News / Halifax

Blue Mountain park advocates upset with facilitator report suggesting development

Different advocacy groups calling for Halifax regional council to reject the new report.

A hiker heads back to the start of the Birch Cove trailhead near the Bayers Lake Business Park in this file photo from 2014.

Jeff Harper / Metro Order this photo

A hiker heads back to the start of the Birch Cove trailhead near the Bayers Lake Business Park in this file photo from 2014.

Advocates working towards a Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park say they’re angry with an “inappropriate” facilitator’s report that suggests development could go ahead within the area, and are calling for regional council to reject it outright.

On Monday evening, the public is invited to a presentation of the report released by Justice Heather Robertson, who was appointed as facilitator in the negotiation of proposed boundaries for the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park between HRM and Annapolis Group Inc. and Susie Lake Developments Ltd. (part of the Stevens Group).

“Her task was to get the two sides sitting down together and negotiating … and that didn’t work out very well,” Bob McDonald, chair of the Halifax North West Trails Association (HNWTA), said in an interview.

“It’s more like a development proposal and I thought ‘oh this totally inappropriate.’ So I’m pretty upset.”

The negotiation is in relation to the Highway 102 west corridor where 1,308 acres are held by the private developers and zoned urban settlement and urban reserve, and the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy states the city’s intent to acquire them for “public use.”

There are 3,242 acres of provincial Crown land designated as wilderness area adjacent to the private lands, the report said, which would make up a good deal of the regional park that’s been planned since 2006.

Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre said he’s especially upset to see the first mention of the Blue Mountain park in years come out of the facilitator’s report, calling the last 10 years a “lost decade.”

“It should be protected and the only thing that should happen in this area is for the regional park to come into play,” Plourde said.

“What’s quite clear is that the opposing sides did not reach agreement and so she’s just sided with one, and she’s mistaken.”

Plourde said HRM staff were correct to point out the development proposal that would wrap around much of Susies and Quarry lakes fails to meet most park objectives, and added the lack of progress on creating the park rests solely on council’s shoulders for spending “zero cents” on property or looking into other options like land swaps in the last 10 years.

“There is a vacuum of leadership and I would say that there’s also councillors who are way too close to developers and seem to always want to give [them] what they want … who just have been happy to kick this can down the road,” Plourde said.

“Nobody in council is leading the effort to get this done.”

The facilitator’s report will be presented Monday, 7 p.m. at the Future Inns Aspin/Birch Room on Fairfax Drive in Bayers Lake. Verbal comments will not be recorded, but written ones can go to the Municipal Clerk by mail or at clerks@halifax.ca

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