Wilderness Area Awaits Next Step

by Brad Donaldson (photos courtesy of Kelci Wood)

 

It’s been ten years since the city of Halifax announced the designation of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area as protected public land, harbouring the area from independent developers. Since then, 3242 acres (roughly two-thirds the size of the Halifax peninsula) have been protected, but 1308 acres still remain privately owned.

Prior to this decade-old headline, the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes region has gone through a lengthy, and sometimes strenuous, series of development-versus-protection discussions.

For example, Annapolis Group—who owns 965 of those 1308 privately owned acres—has owned land in the area since 1956 and been an active voice on the developmental side of the coin.

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But where does it all stand now?

To catch up on the current situation, I spoke with Chris Miller, a National Conservation Biologist with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

“Birch Cove Lakes was my playground [growing up],” says Miller, who grew up in a nearby neighbourhood. And even from a young age, he recalls people “fighting for a new quarry that was proposed in the Blue Mountain area.”

Continuing the theme of unrest, when Miller returned home from grad school in the early 2000s, there was a proposal to run a highway through the area, which is when Miller began campaigning to try and protect it.

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Reflectively, Miller says that the challenge has shifted since his involvement began. In the beginning, the focus was on communicating the area’s natural importance, but now with more money and proposals rooting down to overrun the area, it’s about communicating those messages to the government where the tough the decisions are made.

While talking about his childhood paradise, Miller emphasizes the importance of getting the whole picture when trying to understand the complex and historic situation, and not simply choose one blip in the timeline and draw conclusions.

It’s more intricate than that. Nothing up until now is because of one person or one organization, especially the advocacy and protection of the area.

Miller stresses this point—the collective and collaborative efforts—as he shares a favourite advocacy memory from the summer of 2016, when 1420 Haligonians wrote letters to the city to fight urban development of the area.

Shortly after, on September 6th, 2016, fifteen of sixteen city councillors voted in favour of blocking the development, undoubtedly feeling what Miller calls “the weight” of the public’s opinion.

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Near the end of our talk, Miller rolls out maps of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area that topple off the edges of the table. There are markings for trails with deliberate challenges and difficulties to suit all users. Doing so would create even more inclusivity for visitors, with front country and back country options

The builders and planners are ready for the green light from the city following the 2016 Facilitator’s Report by Heather Robertson. Mentioned in the report was Regional Council approving “Terms of Reference for Regional Park boundaries negotiations,” an idea that has been around since the 1970s.

Yet, more than a year after the report was published, we’re still waiting for the last few hundred acres to be acquired—the land where, when finally acquired, the long-awaited regional park would be added.

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There are options to acquire these last acres: outright land purchase is one, but an expensive one. Trading the land for another area that developers would be interested in, one better suited for urban development, is yet another option. As Miller says, “It’s not just about stopping things; it’s about building things, and finding the solutions to make that happen.

“It’s important now [to the city], but it’s going to become even more important in the future. And I think what’s important is that everybody has the ability to go there, not just the people that can afford to buy a house there. That’s the fight. The area’s as much about people as it is about nature. They’re not two separate things. They go together.”

Even through unavoidable frustration, Miller is still optimistic. He’s witnessed the people of Nova Scotia, and their desire to make a difference, while determinedly looking for opportunities to work with the city instead of against them.

Unsurprisingly, he still gets out to enjoy the lakes and trails as much he can, still in awe that it exists in the first place.

“It really shouldn’t even be there…it’s phenomenal.”

And hopefully this phenomenon can one day become fully protected.

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A for Adventure: sitting down with Chris Surette

By Brad Donaldson

When asked about A for Adventure’s beginnings, Chris Surette can’t help but get excited. “I still get the chills when I think about it,” says Surette when reflecting on how the multi-faceted marketing brand started.

Fittingly, the adventure started here in Nova Scotia, when, in the summer of 2013, Jan LaPierre (another member of A for Adventure) created “Paddle to Sable”, a paddling venture that would travel from Canso, Nova Scotia to Sable Island—an island 200 kilometres off the coast Continue reading “A for Adventure: sitting down with Chris Surette”

Draft Parks & Protected Areas Plan Ready for Feedback

Nova Scotians are invited to help define the final parks and protected areas plan to manage and protect Nova Scotia’s natural spaces. A draft was released on February 28.  The province says it will protect the most sensitive and important lands in our province and meet the goal of reviewing the province’s parks system, which is included in The Path We Share, Nova Scotia’s natural resources strategy. The province would protect more than 13 per cent of its lands, surpassing its legislated goal to protect at least 12 per cent of Nova Scotia. Currently, about 9.3 per cent is protected. The plan proposes to:

  • Add: 4 new provincial parks (960 ha); 44 new wilderness areas (126 020 ha); and 120 new nature reserves (33 690 ha)
  • Expand: 12 provincial parks (3940 ha); 32 wilderness areas (72 070 ha); and 10 nature reserves (4330 ha)
  • Transfer: In order to create a more effective parks and protected areas system, the plan proposes to transfer 2500 hectares of provincial parklands to protected areas and 1000 hectares of parklands to Crown land (still available for public use).

With these changes, the proposed parks and protected areas system would include: 187 provincial parks; 84 wilderness areas; and 142 nature reserves. Nova Scotians have until May 1 to review and comment on the document. Feedback will help shape the final plan. Give feedback online or attend one of 17 public consultation sessions in March and April across NS.

Provincial Parks Consultations May 31-June 26

Parks Consultations Meet Strategy Goal

Department of Natural Resources

May 28, 2012 12:23 PM

Government is acting on another goal of the natural resources strategy by launching provincewide consultations with Nova Scotians about provincial parks.

“We are very proud of our Nova Scotia parks and we want them sustainable for the future,” said John MacDonell, acting Minister of Natural Resources. “This consultation will help us develop our parks to meet the goal set out in the natural resources strategy.”

A series of community meetings will be held in locations around the province beginning Thursday, May 31. People can also comment through online and telephone surveys.

A simple survey on the Department of Natural Resources website and a telephone survey of Nova Scotians will also provide opportunities for people to express what they value most about provincial parks and how they should be managed in the future.

“We encourage Nova Scotians who use our parks to be part of this system-wide discussion. Their input is welcome and needed,” said Mr. MacDonell.

The province’s natural resources strategy, The Path We Share, released in August 2011, calls for a review to develop a more sustainable parks system. Information and opinions gathered from Nova Scotians during the consultations will be considered by government to develop an improved, sustainable system of parks.

“Provincial Parks are important to Nova Scotians,” says Chris Miller, national conservation biologist for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “Parks are places where people can go to enjoy nature and learn about conservation, so it’s important for park users and all Nova Scotians to make their views heard”.

The province has nearly 300 properties in the provincial park system, including 20 camping parks and 122 day-use parks, many with coastal access. Other properties are held in reserve. The consultations will look at whether parks are meeting the mandate of parks legislation and consider opportunities for changes.

English public meetings will be held in 15 towns across the province and French consultations, via video conference, at five French-speaking areas. Details will be advertised locally and are online.

Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park: Public Meeting May 31

From the Halifax North West Trails Association

Hello all,

We have just learned that HRM Staff and Chebucto Community Council will be hosting a Public Meeting on the future of Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park at St Peters Church Hall, Dakin Drive and Kearney Lake Rd at the Bedford Highway. Come early (6:30 PM) to look at some new maps.

Halifax North West Trails has been involved since the early discussions about the proposed Regional Park and is excited to share that progress is being made.  HRM Staff and the Protected Areas Branch of NS Environment have been discussing a Grand Vision for the Regional Park and will be making a presentation at 7:00 PM followed by Q&A.  Next steps will be crafted over the next few months. Please come out and support this event.  We need strong (overwhelming) public support to convince HRM Regional Council that we are ready to move ahead to make the Regional Park a reality!!

See you on May 31st and bring your friends and neighbours so they can learn about this future park, destined to be the largest near-urban Wilderness Park in Canada!

This link with 3 Draft maps and more details was posted on May 22 by HRM. http://www.halifax.ca/RealPropertyPlanning/bluemountainbirchcovelakes.html

The scope of the proposed park and process to achieve its creation will be the focus of the meeting. We hope that the meeting will be informative and hope to see you there.

Please feel free to forward this information on to others.

Bob McDonald, Chair
Halifax North West Trails
www.HalifaxNorthWestTrails.ca

Here is a recent news article on the park: http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/99263-meeting-to-discuss-creation-of-new-park

Featured Trail: Crowbar Lake Hiking Trail

Trail Name: Crowbar Lake Hiking Trail

Location: Porters Lake, Halifax Regional Municipality   

Description: “This 18 kilometre hiking trail system offers a variety of scenic trail loops in a rugged, forested wilderness landscape of exposed, high ridges; and beautiful lakes and waterways. The trails are footpaths, suitable for single-file hiking. Most of this trail system is within Waverley-Salmon River Long Lake Wilderness Area.” There are four main trails, offering a variety of hiking lengths and challenges ranging from 1.5 kilometre to 18 kilometre.

Map: Find a map and directions here

Have A Say: Protected Areas

The Province of Nova Scotia’s Protected Areas Division of the Department of Environment is involving the public in consultation on several potential protected areas. The most recent is for designating Raven Head and Kelly River Candidate Wilderness Areas for protection (in Cumberland County) with a consultation newsletter and comment sheet available (comments due today, August 12). There are other upcoming consultations – so check the Protected Areas website  regularly to make sure you have your say on time.