Crown Land in Nova Scotia

trailThe Province of Nova Scotia has acquired a number of abandoned rail line corridors throughout the Province. These corridors were acquired in consideration of their potential for future development and management as public recreational trails, and for additional linear public uses where such uses can be demonstrated to be compatible with existing or potential recreational trail use. These are Crown lands under the administration and control of the Minister of Natural Resources. When these lands were acquired, the Department of Natural Resources inherited many licences and/or crossing permits which had been issued to persons whose properties adjoined the rail line corridor. Some new licences have been issued more recently by the Department of Natural Resources. Many more crossings and other uses exist without authorization. The Province of Nova Scotia has approved a "Provincial Policy for Rails to Trails in Nova Scotia". Consistent with the provincial policy and to assist Nova Scotians whose property adjoins the rail line corridor and to remedy those unauthorized uses, this policy has been adopted to provide an effective administrative framework for the licencing of the abandoned rail line corridor.

As part of its mandate to administer and manage all Crown lands, it is important that the Department of Natural Resources formalize these uses of the abandoned rail line corridors with proper documentation. The issuance of a licence will legitimize and regularize activity, provide an inventory of users and a means of control, and preclude the accrual of prescriptive rights. At the same time, the integrity of the abandoned rail line corridors will be maintained for possible future use.


railbeds with barriers Rail Line Corridor includes the full width of any parcel of land formerly used for railway purposes, the ownership of which has been transferred to the Crown in right of the Province of Nova Scotia as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources, whether the said parcel of land contains trackage or not.

Rail Bed means that portion of the rail line corridor upon which rails were located.

Barriers shall generally mean post barriers, the design and location of which must be approved by the Department of Natural Resources.

Application Process

Persons requesting a licence under this policy should visit the nearest Department of Natural Resources office and provide the following information:

  • the applicant's name, address and telephone number;
  • the purpose for which the licence is requested;
  • a sketch showing the location and design of the crossing or other work for which the license is requested;
  • a sketch or survey plan showing the location of the applicant's land in relation to the portion of rail line corridor for which the licence is requested;
  • a copy of the applicant's deed or other title documentaiton;
  • licences shall be issued for a term of one year and will automatically renew from year to year unless canceled or terminated by either party;
  • any person holding a licence or permit issued prior to this policy for any of the purposes listed above may apply to replace that license or permit for a license under this policy.


The local Department of Natural Resources office may issue licences to any person or corporation whose property adjoins an abandoned rail corridor for any of the following purposes:

  • constructing, maintaining and using crossings
  • raising or lowering the rail bed
  • removing brush or other vegetation
  • agricultural uses
  • controlling drainage
  • allowing an existing structure or work to remain in place
  • constructing or placing a new structure or work within the abandoned rail line corridor, but not including dwellings
  • landscaping or gardening.

trail signage

No work, alteration or improvement may be undertaken within the rail line corridor without the specific written approval of the Department of Natural Resources. Before such approval is given, the Department of Natural Resources will review the proposed work, alteration or improvement and advise the licensee of any requirements with respect to location, materials to be used, method of construction and signage;

If a crossing, fence, barrier or other work constructed or used by a licensee is considered to be hazardous to other users of the rail line corridor, the Department of Natural Resources may order the licensee to perform any necessary alterations including the removal of said crossing, fence, barrier or other work.

For further information, please contact the nearest office of the Department of Natural Resources.