Nova Scotia

'We are against backroom deals': Eastern Shore group against golf resort proposal

People on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore who oppose a potential golf course development say they’d like to meet with the developer to discuss other possible uses for the land and options for the community.

Community members call for more transparency in the process

This picture shows Little Harbour in the upper left, private land in the foreground, and the Owls Head park reserve in the upper right. (Nova Scotia Nature Trust)

People on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore who oppose a potential golf course development say they'd like to meet with the developer to discuss other possible uses for the land and options for the community.

The provincial government recently removed the pending protected status from land known as Owls Head provincial park in Little Harbour so it could consider a proposal from Lighthouse Links Development Co. The company already owns 138 hectares of land next to the 285 hectares of Crown land and it wants to combine the two to build as many as three golf courses and foster economic development.

Sydnee McKay can remember growing up in the Little Harbour area and playing along those coastal lands. She said she was shocked when she learned of the proposal.

"I can't imagine them having a golf course down there," she said. "I just can't picture it."

McKay, who is part of an online group trying to mobilize against the proposal, said she agrees the area needs jobs and development, but it shouldn't come at the expense of the environment and an area that includes endangered species and rare ecosystems.

'It should not be a golf course'

It's McKay's hope that the man behind the proposal, Beckwith Gilbert, will meet with community members to answer questions and possibly consider other economic development options.

"See how we can either get this stopped or make it something more environmentally friendly than [using] pesticides and tearing the land up and filling it up with fill," she said.

"It's a beautiful piece of land down there. It should not be a golf course."

McKay met with her MLA, Kevin Murphy, on Friday in the hopes that he might be able to arrange meetings with officials from the Lands and Forestry, and Environment departments.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin has said the government decided to remove the pending protection designation from the Owls Head land because it determined the area wasn't as ecologically valuable as other Crown land slated for legal protection.

MLA calls for better communication

The change means the government can now have the land appraised and consider a potential sale.

Murphy said he first learned of the proposal about two years ago during the one and only meeting he's had with Gilbert.

As Speaker of the House, Murphy wasn't part of cabinet's decision to change the status of the land. But as an MLA for a rural area, he said it's important for all economic development proposals to at least be considered.

Still, things are far from being a done deal and any such proposal must be balanced with protecting the environment, said Murphy.

"There's a lot of rules and regulations and policies that would have to be met and followed at every step of the way in order to marry the two up," he said.

'Lack of proper respect for public interests,' says group

Murphy said he believes people on either side of the issue would benefit from more communication.

"I see both sides of it and it's my job as MLA, I think, to understand and to try to connect people on both sides of the conversation with the information so a good decision can be made," he said.

McKay and most of the rest of the community only learned of the proposal after CBC News reported on the potential development last month. She said she and others are particularly unhappy the government made the decision without any public consultation and provided no public notice when it was complete.

"We are not against development or tourism or investment," McKay said, reading from a letter she and her group gave Murphy.

"We are against backroom deals, deceit and lack of proper respect for public interests."



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