Sunday, July 2, 2006

Article in today's Chronicle Herald about Long Lake

There was an article in today's Chronicle Herald about Long Lake - which is very close to where I live here in Spryfield. It made me laugh when I looked at it because the author chose to use a picture of 2 off-leash dogs as it's visual back-up for the story. Unfortunately that picture didn't make it online. It's the lead story for their Sunday weekly paper called "The Nova Scotian". It made me laugh because the people who are on the "Long Lake Advisory Committee" are NOT dog friendly - hell, they aren't even people friendly - so to have 2 dogs on the cover of the paper would have made them go berserk when they looked at the paper this morning.

For some reason they don't think that the Long Lake Provincial Park should be open for use by anyone - I think if it was up to to them they'd have a conveyor belt installed at one of the entrances upon which we'd have to get on and which we'd not be allowed to get off with the penalty being death. We could look at the flora and fauna in the park - but we couldn't actually touch anything. So there'd be an 8 inch strip that they'd desecrate if they absolutely had to - but other than that the forest would be theirs and theirs alone to bring back to it's original pristine condition.

The problem is that people have been using the park their whole lives - and I have this foolish belief that my dogs' feet aren't any different than a humans' feet, and that the taxes I pay aren't any less valid than a non dog-owner - and with the Long Lake Provincial Park being the same size as the whole of the peninsula of Halifax I think that - there's enough space for everyone.

I also think that to try and maintain pristine natural conditions so close to an urban core is fruitless. You are not going to save the ozone layer in Long Lake Provincial Park - go to Cape Breton or Colchester County for that I'm sorry to say. You can certainly have very lush and beautiful nature - but you're not going to have herds of deer and bears there. Gimme a break.

(here's an interesting self-aggrandizing note to mention - there's a line in the article where they say - "More and more people discover Long Lake each day, either through word-of-mouth, postings on local hiking, mountain biking and dog walking websites or simply driving by, as Leanne Dowe did..." - when I did that it came up with 293,000 results and the top 4 were for Charlie loves Halifax! If you've never been to my Long Lake page - you should definitely check it out - by CLICKING HERE

Anyway - here's the article:

My favourite foster Ebony with Charlie's sister Leonard at Long Lake Posted by Picasa

As Halifax grows out around Long Lake Provincial Park, more people are discovering its beauty, and the province is finally taking an interest

The parking lot at Long Lake Provincial Park is almost full when Leanne Dowe arrives just after 9 a.m. on a drizzly Saturday morning in late spring. The Timberlea resident comes here almost every day, regardless of the weather or season, to let her two Portuguese water dogs, Taylor and Miguel, run off some of their boundless energy.

"It’s a wonderful area for the dogs to socialize and exercise," said Ms. Dowe, who’s just one of countless other dog owners who come here to let their dogs run off leash.

She had driven past the park, which extends from St. Margaret’s Bay Road east to Spryfield and south to Goodwood, for three years before she decided to check it out. She noticed cars regularly filled the small parking lot on St. Margaret’s Bay Road and lined the shoulder of the road and wondered what all the fuss was about.

What she discovered was a provincial park that lacked the typical elements — picnic tables, camp sites, beaches, and washrooms — but did have well-worn trails, a large clean lake, and a wild, virtually untouched environment, all on the edge of Atlantic Canada’s most populous city.

Over the years dog owners like Ms. Dowe, along with hikers, walkers, and mountain bikers, have become unofficial park stewards in the absence of the Department of Natural Resources, which forfeited interest in the park soon after creating it, until now.

Located on the edge of Halifax, the 2,023-hectare park has existed without resources or a management plan since the province acquired the city’s former watershed lands from the Halifax Water Commission in 1984.

While the land has been protected from development under the park’s act for more than two decades, Natural Resources never considered it a priority.

"[The land] was kind of parked there," said Brian Kinsman of the Department of Natural Resources.

Over the years the department looked to the Long Lake Provincial Park Association, a citizen’s group that formed in 1987 to advocate on behalf of the park, to help put out "brush fires" (both literal and figurative) that arose in the park in the absence of a management plan.

When a cellphone company wanted to erect a tower in the park a few years ago the Department of Natural Resources told the company to consult with the association. The group said no way, according to Martin Willison, one of the association’s founders and a biology professor at Dalhousie University.

In the mid-1990s Halifax Regional Municipality determined a parking lot was needed after an increasing number of visitors started parking along the shoulder of the busy St. Margaret’s Bay Road. Again, the province pointed the city in the direction of the association, which insisted it be built on the municipality’s land because without a plan, an appropriate entrance to the park had not been determined.

"We didn’t want to compromise the park," said Mr. Willison, of the small parking lot that HRM built. "We knew that that was the wrong entrance."

But with abuse by some users and the park’s increasing popularity, there is an increasing need for a management plan.

"We always knew we needed a whole plan but the association always thought it was DNR’s job to do that and it was really out of long-standing frustration that we realized that (the association) actually had to do it," Mr. Willison said.

So for the past two years Natural Resources and the park association have been working to develop that plan, which will address everything from park enforcement and trail development, to access to the lakes and parking.

The plan will also look at discouraging use in some areas so that wildlife, including moose and deer, can flourish, and determining how park users might be able to travel through to the Terrence Bay Wilderness Area, which connects to Long Lake’s southern tip.

Natural Resources staff and the association presented their ideas at a public meeting on June 27 at Brookside Junior High School in Hatchet Lake and will meet again with the public on July 11 at Captain William Spry Community Centre in Spryfield.

The June 27 meeting was sparsely attended, and some people who did attend said the meeting was not well advertised.

The association and Mr. Willison’s biology students have surveyed park users over the years and found that about 90 per cent want to keep the park natural, instead of developing it. But with the city’s population rapidly encroaching on the park, balancing user needs with environmental concerns has become a challenge.

"How do we maintain the natural character of the park and use it at the same time?" asked Mr. Willison. "That’s not an easy thing to do."

More and more people discover Long Lake each day, either through word-of-mouth, postings on local hiking, mountain biking and dog walking websites or simply driving by, as Leanne Dowe did.

Mountain bikers were some of the first to actively promote Long Lake and its many qualities among their network in the late-1990s, at the height of the city’s mountain biking craze. But because there were no trails cut or trail design to follow, the mountain bikers cut their own trails.

When one trail would get too rutted and muddy the bikers would go around the ruts on either side, creating new trails, which often ran parallel with each other.

"What you end up with, from a park ecologist’s point of view, is an absolutely terrible trail system because it’s destructive," Mr. Willison said.

When hurricane Juan shut down Point Pleasant Park, one of the city’s two parks with off-leash areas (Seaview Park is the other), dog owners began spreading the word about Long Lake, despite the sign in Long Lake’s parking lot which states dogs must be on leash, as required by the Provincial Parks Act.

DNR’s Mr. Kinsman said dogs off leash present both environmental and safety issues for other park users.

"There seems to be a sizeable number of dog owners in there that don’t pick up after their dogs so that’s creating an environmental mess and people are swimming in the lake, so it’s a health concern as well," Mr. Kinsman said. "A lot of people go there to walk and some people are intimidated by dogs off leash."

Dogs off leash also pose a major liability issue for Natural Resources if a dog should attack someone in one of its parks.

Mr. Willison agrees dogs off leash are "one of the biggest issues in the park," although he says dog walkers have used the trails near the park’s Spryfield entrance, near where he lives, for many years, without any problems.

"People walk their dogs off leash in my area too, but that trail has so few people on it and it’s been used forever in that way it’s not an issue," Mr. Willison said. "Whereas the entrance where the parking lot is on St. Margaret’s Bay Road, it’s disgusting sometimes, there’s piles of poop around there, and you don’t get that on the other side because there are so few dogs."

He says it’s up to the city to create off-leash areas for dogs, and it shouldn’t be an issue for Long Lake to have to deal with, because provincial parks already have very clear rules.

Local mountain biking advocate Randy Gray has been a member of the park association for the past five years and has been involved with developing ideas for the management plan. He said a lot of mountain bikers allow their dogs off leash as they ride the trails and he believes that as long as you educate park users and maintain co-operation among all the groups, there shouldn’t be any problems.

"Encourage dog walkers to clean up after them and have mountain bikers get off the trail when they see a hiker approaching," Mr. Gray said.

The park’s impressive size (it’s the same size as peninsular Halifax) would allow different activities to take place in different areas of the park, but Mr. Gray doesn’t like that idea.

"If we end up cutting off a trail to one group, that group is loosing out on an experience and then you’ll have the problem where one trail is getting the majority of the use."

He says some people on the management committee are territorial about the park and feel that only they should enjoy it.

"So on the one hand they want to preserve and promote it and on the other hand they don’t want people to know about it and go there so they can have the same experience that they had 20 years ago," Mr. Gray said.

"That’s not going to happen with the city slowly encroaching around it."

Natural Resources expects to have a new management plan approved by early next year, but Mr. Kinsman admits that although the department has a renewed interest in the park, funding remains an issue.

The park association has been realistic that there won’t be a lot of money for the park, according to Mr. Willison, but he said having a management plan would give the group a rationale for resources to be put into the park, which they could then fundraise around. As well it would give them direction for organizing volunteers and would let them know what they need to enforce.

Leanne Dowe plans to attend one of the public meetings to learn more about the ideas being proposed for the park’s management plan. And although she cringes at the thought of having to put her dogs on leash, if need be, she says she will still come to Long Lake because it’s unlike anywhere else in the city.

Part of what has made the park unique is that it has been left "untouched" by the provincial bureaucracy for most of its existence. But with Long Lake’s increasing popularity and the growth of communities around the park, it was inevitable that the park would have to leave its wild roots behind for the more traditional path of provincial park management.


An open house on July 11 from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Captain William Spry Community Centre will give

community members a chance to contribute their ideas for a park management plan. You can fill out a park survey at the open house or at

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