Nova Scotia

Landowner agrees to reopen Silver Sands Beach path in Cow Bay

According to his lawyer, Ross Rhyno will reopen the path to Silver Sands Beach that crosses his backyard in Cow Bay. Rhyno blocked the easement because of coastal erosion, and because he says the public is frequently vandalizing his private property and trespassing.

Path to Halifax area beach crosses private property on a right-of-way

Silver Sands Beach is only accessible via a path on a public easement over private property. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Silver Sands Beach in Cow Bay, N.S., could reopen to the public in roughly two weeks. 

A Halifax-area landowner who closed the path to the beach has accepted a judge's decision that the right-of-way must reopen

"I think you could probably appreciate that no one likes to lose," said lawyer Eugene Tan of Walker Dunlop, who is acting for Ross Rhyno. "So he is perhaps a little bit disappointed. But having reviewed it, he understands the reasoning of the court, so he's prepared to abide by it."

Rhyno sold Silver Sands Beach, a rocky spit behind his home on Cow Bay Road, to Halifax Regional Municipality in 2003. Part of that deal was an easement across his backyard so the public could walk to the beach from a municipal parking lot. 

Contentious pathway

Over the years, the path has been a source of conflict. Rhyno said some people mistreat his backyard which lines the sides of the path.

"There has been a great deal of vandalism to his own property, to his fences," Tan said. "He's sustained a great deal of theft, a great deal of damage."

Another issue is trespassing. 

"People are actually not respecting the boundaries and very, very frequently [he] finds people in his own backyard and people sitting on his own deck," Tan said. 

Rhyno has banned dogs from the path, saying owners leave large amounts of dog poop behind that he's forced to clean up. 

In June of 2020, Rhyno locked the gate across the path, and began construction work he said fixes a runoff issue from the municipal parking lot. 

The Halifax Regional Municipality bought the beach in 2003. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

He's left the gate locked and the path blocked with construction materials because he said coastal erosion disconnected his property from the beach, so it no longer serves its purpose. 

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice rejected that argument in a decision last week. 

On Friday, Rhyno consented to an order drafted by HRM that he do the work necessary to reopen the path. 

If a judge signs that order Monday, he'll have 10 days to complete the work at his own expense, allowing the public to walk once more to Silver Sands Beach on June 24. 

Nuisance action

"While Mr. Rhyno doesn't agree with all the findings at this point, he sort of feels that an appeal probably won't address his concerns," Tan said. 

Instead, Tan said Rhyno intends to file a nuisance action against the municipality, claiming all the vandalism and trespassing interfere with his lawful enjoyment of his backyard. 

If a judge agrees, Rhyno could be entitled to financial compensation. Or if the issues are too onerous, the judge could order HRM, as Rhyno's "neighbour," to stop using the right-of-way.

"In certain circumstances, a court may order that the use to which that neighbour is putting that property shall cease. And so we'll be looking to essentially extinguish the easement."

Tan said Rhyno intends to file that action after finishing the work to reopen the access pathway to the beach. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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