NEW LAND PURCHASE APPROVED FOR BLUE MOUNTAIN – BIRCH COVE LAKES REGIONAL PARK
Published on Mar 11 2019
(Photo: Irwin Barrett)
I know many of you care about the protection of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness, just as I do, so here’s a quick update on the news from last week.
On Tuesday, March 5th, Halifax Regional Council approved a motion to authorize city staff to finalize an additional land purchase in support of the regional park.
Here’s the specific motion:
17.4 PROPERTY MATTER – Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park Update and Proposed Land Acquisition – Private and Confidential Report
A matter pertaining to providing instruction and direction to officers and employees of the Municipality pertaining to the acquisition / sale of land in regard to:
That Halifax Regional Council:
1. Authorize the Chief Administrative Officer to negotiate and approve the purchase of the lands associated with the proposed Blue Mountain Birch-Cove Lakes Wilderness Park identified in, and under the terms and conditions outlined in Tables 1 and 2 of the private and confidential staff report dated February 28, 2019, pursuant to Administrative Order 2018-004 and authorize the Mayor and Clerk to execute any agreements that may be necessary;
2. Accept federal funding pursuant to the aforementioned acquisitions and authorize the Mayor and Clerk to enter any agreements that may be necessary;
3. Authorize the expenditure from the Project Account No. CP180004 – Park Land Acquisition of the funds necessary to complete the aforementioned property purchases;
4. Direct staff to continue to implement the plan for future acquisitions of other lands within the Blue Mountain Birch-Cove Lakes Wilderness Park boundary as outlined in the Discussion section of the private and confidential staff report date February 28, 2019; and
5. Not release the private and confidential staff report dated February 28, 2019 to the public.
The motion passed unanimously (16 to 0).
Regional Council chose to have the debate In Camera, so there’s not a lot of detailed information available publicly at this time, including property information or purchase price. That sort of information won’t be released until a later date. But, you can still tell quite a bit from the motion that was approved.
First of all, it was a unanimous decision. Every single councillor, from every corner of the municipality, voted in favour of this pending land purchase. That’s a good thing. There is strong public support for protecting these lands and that level of support is reflected by our representation at Regional Council.
The mayor also spoke in favour of Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes, saying this to The Star Halifax:
“We are committed as a municipality, as a council, to creating that park in Blue Mountain Birch Cove. It’s going to take time. We’re doing it as quickly as we can. There’s obviously a lot of complicating factors, but we’re committed to it and we appreciate the work that staff is doing to help us.” ~Mayor Mike Savage
Secondly, it’s also noteworthy that the motion says “property purchases”, in plural, suggesting that more than one property will be acquired. We will have to wait for more details on that. I have my hunches, but I won’t be speculating here.
Federal funding for the first time
Thirdly, the motion indicates that the federal government will be contributing funding to Halifax Regional Municipality to help with the land purchase for Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park. This marks the first time that the federal government has contributed funding directly to support the land acquisitions, and is welcome news indeed.
All three levels of government – municipal, provincial, and federal – are now contributing directly toward the protection of Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes. That’s a huge milestone and, combined with the unanimous vote at council, suggests that everyone is now paddling in the same direction.
CPAWS-Nova Scotia has been working for years to line-up federal funding for Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes. Here’s me presenting to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development way back in 2016, making the case for Ottawa to help fund land purchases for the regional park.
Thank you to Darren Fisher, MP for Dartmouth, for the question about Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes.
Presumably, the source of the federal funding is the Canada Nature Fund. More information about that can be found here. CPAWS Nova Scotia provided a letter of support for the city’s application to this fund, in support of Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes.
Quite frankly, I think Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes could easily qualify for a National Urban Park designation. Such a designation would mean that Parks Canada would be directly involved in helping to secure the park, and the park would have it’s own piece of federal legislation to ensure that it is managed in support of ecological integrity.
But I’ll save my arguments in favour of a “Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes National Urban Park” for a future blog post. The federal funding is certainly welcome news and a big help for the City as it tries to secure ALL of the required lands for the regional park.
Getting back to the motion that was approved at regional council, it also says that the city will continue to pursue additional land purchases for the regional park. This means that Regional Council has re-affirmed (yet again) that the city intends on making good on its promise to establish the regional park, and it did so unanimously.
Land is only going up in value, so the longer the city waits to finalize additional land purchases, the more expensive it will become. There are several large properties that still need to be acquired to make the park a reality, particularly those on Susies, Quarry, and Fox Lakes.
A big thank you to everyone who has helped out, in your own individual way, to protect this awesome near-urban wilderness. Your voice is crucial for protecting Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes.
Stay tuned for more information.
By: ~Chris Miller