In the 1970’s, Halifax identified Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes as a priority area for protection.
Now, almost a half-century later, it is in dire threat of being turned into a subdivision.
This long-promised park is an almost unbelievable opportunity. It offers a complete wilderness experience, with a complete canoe-loop through scores of lakes and an ecosystem rich with numerous rare species. Unbelievably, it is accessible with only a quick bus trip from downtown.
Check out a breathtaking gallery of this future Wilderness Park:
Photos by Irwin Barrett.
The 2006 Regional Plan committed to turning Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes into a Regional Park. Since then, not a single piece of land has been acquired. Meanwhile, the province of Nova Scotia has protected 1,767 hectares of land in the area—millions of dollars worth of land—under the understanding that it would contribute to the eventual park.
Recently, a facilitator released a report on negotiations between the city and landowners. The negotiations failed, with both sides differing widely on the value of the land. Instead of simply reporting as much, however, the facilitator inappropriately chose to arbitrate in favour of the landowners. The report recommends allowing development right in the heart of the most valuable area of the future park, leaving behind scraps of green-space that would be totally insufficient to act as any kind of Regional Park.
This development would also undermine the provincial Wilderness Area by allowing large-scale housing up to its edge. The primary objective of Wilderness Areas is to protect biodiversity, and to do so, they must be buffered from human settlement. These areas have a secondary purpose for light recreation—such as canoeing or hiking—but they cannot withstand of the impact of intensive local use of a large neighbouring development. If this development were to go forward, there is risk the Wilderness Area would be delisted.
Here is a map showing how the proposed development would directly abut and divide the Wilderness Area:
And this map shows the extent to which the development would encroach onto the long-promised park:
After years of inaction, it is time Halifax acts decisively to secure Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes. We are calling on Halifax to make available to the public all the proposed maps and land valuations considered in the negotiations so the public may have open, transparent dialogue about how best to move forward on securing the park. We also call on Regional Council to show leadership in finding solutions to get past this impasse. Finally, we call on landowners to do right by the public and agree to a reasonable price for these lands.