Variety is a good thing. We don’t want every trail looking exactly like the very well established Balancing Rock because varying levels of difficulty is a good thing,” he says.
“We have a real opportunity with these trails.”
Coming back to Digby
Riley’s love of everything Digby is evident, from his Instagram shots captioned #digbyrocks to his legendary canoe trips.
He could not be happier to be home.
“It feels like everything has fallen into place,” says Riley of his recent transition from journalism to recreation.
While he admits to missing reporting on life in Digby County, Riley feels his life has moved steadily towards this new job for quite sometime.
“Obviously everyone knows me as the guy who’s always outside. I hike, I canoe, I love oxygen: it really just makes sense that I’m doing this now,” he says.
Welcome home, Jonathan.