KENTVILLE’S OLD TROTTING PARK (June 26/07)

In the history of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton writes that early on, horse racing was popular here; in this connection, Eaton mentions the existence of the Kentville Trotting Park, located, he says, “near the present Aldershot Camp grounds.” In his history of Camp Aldershot, published 1983, Advertiser columnist Brent Fox refers to a “Kentville racetrack,” placing it on the grounds of Camp Aldershot, “just to the right as one passes the… gatehouse.”

I also have a clipping from The Advertiser, dated September 18, 1903, which refers to the existence of the Kentville Trotting Park and the military camp literally in the same breath. There’s little doubt the racetrack was located on the camp grounds since The Advertiser news story says it was demolished when the federal government expropriated the land. “The old fence of the Trotting Park was taken away,” to make way for the camp, The Advertiser announced. “The barns of the Trotting Park are utilized for stabling the officers’ horses.”

While it existed before Aldershot Camp opened, I’ve been unable to determine when the Trotting Park came into existence. Obviously, it was the centre of horse racing, at least in and around Kentville and possibly in the county as well in the late 19th and early 20th century. Apparently, it was also a place were various social functions took place beside the horse races. Historian Marie Bishop remembers stories her mother told her about race day at the Trotting Park when everyone would turn out in their Sunday best. From these stories, it appears that races and other functions were held on the camp grounds up until World War 1 when the camp was opened for training year around. Before this, the camp was only open for militia training a few months of the year.

The references by Eaton and Fox to the racetrack on camp grounds and the newspaper clipping placing it there are all I have on the Trotting Park. An 1895 sketch of Kentville and a later similar sketch in 1932 that looked back at Kentville in the mid 19th century fail to mention the Trotting Park. I was surprised that there was no reference to the Park in Mabel Nichols Kentville history, but the search goes on.

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