Mayor Mike Savage says a June report proposing a smaller than anticipated wilderness park north-west of Bayers Lake misses the mark.
Savage weighed in on the controversy Tuesday after council decided to debate the issue next week. The regional park is supposed to sit adjacent to the provincially protected Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area.
At issue is whether a report released last month found the right balance between the interests of developers who own some of the land where the city wants to put a park and the interests of the public.
In 2014 the city appointed Justice Heather Robertson to sort out a plan for Halifax to buy back the land from developers.
Based on the 2006 Regional Plan, advocates expected the park to have the boundaries outlined in Map 13 of the plan. Instead the boundaries proposed by Robertson suggest the companies should keep some of the land for development while selling a much smaller parcel back to the city.
“In my view the facilitators report is not a starting point,” Savage said. “I think we can do more, to protect more land and that’s all I would say right now.”
Local councillor, Reg Rankin, proposed next week’s debate at council. He’s hoping councillors will reject Robertson’s report in favour of a larger boundary but neither Savage, nor Rankin will say how big they think the park should be.
‘A lost decade’: Ecology Action Centre
The park’s boundaries aren’t what the city should be debating according to the Ecology Action Centre. The advocacy group says the 2006 Regional Plan set the expectations for the size of the park and now council needs to focus on how it can make that happen.
“There is no question in the public’s mind that a promise was made on this regional park and that’s what needs to be delivered by council,” Ecology Action Centre wilderness coordinator Raymond Plourde said. “The only question is how much, not where the boundaries should be.”
Robertson’s report shows a wide gulf in what the developers think their land is worth and what the city wants to pay. Savage said council is willing to invest in green space but “not at any cost.”
There is no timeline for when council has to make a decision on the park.
The inaction amounts to a “lost decade” Plourde said. “That’s not the public’s fault, that’s council’s fault.”
Council will debate the boundaries for the proposed park on Tuesday.