The Halifax Regional Municipality and Parks Canada have signed an agreement to examine the feasibility of designating a local nature reserve as a national urban park.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced it would spend up to $ 130.9 million to create a network of national urban parks across the country. Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes in Halifax is one of the few sites identified for the National Urban Parks Program.
A feasibility study typically assesses the benefits and challenges of a proposal as well as the support of the local community and government.
This decision is good news for the Society of Friends of Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes. The community group has been campaigning for the land to become a park since 2018.
Former cabinet minister Diana Whalen is a member of the company’s board of directors. She is optimistic that the federal government will help make the park a reality.
“[The municipality] doesn’t have a lot of resources, staff and financial resources, so it’s expertise and knowledge to get things done, ”she said. “I think the federal government will really speed things up.
Important natural space
The creation of the park has been a long-standing objective. The City of Halifax identified the Birch Cove Lakes Region as an important natural area to be protected in 1971. It was also included in the 2006 regional plan.
Whalen says the proposed park is expected to cover up to 10,000 acres when completed.
“Our council, the political members, are very determined to see this development progress,” she said. “What is missing is the ability to plan a park 20 miles in circumference. It is so much bigger than any park in the city today.”
Whalen says there’s a lot of work to be done, like purchasing additional plots of land, setting boundaries, and creating trails.
Com. Pam Lovelace represents District 13, which includes part of the potential park.
While the agreement between HRM and Parks Canada does not guarantee that the area will become a national urban park, she hopes it will work.
“This is not a done deal. We are working together to make this happen,” she said. “But I am very optimistic because I feel that Parks Canada recognizes the value of preserving and conserving this natural ecosystem as a national park.
Lovelace says she is receiving positive feedback from her constituents and beyond.
“Residents from all over the province contacted me to tell me it was exciting,” she said. “It’s not just a Halifax park, it’s something for all of Nova Scotia and really all of Atlantic Canada.”
The municipality says residents can expect significant public engagement on the feasibility of the urban park in the coming months.
“The area council had previously requested information on the inclusion of stakeholders in planning for Blue Mountain-Birch Cove lakes, which is expected to be addressed in an upcoming staff report to area council,” said city spokesman Brynn. Budden in an email.
Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement that it is important that all Canadians have access to green spaces.
“Expanding access to nature and its protection in our urban spaces is essential in the fight against biodiversity loss and climate change,” he said. “It also promotes better mental well-being and equity in urban areas, where the vast majority of Canadians now live. “
The National Urban Parks Program will contribute to Canada’s commitment to protect 25% of land and inland waters by 2025, and 30% by 2030.