FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Wednesday, August 19, 2020
K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Last night as the Halifax Regional Council meeting continued into its eleventh hour, a vigorous debate took place over District 12 Councillor Richard Zurawski’s motion to clarify and reaffirm the intended park boundaries for Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park align with the vision as described in Map 11 of the Regional Plan. The motion itself however was ruled out of order by City Solicitor, John Traves on a technicality thus complicating the debate.
In the end, District 5 Councillor, Sam Austin quickly put together an alternative motion directing that the Park Planning process for Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes include the full park boundary described in Map 11 of the Regional Plan be formalized in the upcoming Regional Plan Review (RP+10). Councillor Zurawaski then withdrew his original motion and put forward the alternative motion and Council voted unanimously in support.
The motion reads: “Direct that the Parks Planning process for Blue Mountain Birch Cove include the entire backcountry in addition to the core parklands identified in Map 11 That the Regional Plan review include considering revising Map 11 for Blue Mountain Birch Cove Park Direct that HRM provide a more fulsome history and timeline of the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Park, including conceptual park maps, on the municipal website.”
“We couldn’t be happier and prouder of Halifax Regional Council for this decision,” says Raymond Plourde, Wilderness Coordinator for Ecology Action Centre. “They have once again demonstrated they’re rock solid support for the full park, including the western arm.”
The western arm shown on Map 11 as “Core Wilderness” has also been identified as a critical natural corridor between the Chebucto Peninsula and the rest of mainland Nova Scotia in the Halifax Green Network plan.
Last month HRM Council voted unanimously to provide funding towards a cost-shared land purchase with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust for a vital piece of the area, connecting two large Crown land parcels designated as provincially protected Wilderness Area in contribution to the future Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Regional Wilderness Park.
“Council’s unanimous vote last month effectively defeated the city staff recommendation to NOT provide funding for the land purchase and Council’s decision today sets the record straight on the conceptual boundary for city staff,” explains Plourde. "We are so appreciative for the leadership shown by Council in continuing forward with the aspirational boundaries for the future Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes.”
Although the unanimous decision made by Council last night is considered a win for the future Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Regional Wilderness Park, there are still serious concerns about developments all around the intended park encroaching into the area or blocking future access points.
“Development pressures are pushing into the area from all sides and are threatening both the ecological viability of the area and potential major access points for the public,” explains Plourde. “Confirming the large conceptual park boundary will put everyone on the same page and help maximize our collective options for keeping the area intact and accessible and ultimately, to create a truly world-class wilderness park in Halifax."
Mayor Mike Savage spoke passionately and specifically endorsed the idea of an HRM staff-led Coordinating Committee. This committee would include staff from the provincial Environment Department, the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and with the involvement of NGOs such as EAC and other public stakeholders. Together they would help direct planning for the future Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Wilderness Park.
To that end, Councillor Zurawski gave notice of motion for the next Council meeting on September 1, 2020:
“TAKE NOTICE that at the next meeting of Halifax Regional Council to be held on September 1, 2020, I propose to move a motion, that a senior level coordinating committee, led by HRM staff, be established for the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Regional Wilderness Park. The purpose of this HRM staff-led senior level coordinating committee will be to ensure:
- Land use, development decisions, and approvals involving adjacent and surrounding lands of the core wilderness area are compatible with the ecological mandates of the park, as outlined by the best ecological research, and do not adversely affect the viability and integrity of the future park.
- The coordinating committee will be HRM staff led and comprised of advisors from the public, and NGOs such as, but not limited to the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), Friends of BMBC…
- Provide progress reports to HRM Regional Council once every six months, which will be made available to the public.
- Provide a monitoring plan, whose purpose is to protect the ecological integrity of the proposed park with an emphasis on ensuring public use compatible with the purposes of the future park.
“We look forward to Council’s strong support for this motion as well,” says Plourde.
For more information contact:
Wilderness Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre