Nova Scotia

Six-month public planning process begins for the Halifax Common

The first of five public meetings to help develop a master plan for the future of the Halifax Common attracted about 200 people.

200 people gather at first of five public meetings to discuss ideas and desires for popular green space

Ryan O'Quinn holds up a sheet with some of his table's ideas for the Halifax Common. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Ashley Lecroy wants a plan for the Halifax Common that preserves green space and helps encourage people to live in the area and use the land as a backyard. But she also wants to see movement on that plan.

"I think sometimes perfect gets in the way of done, and we really just need to start doing something."

Lecroy was one of about 200 people who on Monday night attended the first of five public consultation meetings on the future of the Common, where the goal is to develop a master plan for the lands that can be presented to Halifax regional council in six months.

People who attended the meeting used Post-it notes to write down what was important to them about the Common and how they wanted to see it used. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

People gathered in a hotel ballroom at small tables and talked in groups about how they'd like to see the land used, what are some of the most important things for them and how the site can best reflect as many needs and interests as possible.

Ryan O'Quinn is focused on more development at the oval.

One of the most popular features of the Common, O'Quinn said the oval helped get him more active and interested in the Common and he'd like to see a hockey rink developed in the centre of it.

"We need to be making sure that this space is a space that's getting people more physically active and getting people more out in the open environment."

Steffen Kaubler, a partner at Upland Planning and Design, speaks with some of the participants at the meeting. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Joan Backman knows all the work won't happen overnight, but she hopes there is a clear vision and plan that can be rolled out over a period of time once the consultation process is complete. That work includes finding a way to improve connectivity between all parts of the Common, including the Public Gardens and Camp Hill cemetery.

"There has to be really a broad look at the Common and how it integrates with the neighbouring properties and institutions," said Backman. "There's some really great possibilities and it's just a really great opportunity to look at how it all works together."

Upgrading the pool area

One of the first tangible things to emerge from all of this will be plans for the redevelopment of the pool and splash pad areas along with the pavilion, which has hosted an all-ages club along with bathrooms and changing area.

Halifax deputy mayor Waye Mason said there's money in the budget to begin planning for that work so it's important to get as much public feedback as possible. He hopes the area can become as popular as the oval.

"It's really, really busy all summer, so we want to make sure that we can take the successes we've had the last couple of years with some of the changes we've made and make a plan to do that throughout the entire Common."

People gathered at Monday's meeting to discuss what's important to them about the Common and how they'd like to see it used in the future. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Steffen Kaubler, a partner with Upland Planning and Design, the firm overseeing the consultation and master planning process, said the goal is to have a policy framework in place for the future of all the Common, which for years has faced competing interests.

"Up until today, without a master plan, these kind of interests have progressed at different speeds and different intensity," he said.

"What we're doing with all this information is really trying to balance all the interests that people bring to the table today and then eventually reflect them in a design report."

Lecroy said she was pleased with how the meeting went, although she wished more people attended.

"It tends to be a lot of familiar faces every time and I think that if everybody wants to have a voice in this they really have an opportunity to."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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