If turnout is an indication of interest, the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park is on people’s minds.
Some 200 people filled the hall at St. Peter’s Anglican Church for a meeting about the proposed park in early April. The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) and Halifax Northwest Trails Association (HNWTA) organized the meeting to rally support for a public group to lobby government and act as guardians for the park.
Organizers had to get out extra chairs but there were still people standing. There were politicians from three levels of government from many parts of the city, including Dartmouth MP Darren Fisher and Iain Rankin, the provincial environment minister.
“That shows you the level of interest across HRM,” said co-host Diana Whalen, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister who has teamed up with former political rival and Progressive Conservative MLA Mary Ann McGrath to spearhead the effort to create a group informally called the Friends of Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes.
Ray Plourde, the EAC’s wilderness co-ordinator, pushed for the meeting. He’s concerned that with the park idea growing in popularity, a group of volunteers is needed to act as caretakers and guides until the city can get organized. “More and more people are taking their first trip into Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes,” Plourde said. “We need feet on the ground. We’re looking at protecting the park, but also from a safety perspective, to help people.”
Added McGrath: “The secret is out of the bag and before too much more damage is done, we have to do some park planning.”
There has been “a sea change in elected staff and personnel” in the last few years, McGrath says, and wants people in the city to grow up being able to experience nature as she did when she was a kid. “Green space and wild land is good for people,” she said. “My father’s idea of a good weekend was to spend it in the woods with his kids … and my mother’s idea of a successful weekend was for us to spend it with him.”
She marvelled at how after a 10-minute walk into the woods, you can’t hear the traffic on the highway anymore. That’s one reason why it’s already attracting newcomers to the city, including her new neighbours.
“This is a city-building project,” McGrath said.
Many of the people who attended the meeting in early April signed up to volunteer to help protect the park, keep it clean, and act as guides throughout the summer. Others vowed to help raise awareness of the movement to create Canada’s largest urban wilderness park.
To learn more about the effort to convince HRM to honour its commitment to create the park, surf to ourhrmalliance.ca/bmbcl.