Halifax Regional Municipality and the Nature Conservancy of Canada have struck a $6.6-million deal to purchase 154 hectares of natural green space and turn it into what's described as the country's first urban wilderness park.
The deal is contingent on the conservancy raising $2.5 million, while the municipality would kick in the balance of $4.1 million to buy the land from The Shaw Group.
Mayor Mike Savage, who said he believed the park would be the first of its kind in Canada, called the purchase "a legacy piece for the municipality."
"To have this opportunity in this piece of land within our municipality, I think it's not the kind of opportunity that comes along that often and I think a lot of leadership has been shown by a lot of people to make it happen."
'A very good deal'
The proposed deal has been in the works for a while. It means the land, which is commonly referred to as the Purcells Cove backlands, would be in public hands for perpetuity.
Savage said there would be public consultation before the deal is finalized.
Given that the abutting land is zoned as an urban reserve, there's also little risk of any kind of significant development near the protected area. Savage acknowledged the limited development potential for the land to begin with, but he maintained the municipality is getting a good deal on a key piece of land not far from downtown.
The mayor said the original asking price for the land was higher than $6.6 million, although he declined to say by how much.
"I think we recognize the value of the lands is reasonable," he said. "I think this is a very good deal."
The Shaw Group would develop a parking lot and main entry point as part of the deal, which would also see the area christened the Shaw Wilderness Park.
'Really quite extraordinary'
Kathleen Hall, who has advocated for this result on behalf of the Williams Lake Conservation Company and Backlands Coalition, said it's been a long process that took a lot of hours, but she was always confident the deal would get done.
"From our perspective, it's all positive," she said. "It's unprecedented in Canada. This is something that we don't have in this country and it's going to set an incredible example for other municipalities and it's also going to give the citizens so much."
Hall lauded the efforts of municipal staff, the conservancy and Shaw Group to make the park a reality.
"Maybe more work that anybody ever anticipated but everybody did such an amazing job," she said. "It's really quite extraordinary. It's hundreds and hundreds of hours."