“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
That quote is often attributed to American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. There’s debate about whether she really said it but the sentiment rings true regardless.
It’s important for citizens to remember because it’s thoughtful, committed action that convinced Halifax Regional Council in 2016 to reject a developer’s proposal to change the zoning in lands surrounding the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park.
This same level of commitment is motivating citizens to get involved in the fledgling Friends of Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes group. The group was proposed at a public forum in April and held its first meeting in May.
Opinions on this issue transcend the usual party loyalties and bickering. Diana Whalen, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister, and Mary Ann McGrath, a former Progressive Conservative MLA, are involved in Friends of Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes. Over the years, all three provincial political parties have supported the park and had a role in designating 1,767 hectares of Crown land around it as a Wilderness Protection Area.
The only people I’ve heard that aren’t in favour of the park are some deep-pocketed developers and a few out-of-touch municipal Councillors.
When you get this kind of support for an idea, you know the wheels of the bureaucracy are also pointed in the right direction. It’s just a matter of time (and action on the part of the Halifax Regional Council) before the park becomes a reality and citizens across the municipality can enjoy a mini Kejimkujik in our backyard.
The best part about that is that it provides an opportunity for people living in the city to simply hop on a bus and go enjoy beautiful wilderness; swimming, hiking, or paddling without having to own a car or a canoe.
HRM has made its first land purchase and the attitude on Council is much more receptive to the project than in the past. These Councillors all know how committed citizens are to the park. If any of them don’t know how committed people are, they should attend the next public meeting about the park. The public forum in April was so well attended it prompted Nova Scotia environment minister Iain Rankin to quip that if he ever wanted to draw a big crowd for something he should just mention the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park.
You can do a lot to help make this park happen. Let Councillors and MLAs know it matters to you, for starters.
The park needs some temporary stewards and is prompting many to volunteer to be “boots on the ground” (essentially volunteer park rangers). Although lots of people are already aware of the park, many have never visited. Some who visit don’t know how to take care of it and are chopping down green trees and trying to burn them, Whalen says. People also litter and wander off trails.
To get involved, send the group an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more abut the park and stay in touch via the group’s Facebook page or at the link on the HRM Alliance website.
After covering this issue as a journalist for several years, I’ve learned a great deal about the park and come to appreciate the beautiful opportunity we have. As a columnist for Halifax Magazine, I’ve taken a stance in favour of the city doing whatever is necessary to make this park a reality.
It’s a great aspect of our democracy that we can all freely express our opinions on matters of public interest. Now, it’s time to step back and work in other ways to create a legacy for future generations. This will be my last column and although I won’t be sharing my opinion anymore, I will be following the advice of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho: “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”
See you out on the trails; take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.