Parks Canada and partners take big steps toward a national urban park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes
Potential national urban park designation process in Halifax passes key milestone, receives funding
May 23, 2023 Halifax, Nova Scotia Parks Canada
Every Canadian would love to have access to a park nearby. The Government of Canada continues to invest in accessible natural areas in Canada’s largest urban centres to bring the benefits of time spent in nature to more and more Canadians across the country.
Today, Ms. Lena Metlege Diab, Member of Parliament for Halifax West, on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the achievement of three key milestones through the National Urban Parks Program toward the designation of a potential national urban park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes in Halifax.
An ongoing collaboration with the local Indigenous communities, this project includes lands and waters that are historically and culturally significant to the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and their ancestors who have stewarded them for millennia.
Parks Canada has now completed a pre-feasibility report showing that the candidate site has met Parks Canada’s initial requirements of the national urban park process. With this key milestone, Parks Canada and its partners, including the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, are now advancing to the planning phase of the project, focused on the partner lands. The planning stage represents an important opportunity to further refine and plan key park components, including governance models and park boundaries as well as detailed planning for trails, public access, and infrastructure needs.
To launch the project planning phase, the Parks Canada National Urban Parks Program is providing more than $2.1 million which will enable the province of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, and the Halifax Regional Municipality to assess opportunities for the conservation of nature and enhanced access to urban greenspace in Halifax.
The network of protected areas in Canada, including new national urban parks, plays an important role in the recovery of species at risk and in helping to mitigate the impacts of the changing climate. The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and to collaborating with partners, stakeholders, and other levels of government, to protect biodiversity and to conserve 25 percent of lands and waters in Canada by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.
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“Every Canadian deserves access to green and protected areas close to home. The Government of Canada is committed to expanding natural and conserved areas in several major urban centres in Canada, including Halifax. We want more Canadians to be able to connect with nature and to foster a deeper appreciation for the natural environment. Congratulations to everyone involved in moving the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area one step closer toward national urban park designation. These truly are remarkable times for conservation in Canada for those living in urban centres!”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“Today’s announcements represent decades of thought, planning, and work toward a common vision and goal for the residents of our great city. Every step we take together brings us closer to designating a national urban park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, and this will benefit current and future generations in immeasurable ways. Together, we will succeed in designating a national urban park right here in the heart of our community!”
Lena Metlege Diab
Member of Parliament for Halifax West, Nova Scotia
“As Mi’kmaq, the land and the environment are intrinsically connected to who we are as people. That is why it is so crucial that the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia are meaningfully engaged in discussions on how our lands are being used. We look forward to continuing conversations with our Mi’kmaw community members and those who live in the urban area of Halifax, on what they envision for the future of these lands, should a national urban park be designated in this area.”
Chief Carol Potter
Culture, Heritage and Archaeology Co-Lead, Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs
“As our municipality continues to grow, it is more important than ever to preserve access to pristine wilderness and protect natural habitats. This welcome federal investment toward a Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes national urban park will help ensure it remains a nature refuge for generations to come.”
Mayor Mike Savage
Halifax Regional Municipality
“Today is a great day for the people of Nova Scotia and our growing capital city as we take one step closer to designating the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area a national urban park. The province is pleased to work with, and support, the Government of Canada, the municipality, the Mi’kmaq, and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust to fulfill our shared vision for this special place. Making this area – including the existing Wilderness Area – a national urban park with new trails and recreation opportunities will help more Nova Scotians experience its exceptional beauty, as well as the many health and well-being benefits that spending time in nature offers us.”
The Honourable Timothy Halman
Minister of Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change
"The Nova Scotia Nature Trust is proud to be part of protecting such an ecologically important and treasured urban wilderness. This ground-breaking initiative will be Canada's first national urban park to include a non-government land trust as a landowner and partner. Strengthened by the involvement of all three levels of government, the Mi'kmaq, and the stakeholders and Friends of Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, our cooperative progress is creating an exciting model for other jurisdictions to follow."
Executive Director, Nova Scotia Nature Trust
The candidate national urban park in Halifax includes 2,304 hectares centered around the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Provincial Wilderness Area along with lands cared for by the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.
Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes is an area with high ecological value, with a mix of protected and native woodlands, barrens, lakes, watercourses, and wetlands. Twenty-three Species at Risk and 61 Species of Conservation Concern are known within or near partner-held lands at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes.
Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes is already a popular destination for informal access by residents, with documented activities that include swimming and hiking, paddling, camping, skating, cross-country skiing, art and photography and bird watching.
Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes is located within Mi’kma’ki (pronounced Mig - maw - gee) – the unceded traditional and current territories of the Mi’kmaq people. Parks Canada is working on a nation-to-nation basis with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. Opportunities for the proposed national urban park as a place for traditional and cultural practices, a place to demonstrate leadership in conservation and stewardship, and a place with potential for economic benefit for communities are being explored.
In addition to the Halifax Regional Municipality, Parks Canada has launched exploratory processes for other potential national urban parks in various municipalities across Canada including Victoria region (BC), Edmonton region (AB), Saskatoon region (SK), Winnipeg (MB), and Windsor (ON). Early discussions are also underway in Montreal (QC).
New national urban parks will be managed under a range of flexible governance models, including federally administered places, third party administered places, and various partnership approaches.
The new National Urban Parks Policy will guide the designation and management of new national urban parks across the country to ensure that they meet the program objectives of conserving nature, connecting people with nature, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. A backgrounder and discussion paper to inform the development of the National Urban Parks Policy were published on the Parks Canada website on April 17, 2023.
With its well-known network of urban cultural heritage sites, as well as Rouge National Urban Park, Parks Canada has a strong presence and a long history of conservation in urban areas.
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
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