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Halifax Council to clarify boundary of proposed wilderness park

Councillor Richard Zurawski wants to reaffirm what land will be considered for the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Wilderness Park, following a staff report last month that interpreted the park as being much smaller than previously intended.

A motion coming to Halifax Regional Council on Tuesday looks to clarify the conceptual park boundary for the long-promised Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Wilderness Park. 

Last month, council contributed $750,000 to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust's purchase of 232-hectares of wilderness that will help connect the future park. Municipal staff had recommended against the move, stating in a report that the land was outside park boundaries. This staff report interpreted the park as being much smaller than previously intended.

With staff now tasked by council to come up with a plan for the regional park including its boundaries, timeline for development, and funding sources, one councillor wants to make sure everyone is on the same page - or map. 

District 12 Councillor Richard Zurawsk will be putting forward a motion to reaffirm all of the land shown on the HRM Regional Plan Map 11 is to be considered and when possible acquired for the future park. He does not want to see staff refer to the park outline derived from a 2006 environmental assessment for highway 113, which was used in the previous staff report. 

"In 2006 there was a map which was basically an assessment of the possibility of having a highway go through the park, and this environmental assessment sort of attached specific boundaries of what was considered to be a park at the time, but it wasn't a study for outlining the boundaries of the park," says Zurawski. 

The park boundaries from the environmental assessment is also being used on the municipality's web page regarding the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park. It replaced Map 11 not long before the staff report recommending against contributing to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust land acquisition went before council. 

Councillor Zurawski wants to ensure the western lands to Cox lake which aren't included in the park's boundaries on the 2006 environmental assessment, are part of the vision for the future Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Park. 

"When we look at the environmental assessments and ecological impacts of green zones they have to be contiguous in order to provide corridors for wildlife and plants, and lakes that support that wildlife," he says. "If you don't have that you have a lot of isolated areas that become jeopardized by the development in and around them."

Senior Wilderness Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre Raymond Plourde adds to that, saying the western lands have been identified in the Halifax Green Network Plan as an essential corridor with the Chebucto Peninsula.

"It has otherwise been largely cut off from mainland Nova Scotia and is the last natural corridor," he says. "That is the last connective piece where a moose, bear, or fox could move from mainland Nova Scotia to Chebucto Peninsula or vise versa."

He is hoping council will vote in favour of Zurawski's motion. 

"Last month the mayor and HRM council were unanimous and magnificent in their support for the largest, best possible regional park we could have in this area," says Plourde. "And I hope we see the same sort of commitment and resolve Tuesday."

Katie Hartai

About the Author: Katie Hartai

In addition to being a reporter for NEWS 95.7 and, Katie is the producer of The Rick Howe Show
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