Message of thanks from NCC

On behalf of Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), I want to thank you all for your support of the proposal to create an Urban Wilderness Park within the Williams-Colpitt Lake portion of the Backlands. Your letters, emails and presence at City Hall for the vote clearly demonstrated to Council that people care about this place. The 14-1 vote to pursue detailed discussions was a victory in itself.

As many of you know, NCC is a land trust. We are not just an advocate for conservation. Our model is to acquire registered legal interest in property in order to ensure its future conservation status. As such, our proposal would see NCC acquire ownership of a significant portion of the site while the City of Halifax would acquire the remainder. NCC would then lease its lands to the City for a nominal fee, in exchange for a perpetual commitment to conservation. The vision of the Urban Wilderness Park would see the site remain in a natural state, with very limited development. Access facilities would be required and would be built off Purcell’s Cove Road. A small amount of accessible trail and related infrastructure are proposed, but the majority of the site would remain as ‘back country’ trail, with little improvement. The lands would then be managed as a protected area and use would be limited to self-propelled recreation and nature appreciation activities.

As you can appreciate, the complexities associated with the proposal are noteworthy. In fact, the City has never done anything like this before. In the coming months we will be working with the City to navigate them in order to ensure that if the vision is realized, the proper foundations for perpetual conservation have been laid. There is no guarantee of success, but we will do our best.

We also want to take this opportunity to emphasize that in order to realize this vision, NCC’s involvement would be underpinned by the ability to raise the required funding. A public fundraising campaign will be required and we are confident residents of Halifax will step forward.

Once again, thank you for your interest and assistance!

Craig Smith
Nova Scotia Program Director
Nature Conservancy of Canada / Conservation de la nature Canada

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Urban Wilderness Park update

Hello everyone,
788ca9ee-2aab-4fff-bc6a-4c1cab8dea8aCouncil’s recent endorsement of the Shaw Group Ltd. / Nature Conservancy of Canada proposal in the Backlands certainly is great news! On September 20, Councillors voted 14-1 to accept the Halifax staff recommendations to move forward with negotiations between NCC, The Shaw Group and the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The reality of a wilderness park running from Williams Lake to Colpitt Lake is certainly getting closer. We would like to thank everyone who wrote letters, spoke to Councillors, attended the public information session and spread the word! It is heartening that the views of the community were heard by Halifax staff and Council. In case you missed the details that day, here are some links to further information:

A milestone: Halifax Council votes 14-1 to begin negotiations for Urban Wilderness Park;, September 20, 2016
Halifax staff report and recommendations, dated Sept. 14, 2016
Video of the September 20 Council meeting (click on Item 14.1.8 regarding Purcell’s Cove Backlands, around the 52-minute mark)
Halifax regional council moves ahead with proposed Purcells Cove park: Council directed staff to begin negotiations; Metro Halifax, Sept. 20, 2016
Halifax Council to explore Purcell’s Cove park plan; The Chronicle Herald, Sept. 20, 2016
HRM staff recommend purchasing the Purcells Cove Backlands; The Coast, Sept. 19, 2016
In the coming months, as the negotiations continue with many details to be worked on, we will provide information as it becomes available. We also encourage you to sign up for updates through the dedicated website,

For anyone taking in Nocturne this Saturday evening, also find details below about “Wild at Heart,” which will be projected on City Hall. Sure to be a highlight, this new artwork explores the importance of our human connection to the natural world as Halifax grows.

Thanks again,
Kathleen Hall, Paul Cashman & Marla Cranston
On behalf of the Backlands Coalition

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Halifax regional council moves ahead with proposed Purcells Cove park

Good News! See Metro News

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Shaw Group/Nature Conservancy of Canada Proposal: Supportive staff report goes to Regional Council

“It is recommended that Halifax Regional Council direct staff to:
Williams lake1. Proceed with negotiations to acquire the lands (PID 00052407) and return to Regional Council for consideration of the key terms and conditions for the 379 acres that address the following:
a. Suitable acquisition terms…
b. Acceptable governance model…
c. Suitable concept site and management plan…
d. Clarification of the obligations of the lessor (NCC) and lessee (HRM)…
e. Resolution of the concerns related to the state of the dam on the lands
f. Input from public consultation and discussions with the Province and relevant
stakeholders regarding the proposal; and
2. Consider updates to the Regional Plan … ”
View Full Report
View Agenda for Tues Sep 20, 2016 regional Council meeting
Continue reading

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Williams Lake Backlands – Big decision by Regional Council on Sep. 20, 2016

Wms lake backlandsHalifax council will be presenting a recommendation Sept 20 on whether to approve a proposal by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to acquire almost 400 acres of land in the Williams Lake backlands and set it aside indefinitely as a wilderness preserve.

Please visit the Urban Wilderness Park Website for more about the proposal and how to support it by writing to Mayor and Councillors.

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Tuesday, September 6th at 10AM at City Hall: BMBCL

BMBCLYour help is needed to protect what could be the largest urban park in all of Canada. The long-promised but yet-to-be-delivered Blue Mountain Birch Cove Regional Park is under threat. It could be a mini-Keji for Halifax, but a terrible report from an independent facilitator, released in June, is recommending that a massive urban sprawl development be allowed inside the core of the future park. Immediately following the release of the flawed Independent Facilitator’s Report, Councillor Reg Rankin quickly put forward a very bad three-part motion for council to debate and a vote on. After several delays his motion comes up for the big vote at Council this Tuesday, Sept. 6th. Read more

UPDATE: VERY GOOD NEWS: Council rejected development in Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes. See Global News. NOW it’s the Williams Lake Backlands on the burner (Sep 20).

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Capt Spry Meeting well attended, participants highly supportive of proposed Urban Wilderness Park

Aug 30 Public Meeting at Capt Spry Centre with NCC, Williams Lake Conservation Co., Shaw group

Craig Smith of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) talks at the Aug 30 Public Meeting at Capt Spry Centre.

There was a great turnout for this event at which citizens had an opportunity to learn about and discuss the proposed Urban Wilderness Park for the Williams Lake/Colpitt Lake area of the Backlands. Participants were highly supportive of the initiative. Read more about it at

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Proposal for Purcells Cove Backlands wilderness park promoted by residents

“The Nature Conservancy of Canada and citizens’ groups are pressing Halifax’s council to consider a proposal to purchase 153 hectares of wilderness near the city from a development company.

“The proposal would keep a large chunk of the Purcells Cove backlands as green space in perpetuity…” View CBC Report | CH | Global News Video

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Tuesday, August 30, 6:30 pm at Captain William Spry Centre: Information about proposed Backlands park

BacklandsJoin us Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 6:30 pm at Captain William Spry Centre, when the Williams Lake Conservation Company hosts an evening Open House / Information Evening about the opportunity we have to secure a significant portion of the Purcells Cove Backlands for public ownership.

Supporters are urged to write letters to councillors in support of the park.

More details at

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No Fires Please!

Open fire pit amidst Jack Pines, May 2, 2016

Open fire pit amidst Jack Pines, May 2, 2016

It’s not advisable to make open fires anywhere in the Backlands most of the time, but with all of the dry weather it’s especially hazardous right now and there is a fire ban over most of Western Nova Scotia. The Backlands are amongst most fire-susceptible landscapes in Nova Scotia. So extra care is appropriate!

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