Nova Scotia To Have Owls Head As Next Provincial Park

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Nova Scotia announced last Tuesday designating Owls Head as the province’s next provincial park, giving the area’s supporters, who fought to protect it, a major victory, according to a report.

Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton put out a news release saying that the move last Tuesday was meant to protect 266 hectares of Crown lands at Owls Head in Little Harbour in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The land is about 80 kilometers east of downtown Halifax.

“The designation of this land as a provincial park is a clear indication of our promise to protect more land in Nova Scotia,” Rushton said in the release. 

“We are committed to transparency and giving the public an opportunity to provide input on how public lands are used, managed, and protected.”

The protected lands include a variety of coastal barrens and wetlands and bedrock-ridged topography. Owls Head is home to the piping plover and the barn swallow, which are two species at risk.

The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables will oversee Owls Head as a nature park, meaning the public will have access.  However, it will have no amenities such as garbage collection or facilities such as bathrooms and parking spaces.

Sydnee Lynn McKay, the founder of the Save Owls Head Provincial Park Facebook group and grassroots movement opposed to the development of the wilderness area, was delighted to hear about the announcement last Tuesday.

“A natural environment park is going to protect everything that is there,” McKay said. “Like the endangered species and all the plants and everything, it’s going to protect that.”

She said that research groups like those with Dalhousie University would be allowed to continue projects they were working on, such as eelgrass studies.

“Early reaction among the group is elation,” McKay said.

“We will have a celebration,” she said. “I’m not sure when. The Grassroots Grandmothers went down, and we had a water ceremony probably over a year ago. I’m hoping for something like that to happen.

“Just congratulations to everybody who worked so hard, and it took a village, it took a province.”

Chris Miller, executive director of the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said Tuesday’s announcement was the best possible outcome for Owls Head.

“It corrects the wrong,” Miller said on Tuesday. “It ends the scandal, and I just want to thank the premier for making this important decision.”

Miller said it was also a welcome decision to fix one that never should have been made.

“When Owls Head was delisted and proposed for development, there’s two real serious things with that,” Miller said. 

“Number one, it was delisted without public consultation. And number two, it was being transferred essentially for development on an area that’s really important for conservation. So, the two things that the government needed to do in order to correct the wrong was to stop the land sale and legally protect the park. They’ve taken both of those steps now, and that’s really welcome news.”

The four properties of Owls Head were removed from the province’s parks and protected list in December 2019 by Iain Rankin, who at the time was the lands and forestry minister in the former Liberal government.

The intention was to reach a conditional agreement to sell the properties for a sum of CA$216,000 to financier and developer Beckwith Gilbert of Connecticut. Gilbert planned to build a resort community and three golf courses on the land.

Lighthouse Links, a company owned by Gilbert, stated in November that it was withdrawing the project proposal, saying it didn’t have the support of the government of Nova Scotia necessary to make this project a reality.

McKay said she will continue fighting for Nova Scotia wildlands and is active in other groups opposed to pesticide spraying and clearcutting.

“And we’re fighting to make sure the mines aren’t destroying the land down here on the Eastern Shore. It’s not going to stop for me. For sure. And probably for a lot of the other members. It’s just what I do.”

This article originally appeared on Saltwire.

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