The Purcell’s Cove Backlands

The Purcell’s Cove Backlands is a remarkable landscape right at the edge of Spryfield. It features rolling granite rock “whale-backs” and a landscape of berries, clean lakes and amazing views over wilderness and the Halifax peninsula.

After years of effort by local residents, this landscape is extremely close to finally becoming protected. The landowners have partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to propose selling the land to the city at below-market value to become a permanent nature preserve. The Conservancy has, at present, a funding source to help purchase a piece of the lands. The landowners have proposed to donate to an endowment to cover the costs of stewardship and local residents have committed to fundraising to support the project.

It would be a valuable area to protect. The Backlands are home to the globally rare Jack Pine-Broom Crowberry Ecosystem. This ecosystem is fire-prone and the area has burned multiple times in the last centuries, meaning the area may be a risky location for housing in any case.

This proposal comes after years of risk for the landscape. In 2012, Halifax considered extending water service to the area, which would have allowed much high-intensity development on the land. In 2014, before the new Regional Plan passed, the landowners proposed changing the designation of the land from “Urban Reserve” (which wouldn’t allow development until at least after the completion of the plan in 2031) to “Rural Settlement,” which would allow for immediate development.

The next step in this process is for Regional Council to vote on whether it wishes to proceed with negotiations on the proposal. Considering the value and long history of this land, we call on Council to vote in favour.

For more information, see the Backlands Coalition website.