Nova Scotia

Bedford Basin's Crosby Island development proposed

A tiny piece of land in the Bedford Basin is on the way to regaining island status, at least part-time.

Crosby Island has been connected to the mainland by infill

The Bedford Basin reef.

A tiny piece of land in the Bedford Basin is on the way to regaining island status, at least part-time.

Engineers are exploring the idea of excavating around Crosby Island, which has been connected to the mainland by infill, says Andy Fillmore of the Waterfront Development Corporation.

"We're talking about digging a trench around the island," he said Wednesday.

Digging a channel is one way to satisfy community requests for a more natural landscape along the shoreline near Mill Cove, which at one point was slated to be filled in and paved well beyond where it’s currently filled.

Looking at removing fill

The island project hasn’t been priced yet, said Fillmore, but compared with the transformation proposed for the site, it would be an "easy and small piece" of the project.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "What we're looking at is not removing all the fill that was around the island, but removing enough of the fill that it would be an island at high tide."

The bottom of the trench would still be infill, but since it would be covered with water at high tide, fish would be able to pass through.

"Crosby Island is adjacent to the Bedford ledges, and that whole area of the project we want to maintain in a naturalized state," said Fillmore.

The island has "beautiful coniferous trees" and it’s high, "like a pincushion," giving people a unique view of the ledges, which many people call the Bedford Basin reef, he said.

At low tide, people would be able to walk onto the island, which some do now for picnics, said Bedford area councillor Tim Outhit.

The much more dramatic plan for the area in 2010 called for more than twice the 18 acres of infill already in the basin, which would have destroyed the island.

"The people of Bedford made it very clear ... that plan in 2010 was too high, too dense," Outhit said. "They wanted the Waterfront Development Corporation to look at ways to save the island, to have more greenspace and to save the ledges."

There has been no new infilling for the last three years, said Outhit, while Halifax Municipal Council reviews the bigger transportation plan for Bedford. Until that is complete, the project will be on hold.

Crosby Island wasn’t always an island

Fillmore said the idea for the whole development, which the Waterfront Development Corporation inherited after amalgamation, was inspired partly by the thought of reconnecting Bedford residents with the shoreline.

"Bedford had become separated from the waterfront because of the rail line," he said. "It was in the funny position of being a seaside town where you couldn't access the sea."

However, Crosby Island wasn’t always an island. A Bedford resident told Fillmore that it eroded into an island only about 50 years ago.

Preserving it now would mean not only digging around it but shoring up the edges of the island, which are very unstable, said Fillmore.

The project under the current vision would include 1,200 housing units as well as boardwalks, parks and either a library or community centre, said Fillmore.

It would be privately funded through the residential developments, and a bridge would connect it to the other side of the tracks. Recaptured heat from the nearby wastewater treatment facility would provide all its energy, Fillmore said.

The decision on Crosby Island is expected sometime this summer.

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