Backlands Coalition Open House: Big crowd shows support and learns about Urban Wilderness Park

Over 120 people attended the Captain William Spry Community Centre last evening (Aug. 30) to learn about the Urban Wilderness Park being proposed to the City of Halifax by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and the Shaw Group.

The event, MC’d by Kathleen Hall of the Backlands Coalition, invited attendees to hear from representatives of the proponent organizations - Craig Smith, Program Director from the NCC and Allan Shaw of the Shaw Group. Those in attendance participated in a brief Q&A session before being able to circulate the room to converse with the presenters, each other and subject matter experts who were on hand to share their knowledge specific to the Purcells Cove backlands. These experts included, biologist Dr. David Patriquin, planner Dr. Patricia Manuel and geologist Marcos Zentilli. The event was attended by government representatives including Halifax Councillors Steve Adams, Linda Mosher and Waye Mason as well as MLA Brendan Maguire and MP Andy Fillmore.

Kathleen Hall kicked off the evening by welcoming attendees and thanking everyone for coming. An active supporter of the proposal, Hall said, “As many of you know, the lands we are talking about tonight are near and dear to me personally, but also to the many, many people who visit, use and study on these lands year round.” Not wanting to lose the opportunity to engage a supportive gathering Hall added, “If you believe in this project, please lend your voice – it is important that council hears there is widespread support for this.”

Craig Smith followed with a brief overview of NCC’s vision of an accessible Urban Wilderness Park, stating, “NCC believes protection of these lands to be an opportunity to achieve conservation of important ecological features, while creating value for residents of Halifax in the form of a publicly accessible urban wilderness park providing for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation activities."

Last to speak was Allan Shaw who provided a little background to the proposal. “In May 2014, Clayton Developments – a division of the Shaw Group - withdrew an application for development for these very lands in favour of discussion about seeing these lands acquired in public ownership for use. Since then, this has been our sole focus.” Shaw took the opportunity to emphasize his commitment by stating, “I can tell you that I am personally invested in this effort – It is important to me.”

Feedback provided by way of surveys at the event and compiled following show overwhelming attendee support for the proposal and demonstrates that a large majority of the attendees found the information provided very helpful. Some expressed a desire to learn more about the details, including financial, of the proposal. Craig Smith of the NCC took the opportunity to acknowledge this during the Q&A session stating, “At this point in the process, city staff have been asked by Council to prepare a report to evaluate this concept and evaluate next steps but there hasn’t been any real financial negotiations to speak of…that would be the next step in the process.”

The evening concluded with opportunities to have direct, less formal discussions with the proponents, hosts and experts about the project.

**If you would like to get involved and voice your support, CLICK HERE.**