Jennifer Penney has been coming to Sandy Lake Park for more than two years. It’s a place where she can take her dogs off-leash and enjoy the trails.
When the pandemic hit, Penney said the park became her go-to.
“I was going before COVID, but once COVID hit, it was the place that I felt the safest in,” Penney said in an interview.
Penney described the abundance of wildlife she sees when walking through the park.
“You can go there in the spring, and the ground moves with peepers, the little tiny frogs. Where else would you experience that? I’ve never seen it anywhere else,” Penney said.
“That’s exactly what Sandy Lake is for me, it’s Mother Nature at her finest when I absolutely needed it.”
After a vote at Halifax regional council on Tuesday, an independent consultant will examine the boundaries of the park, to finally determine how much of the space near Highway 102 in Bedford should be a park and how much could be developed for housing.
The park is one of seven areas designated as a regional park for preservation in 1971 and has 1,000 acres protected. But parts of the area are still unprotected and zoned for development. The Halifax Green Network Plan shows areas that are marked both for housing and as important green space.
Coun. Lisa Blackburn brought a request to Tuesday’s council meeting for an independent consultant to examine the park boundaries. It passed unanimously.
In an interview, Blackburn explained that having an independent study done through an ecological lens is important and it’s been missing from development plans.
“We need to know how much land needs to be preserved in order to protect the assets that are in that park,” she said.
Karen Robinson is the co-chair of the Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park Coalition. In an interview, she said the park is important to the ecosystem for wildlife in the area.
“We can put houses somewhere else, but there is only one Sandy Lake Sackville River Regional Park,” Robinson said.
An independent consultant would help resolve overlapping values in the area, “so that sound decisions can be made in the Regional Plan and in the Halifax Green Network plan,” Robinson said.
Robinson believes that there are 15 creatures in the area that are at risk.
“If we build there, there’s a very good chance that all the richness of this watershed will go downhill,” she said.
The coalition has brought their own biologists to the park to examine the area and confirm the importance of preserving the park, but HRM needs to bring in an independent consultant, Robinson said.
“We need to have an independent biological study that the city will recognize and that we will recognize,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit raised concerns in the council meeting about the timeline for the consultant to look at the park.
“We need this in three to six months, this cannot be a one to two year typical kind of plan or study that we do,” he said.
Some of the ecological work has already taken place.
Coun. Pam Lovelace commented on Outhit’s concern, saying that biologist David Patriquin has previously examined the area.
“David Patriquin has done so much work. You know, he’s got a lot of data, there’s already been a lot of reports,” Lovelace said. “While it seems like a monumentous (sic) task and so little time, we do already have a lot of the data I think that we need to at least get us started.”
About the author
Avery Stewart is a journalist in Halifax. She has a background in English literature and philosophy.