Halifax skyline viewed from the future Halifax Wilderness Park (Photo by Irwin Barrett)

Halifax skyline viewed from the future Halifax Wilderness Park (Photo by Irwin Barrett)

Allan Shaw (Photo by Denis Duquette)

Allan Shaw (Photo by Denis Duquette)

Allan Shaw

Urban development goes green

In a choice between nature and development, Allan Shaw chose to go green.

Surprisingly close to downtown Halifax, there is wild land. From a high point, surrounded by rocky barrens and the peace of the forest, the city’s tallest buildings are in view. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has been working to conserve this natural oasis, soon to be called the Shaw Wilderness Park. The 154-hectare (380-acre) proposed park marries nature conservation with nature-based recreation. The project is happening thanks to the many citizens of Halifax who are passionate to explore, and ultimately protect, this land. Allan Shaw is one of them.

Allan is the chairman of the Shaw Group Ltd., the company that owned this land. Together with NCC and the Halifax Regional Municipality, the project will conserve forest around Williams Lake and Colpitt Lake, within the Purcell’s Cove Backlands. “We originally bought the land here for development,” explains Allan. “We found out that the citizens of Halifax really wanted to see this area protected, then NCC came to see us. They asked if we would be willing to sell the land to them, and I said, ’We’ll talk.’”

NCC staff knew that in order to make it happen, they would have to show Allan and the Shaw Group Ltd. a different side of nature. After the initial meeting, Allan knew he had the opportunity to help create a place of solace for the public. “Craig Smith (NCC’s Nova Scotia program director) came in with a video showing our land in a way we’d never seen it before. It blew us away. It reminded me of when I was 12 or 13 years old and would walk over these lands. It reminded me why it was so important that they be protected.” From that moment on, it was an easy decision for Allan and the Shaw Group. They would sell the land to NCC to ensure it is protected for the long term. However, the price for land smack dab in the middle of one of Canada’s major cities doesn’t come cheap, and NCC needed help getting the funds together. Enter the city of Halifax. “The citizens have been heard loud and clear,” says Allan. “The city wanted to see this place as a green space.”

“NCC showed us our land in a new light. It reminded me why it was so important it be protected”

So did the provincial government. Last fall, NCC announced its Keep Halifax Wild campaign to support the creation of the Shaw Wilderness Park in Halifax. As part of NCC’s fundraising campaign launch on September 20, 2018, the Province of Nova Scotia announced it would contribute $1 million toward the creation of the wilderness park. The future park will be twice the size of Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park. It will protect wildlife habitat and an ecologically significant native landscape called jack pine broom crowberry barren, while providing a wilderness experience in the city. In the meantime, Allan reminisces about his past on the land while remaining hopeful that it will eventually become a place for people to make their own memories.

“Do you know what’s fabulous about nature and exploring the outdoors?,” he asks. “It’s peaceful, but not quiet. You can hear the wind, you can see the trees move in the breeze, you hear your footsteps as you’re walking. But while you’re out here you can think and contemplate. You have the chance to be quiet.”

Allan Shaw was one of the conservation heroes who made our work in 2018-19 possible. Click here to read our annual report >

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