The Halifax Green Network

Making growth make sense.

What is a Green Network?

A greenbelt is the globally recognized term for a series of large areas, patches and corridors where most development is not allowed. A greenbelt insures we protect land for local food, outdoor recreation and tourism, and ecological diversity. HRM is calling our greenbelt the Halifax Green Network.”

The Problem

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 Solution

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.

What is greenbelt?

A greenbelt is the globally recognized term for a series of large areas, patches and corridors where most development is not allowed. A greenbelt insures we protect land for local food, outdoor recreation and tourism, and ecological diversity. HRM is calling our greenbelt the Halifax Green Network.”

What is the Green Network Plan?

Halifax Regional Municipality created the Green Network Plan (GNP) as a vision and strategy for how the city can utilize and grow our existing green network.

However, the Green Network Plan is not policy. It is not necessary for the plan to be followed. In order to incorporate the information in the plan into policy we need implementation.

Implementation means that the information highlighted in the plan will be incorporated into policy, requiring it to be followed. 


It’s simple

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.

Our HRM Alliance has created a user’s guide of the Halifax Green Network Plan to help you understand and use this plan. You can access the Alliance’s Green Network Plan Guide here.

We don’t have a greenbelt, yet.

HRM has already created a plan for the Halifax Greenbelt (the Green Network Plan). At this point, HRM needs to implement their plan in time to maintain our existing green network. 

The challenge is that HRM is not planning to implement most of the plan for up to seven years. In this time the rich recreation opportunities, corridors for wildlife, and rare landscapes identified in the plan will be lost to development. For this reason, the city needs to know that we need to act now.

Implementation the Green Network Plan is essential to protecting the ecological and recreational value of key wilderness spots like the Purcell’s Cove Backlands, Sandy Lake, and Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes

Blue-Mountain Birch-Cove Lakes

A mini-Keji on Halifax’s doorstep.

Right on the edge of Halifax’s urban core is a wilderness with unbelievable natural beauty.
Other cities would die for the opportunity to have a park like this.

All photos by Irwin Barrett.

But for 11 years, almost no progress has been made on creating this long-promised park.

The Potential

Blue-Mountain Birch-Cove Lakes Park would be nestled right into the city, with over a dozen stunning lakes, multiple bird and wildlife species, and a complete canoe loop—all on a bus route. It has been called the Keji of Halifax.

The Commitment

Halifax’s 2006 Regional Plan promised the creation of the park, with boundaries based on an award-winning scientific analysis. The above, updated map was presented to the public on May 31, 2012, to a packed crowd of over 300 people and was roundly endorsed.

The 2016 Threat

In 2016, a terrible facilitator’s report recommended massive sprawl development to be allowed in some of the park’s most precious and ecologically sensitive land.

The report was greeted with widespread public outrage and over 1500 written submissions to City Hall. In response, Council voted to set the report aside, and instead instructed Halifax staff to enter into discussions with adjacent landowners, the public, stakeholders, and other levels of government to: “Develop a program to acquire land to establish the proposed Blue Mountain – Birch Cove regional park.”

But as of September 6, 2017:

One year had passed since Council gave its direction and the public has yet to hear or see any sign of progress. There has been no public or stakeholder consultations and not a square inch of land for the park has been acquired.

Will 2019 be the 13th year in a row where no concrete steps are made towards establishing the park?

Time for Action

What Blue-Mountain Birch-Cove Lakes Needs:

  • Leadership

    The park desperately needs someone at the political or staff level to champion the park and see this city-building project through to completion.

  • Timeline and Clear Strategy

    11 years has been too long. The public wants a clear strategy for achieving the park within a reasonable timeframe, and to know exactly how long it will take. The public wants the park in this lifetime.

  • Budget

    The city knows it will need funds to make this investment. Council finally set aside $5 million in the 2017 budget for strategic parkland acquisitions, but that is for all parks. They should allocate more funds specifically for Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes annually so the city is prepared for any opportunity to purchase land.

  • Public involvement

    The public and stakeholders want to be at the table to help plan and develop the park in detail, and to give feedback on the strategy for acquisition. Already, too much has happened behind closed doors.

  • Commitment to a vision

    When government builds a highway, they do not see what land they can buy from willing sellers and then build a highway through that. They decide where the highway must go and then acquire whatever land necessary. A park this extraordinary deserves the same level of planning and commitment.

A Worthy Investment

Government does not flinch at investing hundreds of millions for convention centres, bridges, highways, and sports centres because good public infrastructure is worth it.


Creating a world-class park that will attract tourists, businesses and new residents and support an excellent quality of life is well-worth investing in. Let’s make decisions now that present and future generations will thank us for.


The Purcell’s Cove Backlands

Massive progress towards an unbelievable urban wilderness park.

Soon, all this will be protected forever.

On September 5, 2017, Halifax Council voted to invest $4.5 million in turning the Purcell’s Cove Backlands into a Nature Conservancy.

A Beautiful Opportunity

In 2014, the Nature Conservancy of Canada approached the owners of this massive property and asked them if they would forego substantial profits from potential development to allow the land to instead be protected.

They agreed.

Now with Council support, two critical steps remain before the project moves forward.

  • The conservancy must raise $3.5 million in donations.

  • The public must continue to learn about and show support for the Urban Wilderness Park. Council will have a final vote on the future of the Wilderness Park (date TBA) that requires continued public endorsement.

The Proposal

The Nature Conservancy will design the protected area to meet multiple goals:

Recreation and Relaxation

The project will include a park with a wheelchair-accessible path and other public amenities.

Hiking and Learning

The deeper wilderness will include rough trails, with a focus on maintaining natural beauty. It will be programmed with educational opportunities.


The project will preserve bird habitat and the area’s unique ecosystems, such as the Jack Pine – Broom Crowberry Barrens.

Local residents have been working to protect this land for years. Time to make that dream a reality.

How you can help

  • Help Spread the Word.

    Help spread the word of the future Wilderness Park – make sure your neighbours, friends, and family know about the park. Bring them out to one of NCC’s guided tours of the park or share this web page with them! View NCC's Website

  • Donate

    The Nature Conservancy needs every bit of support they can get, big and small, to get to their fundraising target of $3.5 million.

Let’s make this happen!

Further information

Urban Wilderness Park
The Backlands Coalition
The Nature Conservancy of Canada

Sandy Lake

Bedford residents have been working for at least 50 years to create a park at Sandy Lake.

Remarkably, and thanks to their work, some 1800 hectares remains green right between Bedford and Sackville, featuring three lakes, rivers, a swimming beach, and old-growth hemlock forests. Only a fraction of the land, however, has so far been formally protected.

The decades of work to keep this area green has created an enormous opportunity for the Halifax region: to have such a beautiful park right between two of our fastest growing communities. Developing this land now would be a waste of their efforts and of an enormous natural asset.


In 2013, a developer who owned land in the area found out Halifax would not allow him to develop his land for at least a decade. He retaliated by ordering the entire property clearcut, including a large stand of old growth forest. (The clearcut can be seen in the large brown area in the satellite photo above).

Halifax must act swiftly to acquire the necessary land to create this regional park before more of this precious asset can be damaged.

Learn more about the issue in our blog post, “40 Years of Work and So Close to Success.” Also visit the website of the Sandy Lake Conservation Association.


Further Information

Sandy Lake Conservation Association
Image Image
Sandy Lake - Sackville River Regional Park Coalition
Sandy Lake & Environs

Further Information

Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Our Goals

  • Statutory power

    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.

  • Land designation

    The existing land use by-laws must be amended to create Green Network designated land in important corridors.

  • Public involvement

    A publicly-accessible map of the Green Network so communities can be watchdogs for the land nearest to them.

  • Funding

    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).

  • Branding

    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!

If you like what you see, signup for our email list so you can be kept up-to-date on opportunities to express support.

Title photo by Irwin Barrett.