Make Regional Plan stick to its targets

As the debate over the re-draft of Halifax Regional Municipality’s Regional Plan quickens, some have suggested a war is brewing among our different geographic areas. As one urban, one suburban and one rural resident respectively, we know that nothing could be further from the truth. This city is of one mind.

People choose to live in different parts of HRM because of who they are or what they want. Some live where they do because of family or roots. Others, because of work, or the environment, or available amenities. This diversity of residence is one of the things that makes HRM such an amazing place to live. But regardless of where we choose to live, we all want totally similar, totally basic things: better municipal services, lower taxes, a lower cost of living, more greenspace and less traffic.

These common objectives can be achieved if our Regional Plan would live up to its promise and simply concentrate more growth in our suburban and rural growth centres and in our urban core. Encouraging denser, mixed-use, people-centred neighbourhoods can provide us with the communities we all desire, while preserving the lifestyle and landscape options we all want. The recent Stantec report on HRM growth scenarios proves that concentrating growth could save us up to $3 billion over the next 18 years, and we could reduce traffic and get more greenspace, too. It could so easily be a win-win-win. Recent polls show 76 per cent of us want the plan’s stated growth targets achieved, and 86 per cent of us approve of using greenbelting to get there. It seems that everybody is on the same page.

Well, almost everybody. The latest draft of the revised plan, despite widespread opposition, has opted to give us more of the same. Missed growth targets. Encroachments on our urban reserves. Extending water and sewer and facilitating development where we quite clearly have agreed it is not to go.

This should be a call to arms, an opportunity for the people of HRM to stand up and take charge. Our Regional Plan needs us to call now for the realization of our common vision. There is no rural-urban schism. The real story is our unanimity. We know what we want. The Our HRM Alliance (www.ourhrmalliance.ca), representing every sector of our economy and demographic, has proposed clear solutions. It’s time for every one of us to join the dialogue.

A better HRM is within our grasp for all residents, urban, suburban and rural. Let’s make it happen.

Walter Regan, president of the Sackville Rivers Association, lives in Lower Sackville. Derek Simon, a lawyer with Burchell’s, lives in HRM’s urban core. Geoff Le Boutillier serves on HRM’s Community Design Advisory Board and lives in Head of St. Margaret’s Bay.

By WALTER REGAN, DEREK SIMON and GEOFF LE BOUTILLIER

Province Celebrates Newest Provincial Park

Natural Resources/Premier’s Office
June 26, 2013 11:20 AM
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NOTE: A social media version of this release with hi-res, downloadable photos and audio clipsis is available at http://novascotia.ca/news/smr/2013-06-26-Sackville-Park/ .
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Imagine scenic hiking trails among beautiful trees on a rolling terrain thriving in an urban surrounding, and you have envisioned Nova Scotia’s newest provincial park.

The designation means Nova Scotians and visitors can enjoy Sackville Lakes Provincial Park while knowing it will be better protected for generations to come. Premier Darrell Dexter officially designated the 721 acres along First and Second lakes in Lower Sackville today, June 26.

“This beautiful space is in the heart of the Lower Sackville community, literally and figuratively. Just being here brings a certain peace and perspective,” said Premier Dexter. “The park gives residents an opportunity to easily access green space and lakeside trails, something truly valued by anyone living in a city.”

There were about 1.5 million visits to provincial beaches and parks last year, and more than 65 per cent of Nova Scotians went at least once. Visitors participate in activities such as swimming, camping, enjoying nature, and geocaching.

“Our provincial parks provide great outdoor spaces for families and communities to come together, get fit, stay healthy and have fun,” said Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson. “Parks help our communities be healthy and strong, which is the goal of Thrive!, our plan for a healthier Nova Scotia. We all have a role to play in reaching that goal.”

This is the first provincial park designation made since 2002. The designation allows the province to better protect regionally significant natural and cultural heritage resources, and to better manage the lands.

Members of the Second Lake Regional Park Association and other supporters of the Sackville park are pleased with the added protection.

“This is awesome news. Our association came together with the primary goal of securing Sackville Lakes Provincial Park for all Nova Scotians,” said Shane O’Neil, co-chair of the Second Lake Regional Park Association. “The park represents the work of three associations working closely with representatives from government. Credit goes to those who tabled a proposed plan to protect more than 12 per cent of the province’s land, and designation of parks, and especially Sackville Lakes Provincial Park.”

Representatives of Halifax Regional Municipality, which manages an active transportation trail in the park, took part in the unveiling.

“The Sackville community, and all of HRM, has every reason to be extremely grateful to the members of the Second Lake Regional Park Association and the provincial government who worked tirelessly to make the Sackville Lakes Provincial Park a reality,” said Steve Craig, councillor for Lower Sackville. “It is a jewel yet to be polished to its full brilliance.”

For more information on Nova Scotia’s provincial parks, visit novascotia.ca/natr/parks .

Media Contacts: Jennifer Stewart
Premier’s Office
902-424-0007
Cell: 902-497-7198
E-mail: stewarjl@gov.ns.ca

Tracy Barron
Natural Resources
902-424-2733
E-mail: barrontb@gov.ns.ca