Dispute over Conrads Beach brings community association to court
Some locals worry boundary review for sections of West Lawrencetown beach could limit public access
A group of Eastern Shore residents are concerned an application by a private landowner to review their property boundary could hurt public access to Conrads Beach, N.S.
Aaron MacNeil, president of the West Lawrencetown Residents' Association, said the situation concerns a strip of beach between the landowner's current property line and the water.
"It's a bit strange as an application, because they're asking for something that is already within the designated beach area," he said. "As an organization, our residents are concerned that it's going to set a precedent in Nova Scotia where landowners are going to be aggressively trying to gobble up pieces of beach, and that's not something I think most people want to see."
Owners want to protect piping plovers
The owners of the land, Calvin and Caren Mofford, said the portion of the strip protected under the Beaches Act will remain that way, whether the land is declared public or private.
The Moffords said the application is driven by a desire to safeguard areas that lie alongside the public beach, which include nesting sites for piping plovers.
The ownership of the strip is being addressed through a process called quieting of title, which is used to resolve questions over disputed pieces of land.
Landowners submitting a quieting of title application have to give notice of that application in the newspaper, which is how the association learned about it in this case.The residents' association hopes to participate in the case on May 11.
"We're looking to have standing with the court to say you know, somebody needs to represent the beach," MacNeil said.
Part of Conrads is a provincially designated beach. Under the Beaches Act, beaches are dedicated to the education, enjoyment and benefit of Nova Scotians. This can apply even if the land is privately owned.
Beaches Act 'overrides' quieting title?
MacNeil said they've reached out to both the province and the landowners, but haven't had confirmation from either that public access will be maintained.
"What I'd like to have specified is that the Beaches Act overrides whatever is decided in this particular quieting of title," he said.
Residents are concerned the outcome of this application could mean barriers to public use of the beach. They've had disputes with the landowners before over a road that the community has used to get to the western end of the beach.
"I can understand the landowner wanting to have clarity about where their boundaries are, I have no problem with that," MacNeil said. "But we just need to be sure that the province actually steps in and says yes, this is where your land is, but also part of that land is a public resource and therefore people are granted access over it by law."
In an email, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources wrote the department can't comment on ownership claims while the case is before the court.
They also wrote that the portions of Conrads Beach that are protected under the Beaches Act will remain subject to that designation, regardless of the outcome of the court action.