Keeping Halifax wild

A visitor takes in the views at Williams Lake, NS (Photo by NCC)

A visitor takes in the views at Williams Lake, NS (Photo by NCC)

November 16, 2017 | by Craig Smith

This fall, Halifax Regional Council voted unanimously to move forward with a proposal by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) for a 379-acre (152-hectare) urban wilderness park just 10 minutes from the downtown core, on the shores of Williams Lake. The tentative agreement between NCC, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and the property owner — The Shaw Group — presents an extraordinary opportunity to conserve a rare landscape and habitat, while creating a park designed for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation within a densely populated part of the city. This exciting project will be the largest urban conservation project NCC has worked on in Atlantic Canada.

Once considered for a suburban housing project, this beautiful property needs to be conserved because it contains a rare forest type, known as jack pine and broom-crowberry barrens, found only on exposed, glacier-scraped rock near the Atlantic coast. The property includes sections of mature pine forest and many small wetlands, which provide habitat for more than 40 species of breeding birds and other wildlife.

The property also includes two lakes and is a popular spot for swimming and hiking. During consultations for the Halifax Green Network Plan, land in this area was identified by the public as one of the top three areas for protection in the municipality.  

NCC’s vision for this urban wilderness park is to conserve the ecology and landscape for both wildlife and people, so future generations will always be able to get outdoors to connect with nature. The park will be easily accessible by road and public transit. Most trails will be marked, but kept narrow and natural. Year-round, low-impact activities such as hiking, birding, interpretive walks and outdoor education will be permitted. The lakes will be open for unsupervised swimming and non-motorized boating.

To help create the park, NCC has committed to raising $3.5 million: $2.5 million for a conservation agreement with the municipality, ensuring no development or resource extraction can ever occur on the property, and $1 million for legal and associated costs, including the establishment of a stewardship fund to ensure long-term care of the property.  

Over the next year, NCC will be seeking financial support from a wide range of partners, but particularly from Nova Scotian businesses, local communities and citizens of Halifax Regional Municipality, in order to raise the necessary funds for this project. By 2019, we hope the urban wilderness at Williams Lake will become a permanent sanctuary in the city for both people and wildlife.

Let’s work together to keep Halifax wild!

Craig Smith (Photo by NCC)

About the Author

Craig Smith was the Nature Conservancy of Canada's program manager in Nova Scotia.

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