OLD BARNS - École acadienne de Truro student Peter Betts recently had an opportunity to connect with his family roots.
The teenager joined a group of French students exploring the area's rich Acadian heritage during a walk along a hiking trail overlooking the banks of the Salmon River where dikes, believed to have been built by Acadians, were discovered unearthed a few months ago.
"Even if there wasn't a connection, for the technology that they had, it really is impressive," Betts said of the system of dikes buried in the red mud on the banks of the Salmon River.
"What's very impressive is it is still functioning today, so it really shows they knew what they were doing."
Acadians first settled in the Cobequid Bay area in 1705 and began constructing a dike system, permitting them to recuperate valuable farmland from marshlands.
Many of these systems have remained intact since the historic Acadian deportation of 1755.
The afternoon excursion was led by Truro Heights resident Dana Rushton who discovered what he believes are the exposed remains of Acadian-constructed dikes.
"We know it is very old by where it is located," he told the class of about 20 students.
Rushton made the discovery last fall while hiking the Cobequid Trail, inspecting the shoreline for relics or oddities that may have been uncovered by the river's strong tidal flow.
"History is my passion," he said. "I'm always looking for parts of history washing out of the bay."
Rushton, a researcher and collector of diking spades, brought along a few of the tools to show the students prior to the hike to explain how they were used to construct the earth works.
A number of years ago, a sluiceway and aboiteau had been excavated near the portion of the trail where Rushton found the exposed dikes, which have once again been covered by silt.
Yvette Saulnier, CEO of the Francophone Community Centre, accompanied the students on the field trip.
She said the outdoor learning opportunity was a good way for the group to connect with their heritage.
"I think it's very important for them to see it," she said.
She added the centre has been working hard to educate the community about its rich Acadian heritage.
"We try as much as we can," said Saulnier. "We are always trying to have shows and programs."
She said they have seen a huge increase in program participation at the centre and cultural awareness has "boomed" during the past couple of years.