If you failed to submit written objections to Judge Heather Robertson’s “Facilitator’s Report” on proposed Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Regional Park boundaries by 3 p.m., Monday, July 4, forget it. If your written objections ran to over three pages and you failed to submit 35 copies, no one will read them.
It was too late before it was too late.
HRM’s 2006 Regional Strategy designated an untamed swath of land between the Bayers Lake Industrial Park and Hammonds Plains — an area two-thirds the size of the Halifax peninsula — as a public wilderness park. It would be, in the City’s own evocative words, “an opportunity to leave urban life behind and be immersed in natural forest, lakes, streams and bogs within a stone’s throw of the city. Short trail loops, longer hikes, mountain bike trails, lakes for swimming, skating, fishing and two canoe routes will allow the public to use the park for an hour or more, or for an entire day.”
But the park-in-waiting included provincial land and 15 privately owned blocks. In 2009, the province designated its land “protected wilderness,” creating a basis for the new park. By then, however, two of the biggest private landowners were pressing for a secondary planning strategy to allow them to commercially develop their land.
In 2014, the city and the landowners agreed to appoint Robertson as a facilitator to help negotiate acceptable park boundaries. (Question: when the City widened Chebucto Road in the mid-oughts, did it hire a facilitator to negotiate with affected homeowners?)
On June 20, Robertson delivered her behind-closed-doors-orchestrated 29-page report to 200 stunned residents at the Futures Inn in Bayers Lake. No questions permitted.
Instead of suggesting a boundary, complained Bob McDonald, chair of the Halifax North West Trails Association, Robertson delivered “a development proposal… on behalf of the landowners/developers,” including permitting private shoreline development on Fox and Susie lakes in the middle of the park while blessing the developer’s scheme to sell another tract of parkland to the city for twice what staff believe it’s worth.
Ignoring staff’s objections the developers’ boundary plan “fails or only minimally achieves” regional park objectives, Robertson insisted — without apparent evidence — their plan is “economically feasible.” For whom?
Some “independent,” some “facilitator.”
Time for a public interest re-do.