Nova Scotia

Environmental group urges province to buy Inverness County beach

The Chimney Corner beach property in Inverness County, which includes about 122 hectares of land, the beach itself and some of the seabed, is up for sale and a local environmental group wants the Nova Scotia government to buy it.

Margaree Environmental Association says the privately owned Chimney Corner beach should be held by the public

The Margaree Environmental Association is urging the Nova Scotia government to buy the Chimney Corner beach property in Inverness County to keep it in public hands. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The Chimney Corner beach in Inverness County is up for sale and a local group wants the Nova Scotia government to buy it.

The property includes about 122 hectares of land around the cove, the beach itself and some of the seabed under the water.

According to viewpoint.ca, the property sold for $4 million in 2018, but is back on the market with an asking price of $3.8 million.

Neal Livingston, co-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association, said he believes the purchase fell through.

He said the province should now buy the land to make sure it remains available to the public in perpetuity.

Neal Livingston, co-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association, says Chimney Corner is the go-to beach for locals and for tourists from around Cape Breton and beyond. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"A lot of people were concerned when it went up for sale a couple of years ago about whether or not the beach would still be open," he said.

"It is the go-to beach for people in Margaree ... and people come from as far away as Sydney, as well as people who are tourists going by in the summer."

Livingston said the Chimney Corner beach is ideal because of the lack of development, the soft sand beach and the shallow water in the cove.

The land has been privately owned for more than 100 years, but no one has lived on the property in recent times and the owners have long allowed the public access to the beach.

Legislation guarantees public access to the shoreline around Nova Scotia, although permission is needed to cross private property.

Property includes land under the water

Livingston said the Chimney Corner beach is unique because it is private property and it includes land under the water, two features that are rare — if not unheard of — for beaches anywhere else in Nova Scotia.

He said that seems to have occurred because the original owners mined coal there, but it's not clear why the land under water was included.

"It's a super-important beach on the west coast of Cape Breton and it's simply really unacceptable that both the beach and the seabed under it could come into private hands for development, we think, and it's time for the province to step forward," said Livingston.

The environmental group wrote to the premier and the provincial environment minister this week urging the province to pick up the land at a price reasonable to the owners and to taxpayers.

Coal outcroppings can be found around the Chimney Corner beach, which backs onto a rugged forest wilderness protected area containing mostly undisturbed mature hardwood and other species. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Livingston said the property could be added to the Chimney Corner wilderness protected area nearby.

Twenty years ago, Livingston found out the forest nearby had never been cut commercially and successfully lobbied the government to set the land aside.

The province describes the wilderness protected area as 750 hectares of unique, rugged forest that extends from the coast to the highlands, containing mostly undisturbed mature hardwood and other species.

Province says price tag is high

Livingston said the Chimney Corner beach is separated from the protected area by privately owned land, but he suggested a swap might be possible, allowing the province to connect and protect both lands.

The Nova Scotia Department of Environment told CBC News in an email the Chimney Corner beach has not been identified as ecologically sensitive and the asking price is significantly higher than the department would typically want to spend on a protected area.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 17 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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