Peter Bigelow, manager of real property planning for HRM, says the process for acquiring access to the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park in the Bayers Lake Business Park has "not gone the way I would have liked it to go", adding it ended up being "quite contentious" when it didn't need to be.
"Better communication out to the public could have prevented it from becoming adversarial," Bigelow says.
To make matters worse, all of this erupted over what will now be a tertiary access point at best. Bigelow says the decision not to extend Lacewood Drive as the main access point for the next phase of Bayers Lake development reduced the desirability of the park as a main access point.
"As a park designer, I would not be putting my entrance there," Bigelow says. However, Bigelow does say he's satisfied with the land set aside for the entrance given its reduced importance.
"We're still slightly on that side of the ridge – over the bowl – but by eliminating the Lacewood extension, it's a better solution in terms of putting less stormwater into the watershed. It isn't 100 per cent, but it's better."
Given its new status, Bigelow says it's unclear when the Bayers Lake trailhead will be developed. Although development work in the area may make the access point more accessible than other proposed entrance points for the proposed regional park, Bigelow says it won't necessarily be the first one developed.
"Eleven communities will have backdoor access to this park, so it will truly be a 'regional' park," Bigelow says, and which entrance points are developed and in what order will depend on what is best for the greatest number of future users.
However, once the regional park is developed, Bigelow did confirm the city would be looking to connect it to existing trail systems in the area, including the Chain of Lakes Trail that runs through Bayers Lake.
As for when plans will actually reach that stage, Bigelow was less clear.
"I will not be finishing this park – someone else will be finishing it," Bigelow says.
That's because the process Bigelow has outlined will take several years to implement. Background work, such as watershed studies, environmental assessments, land acquisition opportunities and available resources, are only now starting to come together to the point where city staff can start to proceed with finalizing the vision for the park and consulting with the public.
"The park will be an important form giver to our city," Bigelow says. "It will shape the way we develop." But the plan is still in flux "This is still an idealized plan – these (boundary) lines are going to change."
The proposed boundaries currently encompass 22 lakes and the headwaters of two watersheds, plus a wildlife corridor that connects with the old Bowater lands. The intention is to create both a front country and a backcountry experience for park users.
"Up here we'll give you places to park, we'll give you trails and we'll give you a place you can go with your child. But back here," Bigelow says, pointing out the proposed back country area, "you're on your own."
The key vision includes four key themes: Near Urban Wilderness Recreation, Water Quality Protection, Biodiversity Protection and Wilderness Corridor Protection. To read more about these and to see the maps, go to http://www.halifax.ca/RealPropertyPlanning/bluemountainbirchcovelakes.html.
The next step is where the community and residents can help. HRM has asked for feedback on three basic questions:
1. What do you like about the proposed Park?
2. What should we change?
3. How are we going to work together?
A database of interested individuals or groups will be collected by HRM for future events. Send responses to email@example.com.