Public support for the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes urban wilderness park is growing and Halifax Council has noticed. In late October, a staff motion asked Council if it should “end the facilitated negotiation process” with three landowners to purchase 569 hectares of land to be part of the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park.
Council unanimously rejected the motion, which would have allowed landowners to do secondary planning, as long as they respected the boundaries of the park. Instead, Council ordered staff back to the negotiating table with a clear mandate to forge an agreement to get the land.
A few days later, 150 people flocked to a public engagement session to plan trails in the wilderness area behind Maskwa Aquatic Club on Kearney Lake. Maskwa, the Halifax North West Trails Association and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society hired Garnet McLaughlin of Cobequid Trail Consulting to develop the trails.
McLaughlin said getting so many people involved from the beginning would “engender stewardship” of the trails and the land. One of the downsides to creating awareness of the regional park has been a lack of public access, planned trails, and signs. Maskwa offers the only public access point and getting more people to visit the land will convince more people how important it is to preserve it. There are about 1,300 hectares of Crown land with wilderness protection, but a key to protecting that is preventing development on the adjacent private land.
Ron Foley MacDonald of Halifax is a frequent visitor to Charlies Lake, his favourite swimming hole, but agrees it’s not well-known. “It’s a word-of-mouth thing,” he says. “I showed a couple people this summer how to get to Charlies Lake and how to get to Susies Lake. They had never been there.”