The Halifax Green Network
Making growth make sense.
UPDATE: The HGNP is out!
The moment that many of us have been waiting for since 2014 when the Regional Plan directed staff to create a greenbelt for Halifax has finally arrived! Halifax Regional Municipality introduced the final draft of the Halifax Green Network Plan on June 21st.
Many of you have been following along. If you want to catch up on some background (i.e. if you're wondering where this has all come from), click HERE. If you're all caught up, here's our summary of highlights from the plan:
Adoption of Map 5 into the Regional Plan
That Map 5 (originally map 6), the green network ecology map, be adopted into the Regional Plan as "THE GREEN NETWORK" to guide decision-making when approving (or not approving) future changes to the land use by-laws that might affect key ecological areas. This is implemented through actions in Section 220.127.116.11.
The database will be publicly available
We requested that the data of ecologically and culturally sensitive areas be available publicly so that communities and stewardship groups could better perform "watchdog" activities in theirneighbourhoods and hold Council to their commitment of protecting these landscapes. This will be implemented in Section 18.104.22.168.
Adoption of "Environmental Protection Zone"
We asked that HRM introduce a new zone to the Land Use By-laws that would "down zone" key features like riparian areas, wetlands, coastal marshlands, floodways, and large wetland complexes for protection from development. The draft introduces a new zone and requests permission to implement this (Section 22.214.171.124)!
Use GNP to help allow and promote eco-tourism
It is important to us that our green network is not a museum but a place of carefully protected but widely loved places. We asked HRM to introduce a tourism strategy framed around the Green Network Plan, and they have begun this work by introducing actions to "Support eco-tourism and the protection of scenic landscapes". (Section 126.96.36.199). We will be asking Council to request that staff take this a step further and develop a branding strategy for tourism on the Green Network.
Use the Green Network Plan to guide future growth decision-making
One of the key functions of a greenbelt, or a green network, is to inform growth patterns. It's crucial that our growth occurs in existing communities to make them more livable, not in our important green spaces. The Objectives & Actions in Section 4.3.3 fulfill this ask, which was one of our big ones! These actions will ensure that the Green Network is protected and development occurs where it should! It will also protect connectivity between natural areas and promote residential development in the growth centres.
Ensure permanent and protected connectivity between current parks AND continue to pursue purchase of Regional Plan proposed parks
Our parks and open spaces, much as we love them, love to be connected to other similar spaces! (At least, the animals, ecosystems, and water within them do). It's important that these areas aren't cut off from one another. Section 188.8.131.52 supports the establishment of a nature park network in cooperation with provincial, federal, and conservation groups. Section 184.108.40.206 introduces a Land Capability Tool which will help with acquisition of identified future parks in the Regional Plan (i.e., Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, the Purcell's Cove Backlands, and Sandy Lake)!
Between 1992 and 2014, Halifax nearly doubled in size but only grew in population by a fifth. We can only lower our tax burden and ensure continued access to nature if we get this poorly-planned growth under control.
The Halifax Green Network Plan lays out exactly those places where large-scale development should not happen, because of their value to our economy, food, health and wilderness. With strong, clear rules, this plan will allow us to direct away from the most vulnerable natural areas.
Where to grow.
In rural, suburban and urban communities that need development.
On main streets to support local business.
On transit routes, to make traffic better, not worse.
Where not to grow.
On lakes at risk of becoming too polluted for swimming.
On land needed for wilderness connectivity or where natural vistas bring tourism value.
On land we need for jobs, like farming, forestry and mining.
And the Green Network gives us the opportunity to brand all our trails, lakes, and beaches as a common destination. The Halifax Green Network will be an awesome reason to come visit or stay.
How it works
To create the Green Network Plan, experts analyzed over 80 data layers, including water features, natural connectivity, trail opportunities, and tourism vistas. We haven never before understood our own region in this detail. Here are three of the maps the process generated, or you can see the full report here.
The Green Network must be adopted into the Regional Plan so it will have direct legal impact on growth, and will not simply sit on a shelf as a series of suggestions.
The existing land use by-laws must be amended to create Green Network designated land in important corridors.
A publicly-accessible map of the Green Network so communities can be watchdogs for the land nearest to them.
Ongoing dedicated funding through the HRM budget to allow for the development of stewardship programs, partnerships, rural economic strategies (i.e. agricultural promotion, etc.) and tourism tools (i.e. web and print materials to help people tour the Green Network).
To leverage the full economic potential of this project, all our natural and agricultural tourism opportunities should be branded as part of the common Green Network experience, with consistent signage and a website connecting them all.
Signup to show support!
In 2018, the Green Network Plan will go to Council. We will need strong public support to ensure the plan meets its full potential and is approved.