CPAWS welcomes land purchase for Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park

HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NS) welcomes today’s announcement by the Halifax Regional Municipality that it has acquired eighty hectares of land in support of Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park.

“This is an important milestone for the protection of Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes,” says Chris Miller, Executive Director of CPAWS-NS. “It is the first official land purchase for the regional park by the Municipality and something that the public has been waiting for going back decades”.

Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes is a near-urban wilderness in Halifax, located less than 10 kilometres from downtown. It contains over a dozen wilderness lakes and extensive intact forests and is a popular destination for outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, canoeing, and biking.

The provincial government has already protected 1,767 hectares of public land at Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes as a legally-protected wilderness area. Today’s announcement by the Halifax Regional Municipality means that the long-promised adjacent regional park is now starting to take shape.

“The property that was acquired is really quite special,” says Miller. “It includes the entire shoreline of Hobsons Lake, as well as headwater lands for Kearney Lake and a series of small wetlands and streams. This part of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness also supports some of the nicest stands of older forest in the wilderness, including pockets of older hemlocks, yellow birch, and spruce.”

The commitment to protect the Birch Cove Lakes as a regional park goes back as far as the 1970’s. After amalgamation, the City included a lot more detail about the protection of the Birch Cove Lakes within the HRM regional plan, approved in 2006, but the City has struggled to acquire the necessary lands for the park to happen. In 2016, a development proposal threatened the Birch Cove Lakes regional park, but HRM regional council rejected that development proposal and directed staff to proceed with land acquisitions in support of the wilderness park. During that review, regional council received over 1,400 written letters from the public in support of the regional park.

Halifax Regional Municipality has indicated that it is continuing efforts to acquire additional lands for the regional park.

“That’s welcome news,” says Meghan Borland, a conservation campaigner with CPAWS-NS. “Additional properties are needed to make the park complete, particularly properties on Susies Lake, Quarry Lake, and Fox Lake. We look forward to additional land purchases in the near future.”

CPAWS-NS congratulates Halifax Regional Municipality on the successful land acquisition and the work they have done behind-the-scenes to make this land purchase possible.

“One of the challenges with the Birch Cove Lakes is the lack of public access, which makes it difficult to establish a proper system of backcountry trails. The trails that are there now are informal, ad hoc, and in many cases, poorly designed and drift onto private lands,” says Miller. “The purchase of the lands at Hobsons Lake creates an opportunity to provide a proper access point for the regional park and to ensure that a system of trails is developed that reduces impacts on the environment while also providing the public with access to this incredible wilderness.”

“When I first started campaigning to protect the Birch Cove Lakes, many years ago, the governments of the day were still trying to trade away public lands to private interests to solve political problems,” says Miller. “There were a few really close calls. Now things have come full circle and the governments are acquiring private lands for the public good. This gives me hope.”