October 17, 2011
Integrity of Regional Park threatened by expansion of Bayers Lake Business Park
The Ecology Action Centre is concerned that an area previously committed by HRM for a Regional Park may now be under threat through the sale of HRM owned land for an expansion of Bayers Lake Business Park. The sale of nearly 200 acres of publically owned land by HRM to a private developer is threatening backcountry areas that are part of the intended Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park. The area in contention is the land beyond the natural ridgeline separating the business park from the wilderness parklands. This area includes both the trailhead for accessing Susies Lake and the popular Whopper Dropper mountain bike trail.
The 2006 Regional Municipal Planning Strategy identifies both a future park and an area for business park expansion. These areas overlap – so a portion of land is identified as part of both projects. In negotiating the sale of land for an expansion of Bayers Lake Business Park, the fact that the public approved of the business park expansion in the Regional Plan seems to be trumping the fact that the proposed park was also approved in that same Plan. HRM seems to think that because the public approved of the business park expansion in the Plan, a further public debate on the issue is not required – not even to debate the boundaries that are in contention.
Shortly after the release of the RMPS the provincial government designated a significant piece of provincial Crown land in order to assist HRM in fulfilling their commitment for a nature-oriented Regional Park in that area. This was acknowledged by Mayor Kelly in a provincial press release during October, 2007 after the area was designated as a protected Wilderness Area: "I'm very pleased with the province's collaborative approach and support for HRM's regional plan," said Mayor Peter Kelly. "This will help us move forward with HRM's plans for a regional park in the area.” (see http://gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20071030002)
The province did its part but the city has been very slow in doing its part to finish the job.
It was understood that the Regional Park boundaries would be defined by the natural ridgeline that separates the industrial lands from the wilderness habitat area and that the park would provide protection for the headwater lakes system therein. The Birch Cove Lakes aquatic ecosystem is one of the last remaining intact headwater lake systems in the HRM core area. Its preservation is essential to the health of several important downstream water bodies including Washmill, Kearney and Paper Mill Lakes.
“The creation of the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park was a promise made by HRM to its citizens. There are studies going back as far as the early 1970s that conclude that this is an area of important ecological value to the city and should be protected,” states Raymond Plourde, Wilderness Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre. “You have to wonder why HRM is prioritizing the sale of public ally owned land for a sprawling business park over the preservation of a tremendously important natural asset.”
EAC’s HRM Coordinator, Jen Powley, questions the need for the Bayers Lake expansion. “Expanding these giant retail parks discourages shopping close to home. It is sucking the retail life out of our community centres and the downtown cores in Halifax, in Dartmouth and in Sackville. The fact that it compromises the ecological integrity of a wilderness like the Birch Cove Lakes makes it even worse.”
For further commentary on the issue, please contact Raymond Plourde at 478-5400 or Jen Powley at 429-0924 or 802-1270. High resolution photographs of the threatened area are available.