Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia wants to make Halifax's harbour islands visitor-friendly

The Nova Scotia government is looking for a plan to entice more people to enjoy and explore two of the most visible islands in the province, McNabs and Georges.

'There are cities around the world [that] would look at these assets and drool'

The Halifax waterfront, as viewed from Georges Island. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

They are among the most viewed but least visited islands in the Halifax region — and the provincial government wants to change that.

It is blowing the dust off a 13½-year-old management plan for McNabs Island and working with Parks Canada to ensure a 2009 management plan for Georges Island meshes with Nova Scotia's desire to make it easier to visit and enjoy both spots.

"There are cities around the world [that] would look at these assets and drool," said Peter Bigalow, Develop Nova Scotia's director of planning and development and one of the key players in this latest attempt to properly exploit the potential of McNabs and Georges.

"They are fantastic and there is a real desire of the public to get out to them."

As an initial investment, the province has promised $1.5 million to build the necessary docks or wharves and for facilities such as washrooms, water stations and shelters.

McNabs Island is found at the entrance of Halifax harbour. (Atlantic Canada Coastal & Estuarine Science Society)

The 2005 provincial government plan for McNabs Island hinted at "limited camping opportunities."

"The primary focus of development is on providing facilities and services that support day-use activities," it said.

The Parks Canada plan, meanwhile, focused on preserving what it called the "Halifax Defence Complex" which included Georges Island and Fort McNab. The federal plan envisioned the preservation of the fortifications while allowing more open access to both sites.

"The heritage resources of the national historic sites will be protected, and in future all of the sites will be open to the public, offering opportunities to learn about and experience these special places," it said.

Although some work has been done to make Georges Island safer for visitors, access is still restricted.

A Halifax harbour ferry is seen passing by Georges Island. (Robert Short/CBC)

According to Bigalow, McNabs may see 20,000 visitors a year. That's the equivalent to the number of people who drop by Point Pleasant Park during an average week.

He was quick to say the plan was not to turn either island into another Point Pleasant Park, but the goal was to make it easier for people and tourists to visit them.

Develop Nova Scotia is planning three information sessions and has set up an online survey to receive public input as to what Nova Scotians would like to see those spaces used for.


Jean Laroche


Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter since 1987. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.


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