Saving the City’s Wilderness

Your Involvement Can Help the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park Become a Reality

To the west of Highway 102, nestled between Timberlea and Hammonds Plains just behind Bayers Lake Park, is a wilderness gem in the middle of the city. Likened to a smaller version of Kejimkujik National Park, this beautiful landscape of lakes and forests is a natural treasure and requires significant public involvement to ensure its protection. This is my favourite spot to hike with my dog, Chessy, so I can speak to the immense value of this wilderness area to the residents of Halifax.

While the creation of the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes regional park sounds like an obvious win for the communities of HRM, the development of this long-promised park has been challenged by developers and met with a series of obstacles. The City and the Province have taken bold steps to protect this land, in an effort to offer its natural beauty and recreational opportunities for public enjoyment. But, continued public advocacy and support will be essential to ensure the park becomes a realty. What can you do to help? Support the initiatives of groups like Ecology Action Centre and the newly-formed Friends of Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Society and get to know the area for yourself.

More info at the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area Facebook group or www.ourhrmalliance.ca/bmblcl

The timeline of events for the proposed park has been sourced from the Ecology Action Centre’s ‘Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes -A Brief History’ and Halifax Regional and Community Planning’s ‘Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park Timeline’, both available online.

1971 Metropolitan Area Planning Committee study identifies the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area as high priority for conservation.

2005 HRM hires consulting firm Environmental Design and Management Limited (EDM) to assess the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area for Regional Park consideration in the 2006 Regional Plan.

2006 EDM study was delivered, outlining park boundaries. The study won a national planning award in 2007.

2006 Halifax Regional Plan commits to creating the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park within the 25-year time span of the plan, including the acquisition of necessary private lands to complete the Park.

2007 Provincial government announces the creation of new 1,350 hectare-protected wilderness area at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes.

2007 Developers request initiation of Secondary Planning Process for their lands along the Highway 102 West Corridor, a portion of which falls within the conceptual Park boundary.

2010 HRM Council defers consideration for Secondary Planning, orders a Watershed Study and begins facilitated negotiations with the developers/landowners to establish the boundaries of the park.

2013 Birch Cove Lakes Watershed Study Report shows that development of the lands west of the 102 highway, including around the Birch Cove Lakes, would have a direct negative impact on the headwater lakes as well as a compounding negative downstream effect on lakes outside the intended park.

2013 A report from global consulting firm Stantec shows that HRM can save millions and potentially billions if it directs more residential growth towards the serviced core of the city and away from sprawl

2015 The provincial government designates two more large chunks of land to the existing Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area as part of its Parks and Protected Areas Plan. Altogether the provincial contribution represents about 70% of the land needed for the long-promised Regional Park.

2016 An independent facilitator’s report is released that sides with the developers and recommends development be allowed inside the proposed park boundaries and right up against the provincial Wilderness Area.

2017 HRM Council takes no further action concerning the facilitation process or the report’s recommendations and refuses the request to initiate secondary planning for all Hwy 102 West Corridor lands at this time.

2018 HRM purchases the 197-acre Hobson Lake lands from West Bedford Holdings to form part of the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park.

For more information, visit https://ecologyaction.ca/blue-mountain-birch-cove-lakes-brief-history and https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/regional-plan/proposed-blue-mountain-birch-cove-lakes-regional-park.