Truman Layton has gone camping in the woods of the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park about 50 times. An avid outdoorsman, he’s also camped and hiked in New Zealand, Scotland and the Canadian Rockies, but says there is an “atmosphere that’s really different” about this area.
Layton spoke as part of a panel discussion organized by Canadian Association of Retired People’s environment committee on May 6. “We would lose an awful lot if we lost Susie’s Lake,” Layton says. Provincial finance minister Diana Whalen, a longtime supporter of the proposed park, and Raymond Plourde, wilderness coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, joined him for the talk.
Plourde led the talk and gave a history of the land. Most of it has received wilderness protection from the province but 569 hectares is privately owned by developers who are “land-banking,” Plourde said.
People at the talk were glad to learn that the city and landowners agreed on a facilitator to work out a deal.
The issue, mostly dormant at the municipal level since being put in the 2006 Regional Plan, appears to be stirring with a public meeting expected soon. Alarm bells also went off when a business news site reported that the Stevens Group, which purchased land near Susies Lake from the Sisters of Charity, is working with other landowners on a proposal to develop land within the proposed park boundary while at the same time negotiating its boundaries with the city. Whalen encourages people to write to their municipal councillors to tell them how important the issue is to them. She says this type of engagement was what spurred the province to protect the Crown land.