Nova Scotia

Formal plan in the works for Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes reserve

Halifax municipal staff are coming up with a plan to formally create a regional park in the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes reserve. The reserve includes 22 lakes and according to the city, it is about 20 times the size of Point Pleasant Park.

'We need something that's definitive so we can stop nailing Jell-O to the wall,' says Coun. Richard Zurawski

Coun. Richard Zurawski introduced the motion for a formal plan at last Tuesday's regional council meeting. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

Halifax municipal staff are coming up with a plan to formally create a regional park in the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes reserve.

Part of the almost 2,200 hectares of reserve has been designated as a protected wilderness area by the province.

The reserve includes 22 lakes and according to the city, it is about 20 times the size of Point Pleasant Park.

Supporters have been pushing for a municipal park as a both a buffer to ongoing development and to ensure community access points.

At a council meeting last Tuesday, Coun. Richard Zurawski called for a plan to set up a regional park that would include the boundaries, the timeline for its creation and the potential sources of funding for both the setup and ongoing maintenance.

Council unanimously approved the motion.

The Blue Mountain area is home to over 150 species of birds, including sensitive and at-risk species like the Canada warbler, pictured here. (Scott Leslie)

"A plan is the starting point," Zurawski said. "We need something that's definitive so we can stop nailing Jell-O to the wall."

Diana Whalen, a former cabinet minister who is now with the community group, Friends of Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes Society, shares Zurawski's sentiment.

"Make a plan that tells us how to get in," she said. "Keep those lands available and at least ensure they aren't built over or blocked by development."

Whalen said a variety of trailheads are needed, from smaller neighborhood ones to larger access spots with parking lots.

She said having an urban wilderness like this is a gift that should not be squandered.

The Ecology Action Centre has teamed up with the Canadian Wildlife Federation to host "bio blitz" events in Halifax. There will be guided tours of the Susies Lake area of the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness area. 0:35

"We call it a mini-Keji," said Whalen. "Most cities don't have on their doorstep such an unspoiled area."

There is an expansion of the Bayers Lake Business Park underway that goes right up to the edge of the proposed park. Environmentalists are concerned no one is keeping the bigger picture in mind when it comes to individual development applications in and around the area.

"No one's watching to make sure they don't inadvertently wall off the park," said Raymond Plourde, the wilderness co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre. "The planning piece is important."

He said he understands money is tight right now, but he doesn't think having a co-ordinator would be expensive.

The idea of a municipal park was first raised in 2006 when council approved a new set of development rules for the municipality called the Regional Plan. But some of the land is in private hands. Since 2018, the municipality has acquired almost 210 hectares, but negotiations continue for the rest of the land needed.

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