This letter with extensive information on Sandy Lake was sent to all MLAs in Nova Scotia February 15th 2023 because it appears to the Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition that the province does not yet have important information about what they call ‘Special Planning Area Sandy Lake’.

We all agree it is important to solve the housing crisis, but it would be a tragedy to sacrifice Sandy Lake Regional Park by developing on the 1800 acres of undeveloped essential watershed land beside the park.

A wise city planner once advised that if we don’t send everything, then how can we expect decision-makers to know what they need to know? 

The letter request again that the province please remove Sandy Lake from the list of special planning areas, and find a win-win for all, including the developers, while saving the undeveloped 1800 acres as regional park.





A big decision puts the park at risk! March 30 2022  

Hello Friends of Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park,

Land surrounding the beautiful place you know, Sandy Lake, has just been fast-tracked for housing development by the provincial-municipal Task Force on Housing:  

Provincial Housing Task Force news release March 25 2022  

Special Planning Order Sandy Lake  

Special Planning Order Subarea 1 & 12  

How could such a mistake be made? Yes, HRM needs more houses. But right beside this precious Regional Park?! A place like this is to be ruined by housing, as in Joni Mitchell’s song: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Have we learned nothing in 50 years?
Paradise, a.k.a. Sandy Lake, is being targeted for roads and houses that will damage the already fragile ecosystem of 11 habitats, 15 species at risk, 99 breeding bird species, rare turtles, and Old Growth Acadian Forests. It is an interconnected system that was identified in 1971 by a joint provincial-municipal team, with federal biologists, as a unit worthy of being preserved for all time.
Well, apparently the provincial government thinks the time has come to build houses in the area instead.
We ask you to please stand up for Sandy Lake and Sackville River! Please do all you can to generate a clear message to the Province. Like the secret Owl’s Head Provincial Park decision, this is wrong!

Write to any or all of the decision-makers listed below, and demand that Sandy Lake be removed from the Province’s Housing Task Force’s list for housing. Call on the Task Force to reverse their decision to make Sandy Lake a “special planning area” (where development is fast-tracked).

Form letter you can send about this issue, directed to key decision-makers:
Where to find your MLA contact info:
Provincial-municipal Task Force on Housing
Honorable Minister John Lohr, Municipal Affairs and Housing

Mike Savage, Mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality:
Kelly Denty, Executive Director of Planning and Development at HRM, Task Force panel member
Peter Duncan, Director of Infrastructure Planning at HRM Task Force panel member

We invite you to come back and visit Sandy Lake while its richness can still be experienced. Learn more about it from our websites:

SLCA Website:
Dr. Patriquin’s website:
SL-SR Regional Park Coalition website:
To read about what happens to lakes that have housing built in their watersheds, read this article comparing Dartmouth’s Oathill Lake to what is likely to happen at Sandy Lake. Ask any biologist who knows lakes to point to a lake that did not go downhill after development, despite assertions from housing developers that they “know how to protect the lakes”.

November 9, 2021 – Important Progress:

Halifax Regional Council voted unanimously to support Councillor Blackburn’s motion for an independent, environmentally-based boundary study for Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park. 

Watch here: 

November 9 2021. The motion starts at 6:16:15 and ends at 6:25:36

In 1971, the Sandy Lake – Sackville River area was first identified as part of a large, ecologically-connected unit that should be preserved as a regional park. All these years later, it remains to do, and a significant part of that original ecological unit is now under risk of being developed for housing.  This study is a major breakthrough in our efforts to preserve the park. This study has the possibility to preserve the outstanding biodiversity and conservation value of the area, including 15 species at risk living in 11 habitats. Knowing what boundary is needed to preserve the park’s assets is a key step in realizing the Park’s huge potential to serve the city as one of its most valuable greenspaces in a rapidly growing area.

Thank you to all of the city councillors, community groups and individuals who spoke up in favor of this much needed study. Now we await the study’s outcome.



Measuring and Celebrating Wetlands in the Sackville River Watershed


The future of parking lots and a proposed park come to Halifax City Hall.


The Parkview News has carried articles about Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park

In December 2020,

Page 5 has an article on how precious Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park is, and how we can work together to protect it.

And January 2021,

Page 5 shows Walter Regan receiving an environmental award from CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons Nova Scotia Chapter) which is also the newest member group in the SL-SRRP Coalition. Congratulations Walter, and thank you for your 30+ years of work for the Sackville Rivers Association and environmental actions for the good of all. Walter is one of the driving forces behind the work to expand the SL-SRRP.

Page 6 has an article on Dr. David Patriquin’s talk about understanding how lakes work and what development could do to Sandy Lake – Sackville River’s ecology.

After viewing Dr. Patriquin’s Dec 3 2020 talk to Bedford Lions found here, another retired biologist familiar with Sandy Lake commented:

“This video is the result of a lifetime of scientific study being brought to bear on Sandy Lake. That Dave Patriquin had the time and interest to so exhaustively investigate, measure and quantify what the lake area represents to the populations of animals and plants involved with it, as well as the very real and present threat represented by development, is classic and so very timely.

His presentation lays everything out so anyone who cares to spare one hour of their time can learn what’s at stake and why and what has to be done to preserve water quality at this threshold moment.

It’s an amazing talk to me—so complete, so understandable, so scientific and delivered by a master teacher at the top of his game. One hour of anyone’s life would be well invested by listening to Dave tell the story.”


Loons on Sandy Lake (Photo Credit: David Patriquin Aug 3, 2020)

The call of the loon is unmistakable – both haunting and majestic – and we’re fortunate that we’re able to hear it near many of our waterways. Sandy Lake has been home to a pair of loons for some years now, and we were thrilled to see a chick with them this year. This recent picture captured at Sandy Lake is beautiful, but it also tells a sad story: two adults, alone, suggesting that their chick did not make it. Loons face a similar struggle across other nesting areas throughout Nova Scotia. Let’s do everything we can to keep their nesting environment safe for them – or risk losing perhaps our country’s most iconic water bird.

Clarence Stevens, president of Turtle Patrol Nova Scotia, was on the Sheldon MacLeod Show (News 95.7) on July 14th, 2020 to discuss the 4 painted turtles killed last week at Sandy Lake. Clarence and his colleagues have been studying the turtles in the area of the park for years. Sadly, it is believed that there were only 4 breeding females at that site, and it is likely that all 4 are now dead, meaning there are no breeding turtles left there. You can listen to the complete interview here:

Dr. David Patriquin has also provided an excellent summary of the interview, as well as additional information and resources on painted turtles. You can read it here:

Additional media coverage related to the turtle incidents can be found here:

SL-SRRP Coalition newsletter May 4 2020


Councillors loved the love – February 14, 2020

On February 14, Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park campaign leaders Karen Robinson, Walter Regan, and Karen McKendry delivered beautiful, hand-made valentines to three city councillors. The councillors had already been receiving letters by email (more than 350, sent through our webform, which can still be used to send a passionate email), and were delighted to be gifted our colourful, creative notes. Thank you to all of the kind people who made and signed valentines, or stopped by our valentine table at Sunnyside Mall. The valentines brought a big smile to the faces of Waye Mason, Paul Russell, and Lisa Blackburn. Each councillor sat down with us to more fully understand the threats, and opportunities, at Sandy Lake and Sackville River.
If you haven’t sent a note to city councillors yet about your opinions on Sandy Lake or Sackville River, please do so. The more they hear about the area in the coming months, the more likely they will view it as a priority not only for local constituents, but also for the many other people in the city who value this precious greenspace and suite of ecosystems.

In the coming months, we need to foster an even broader understanding of what’s at stake, and how we can all benefit from more nature conservation. We are working with SL-SR Regional Park Coalition organizations, and others, to host guided walks, paddles, or bike ride at either Sandy Lake, or Sackville River, this spring, summer, or fall. Do you belong to an organization that would like to get out on the land or the water this spring, summer or fall? If so, please connect with Karen at Ecology Action Centre ( to explore how we can plan an outing with your group to experience the beauty of Sandy Lake and Sackville River. Let’s plan an adventure together.
Karen R, Walter, and Karen M

Concerned organization calls for the expansion of Jack Lake Regional Park

October 12, 2019

Twenty-three groups who share conservation goals are coming together to fight future development at Sandy Lake and protect 1,000 acres of wilderness.

Leaders of the Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition believe they have a strong ecological case for conservation. They are seeking a 1,000-acre expansion of the already 1,000-acre Jack Lake Regional Park. The proposed addition stretches from Hammonds Plains Rd., on the West side of the lake, up to sections of the Sackville River.

“This area is an astoundingly rich ecosystem, just as it was back in 1970,” says Karen Robinson, co-chair of Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park Coalition.

Robinson said that the 23 organizations under the coalition’s banner are groups of concerned citizens looking out for the welfare of Sandy Lake’s watershed.

David Patriquin, co-chair of the coalition and a retired biology professor at Dalhousie University, conducted assessments of land and surface waters at Sandy Lake. Although the area is not currently scheduled for development, the coalition wants to take preventive measures for the future of the ecosystem.

Sandy Lake is a mixed Acadian forest, as it’s a combination of wetlands, old-growth forest and the lake’s watercourse. In Patriquin’s surveys, he notes 13 species that are at risk within the area and that rely on this very diverse system.

His list included snapping turtles, mainland moose, wood turtles, barn swallows and common nighthawks as some of the 13 species at risk. The most updated version of Patriquin’s catalog was released on May 10, 2019.

As Sackville River’s biggest sub-watershed, Sandy Lake’s key habitats directly impact the ecosystem and wildlife around it. The lake and its watercourse are home to a variety of populations like the Atlantic salmon and American eel, which are identified as species at risk.

“Particularly, the west side of the lake is a very important area as it’s a wildlife corridor … that area is especially important for connectivity,” says Patriquin.

Wildlife corridors are critical to any ecosystem as they help to increase the genetic diversity of species between different populations. The exchange of DNA is possible because the corridors allow animals to travel freely between habitats.

Patriquin emphasized that isolating populations from these corridors could interfere with their ability to fight diseases. He said developing Sandy Lake’s west side would damage the stability of the ecosystem.

“Development is identified as a future possibility, [but] there is a caveat that goes along with that,” says Ben Sivak, a principal planner with Halifax Planning and Development. “At this point, it’s been identified as a potential future development area. There has been a watershed study done for the general area, but that’s it. There is no project that council has said to go ahead and start working on.”

Clayton Developments own large portions of land on the west side of Sandy Lake and are a major stakeholder in future development processes. However, starting that planning process “is not Clayton’s decision, it is municipal council’s decision,” says Sivak.

The coalition members believe they have a good chance of protecting the land, but David Patriquin says the public needs to become more aware of the area as a valuable asset.

“We need every bit of green space we can get … and in the case of Sandy Lake, it’s essentially underutilized as a recreational reserve,” says Patriquin.

By D. Neale, StoryCentral Kings Journalism:


CAUTION: Take extra precautions in and around Sandy Lake Park during hunting season.

Deer hunting season is October 25 to December 7th 2019, and rabbit hunting continues to the last day of February 2020.

Yes, much of the Sandy/Jack/Marsh Lake to Sackville River area is city park land (see map of city-owned park land on this website) but there are privately owned lands interspersed.

However, last year, residents and park users reported hearing guns being discharged almost daily during hunting season. Most may have been completely legal. However, crossing in and out of public and private property can easily happen as there are no fences or signs in the woods saying, “You are now on park land”, or otherwise.

Also, last November a hunter carrying a shotgun was photographed on park land at Marsh Lake. Out of this concern last year, the city’s Parks Manager, with consultation from a Provincial Conservation Officer, wrote to us, “Hunters are within their right to hunt on the private portion of land as long as they are adhering to the discharge limits set for dwellings, schools, athletics fields, and forestry operation pursuant to the Firearm and Bow Regulations”. Also that:

– Hunting is not allowed on city park land. The Parks By-law (P-600) states that “while in any park, no person shall be in possession of or use any firearm, air gun, bow and arrow, axe or offensive weapon of any kind, except by permission”.

– Hunters are not allowed to cross over parkland carrying weapons of any kind to reach private land.

– Hunters are not allowed to hunt or discharge weapons within 804m of a school, or within 182m of a home or most other public places. (Note: there is a private school beside Sandy Lake and many residential areas bordering the park land and privately owned wooded areas.)

– Hunting is not allowed most Sundays except for special Sundays when hunters can kill any animal, except moose. (It is complicated.)

Park users are encouraged to exercise caution. Some have suggested wearing at least 50% of hunter orange, specifically on your head and outer clothing above the waist. For dogs, an orange vest is a way to prevent having your pet mistaken for a wild animal. You do not want to be mistaken for an animal in the woods by a hunter.

The Sandy Lake Conservation Association (SLCA), along with the Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park Coalition, is working to expand the existing 1000 acre park into a cohesive 2000-acre park. To learn why and to sign up for the “Friends of Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park News list”, use the Contact Us page.




More protected land needed near Sandy Lake, group says

The area boasts diverse species and 200-year-old trees


NOVEMBER 8, 2019, 6:36 PM

An environmental coalition is asking the Halifax Regional Municipality to help it add 1,000 acres of land in Sandy Lake to a protected regional park.

David Patriquin, with the Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park Coalition, said the land connecting the Chebucto Peninsula to the central and eastern mainland needs to be protected. It supports all kinds of aquatic species, includes mature forests, and contains four sub-watersheds.

Patriquin, a retired biology professor from Dalhousie University, was one of the presenters for the coalition at Thursday’s environment and sustainability committee meeting.

The land in question has 22 different owners. Clayton Developments owns 600 acres, while the rest is owned by 21 other landholders.

“There is absolutely no way that that lake is going to survive a settlement of as many 15,000 people in that area,” said Patriquin.

The coalition is asking the city to trade other land of equal value with Clayton Developments, the largest land owner.

The land plays an integral role as the largest sub-watersheds along the Sackville River, said Karen Robinson, coalition co-chair.

She told the committee that Clayton Developments has expressed in writing that they are willing to trade their 600 acres surrounding Sandy Lake for other lands of equal value. Some of the other property owners are also open to the idea of selling, she said.

During her opening statement, Robinson said they were pleased to hear that Halifax’s director of planning, Kelly Denty, had sent a letter to the developer informing them that Halifax did not see the need to develop housing in the Sandy Lake area for at least another 15 years. But she still stressed the importance and urgency of the matter.

“That means now to us, because in five years they will have invested another five years’ worth of their own money and effort and they will be less likely to trade. In fact, trade could stop. So, we want the city to take that seriously now,” said Robinson in an interview after the presentation.

Patriquin said that when land gets developed, the hard surfaces created can increase the risk of flooding in the area.

“When the water comes in it just roars off instead of being absorbed in the ground. That could have a big impact downstream in Bedford,” he said following the presentation.

Robinson agreed there could be a domino effect with other lakes in the area.

“If Sandy Lake does down, Marsh Lake goes down, the Sackville River goes down,” said Robinson.

Coun. Lisa Blackburn suggested that many of these issues were already being discussed.

“Things are definitely happening behind the scenes that I think will help you achieve your goal,” she told Patriquin and Robinson.

Coun. Richard Zurawski, the chair of the committee, said he was happy that Halifax had a relatively healthy ecosystem surrounding it and that they were working on protecting it.

Patriquin hopes the municipality takes advantage of the resources at its doorstep and supports his group’s efforts.


(posted with permission)


Halifax Regional Council Unanimously Passes Amendment Related to Green Network Plan September 24 2019

Halifax city councillors made a change at Tuesday night’s council meeting that will allow for the protection of Halifax Regional Municipality’s wildlife and the corridors they use to move through the city’s ecosystem.

Councillors unanimously passed an amendment on Tuesday evening to the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy, a long range strategy that outlines how future growth and development should take place in the HRM between now and 2031.

The strategy gets reviewed every few years to ensure that it accurately reflects the changing needs and goals of the city. The next review is not for another couple of years, and any future plans set to be introduced can not be put in place until the review.

The change is specifically to the implementation of the Halifax Green Network Plan, which is a city-wide initiative that has been established to ensure that the HRM can continue moving toward being a more eco-friendly city. The exact part of the Green Network Plan that is being changed allows council to go ahead with the protection of wildlife corridors. The corridors allow wildlife such as deer, birds and rabbits in the HRM to move between different habitats more easily.

Karen Robinson spoke for the Sandy Lake Coalition, a conservation group concerned with the protection and preservation of the ecosystem around the Sackville River area.

She is happy that city councillors were able to unanimously agree on an amendment that she believes will directly help Halifax’s ecosystem, by promoting a more vibrant and healthy ecological community.

“Citizens today can have peace of mind knowing that their city is doing something to tackle the larger issue of climate change,” said Robinson.

Robinson said the corridors will protect biodiversity, which is crucial to the survival of all species, including humans.

“This is a great day, it’ll be even better once we get the full plan implemented,” said Coun. Shawn Cleary who motioned to pass the amendment.

Council’s decision comes in the wake of recent protests across the world surrounding climate change. This past week in Halifax, more than 10,000 citizens gathered in front of city hall as part of a demonstration.

Joe Thomson

KING’S JOURNALISM (Posted with permission)

A young wild Atlantic Salmon, estimated at 20 inches, jumped at Sandy Lake on September 16, 2019!  It struck the classic pose completely out of the water. It is the only fish that does that. It was seen by a skilled Salmon fisherman so there is no doubt. He has reported catching nine “grilse” (young Salmon) over the past couple of years, and put them back.

The Sackville Rivers Association has been working for 31 years to return the watershed of the river to health and to entice Atlantic Salmon to “come home”. Sandy Lake is a deep, cold lake that was traditionally part of the life cycle, the seasonal home to breeding adult Atlantic Salmon.

Don’t get out your fishing rods yet. The population still needs a few years to fully recover.  But this is good news!

How to Keep Sandy Lake Healthy: A Users Manual

An information package for shoreline owners and lake users can be found here.

Also see the Federation of Ontario Cottageowners’ manual on Climate Change prevention for lakefront property owners:


September 24, 2019 Halifax City Council passed unanimously an amendment to include the Essential and Important wildlife Corridors from Map 5 of the Halifax Green Network Plan (HGNP) in future planning for conservation design development agreements.

This amendment has the potential to go well beyond the aesthetics of preserving green spaces. “Think globally, act locally” is the wisdom at the heart of preventing climate change. This amendment will help protect biodiversity which in turn can help protect life on earth.

It will protect vital watersheds and wildlife corridors such as those at Sandy Lake through to the Sackville River. There has unfortunately already been some loss of corridors in the area. This amendment should prevent further compromise. The Sackville River is one of the five major natural corridors in the entire HGNP. Sandy Lake, a major watershed in that corridor, links to Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes. Sadly, development approvals in the Bedford West area that were not fully processed when the HGNP maps were drawn have since compromised important corridors in the north-south link.  Consequently, protection of the remaining essential and important corridors at Sandy Lake, Sackville River, and into Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes is even more critical. These corridors must be kept intact for both the good of these special ecological areas, but also to protect the richness of the Chebucto Peninsula which is so vulnerable to being cut off from the mainland.

For benefits both global and local, the SL-SRP Coalition would like to see the entire HGNP implemented in the Regional Plan now, rather than within the next Regional Plan review.  In the meantime, we applaud the city for taking this action. This proposed amendment is a valuable step.


The Halifax Green Network Plan and Sandy Lake -Sackville River Regional Park

The Halifax Green Network Plan (HGNP) was passed unanimously by City Council in August of 2018.  This outstanding document has the potential to benefit many aspects of HRM, including but not limited to the guiding of housing development, to protecting and integrating the rich wilderness still available in and near Halifax.

The HGNP identified the Sandy Lake area as one that needs resolution of conflicting values (See Map 9 of the HGNP). That is, while it is recognized as an important ecological area, it is also slated for housing development – a conflict that can be resolved by implementing the HGNP.

HGNP’s Important Wildlife Corridors in the proposed Sandy Lake- Sackville River Regional Park

This Halifax Green Network Plan’s (HGNP) corridor map was altered to clearly show in yellow the important wildlife corridors within the proposed Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park.

About this map:

  1. The Halifax Green Network Plan identifies a priority of the plan to be protection of wildlife connectivity of the Chebucto Peninsula. The plan identifies Essential Corridors and Important Corridors. The width of the corridor is a factor in its classification. This wildlife corridor map from the HGNP shows the “Important Wildlife Corridors” (marked in yellow) that cross the proposed Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park lands and go in two directions:  1. They feed into the one major remaining Essential Corridor into Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes and the Chebucto Peninsula, and 2. feed into stepping stone corridors through Bedford West into Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes and the Chebucto Peninsula. The Sandy Lake corridors feed to and from mainland Nova Scotia.
  2. Also evident, and equally important, is the Sackville River as one of five major natural corridors in all of Halifax (HRM). On this map, part of it is shown as the yellow corridor that lies along Highway 101. Protecting the major natural river corridors is another important goal of the HGNP.

The Sandy Lake/Marsh Lake watershed is a major sub-watershed of the Sackville River natural corridor. Almost all of the 1000 acres the Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition is trying to obtain for park protection are within the sub-watershed that forms a substantial part of the Sackville River natural corridor.  The Important wildlife corridors cross the roughly 600 acres that are slated for housing development in what is left of the watershed west of Sandy and Marsh Lakes. The three main tributaries into Sandy Lake also cross the 600 acres.

The owner of the 600 acres, Clayton Developments, is willing to protect these important corridors, this important watershed, through a trade for other land if the city will work on a win-win proposal with them.  The Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition has met with several planners who all advise that finding such a trade is completely possible. The appropriate route to finding that trade is for the city to assign staff to the task.  So far, this has not happened, so the Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition is working to find possible trades through other avenues.

To learn more about this area go to:

Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition website:

Sandy Lake Conservation Association (SLCA) Website:

Sandy Lake and environs website:

Dr. Patriquin’s talk for SRA :

Follow us on Face Book: Sandy Lake Conservation Association

Join the Friends of Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park, or to learn more about how your organization can join the Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition: send an email from this website.

Support the implementation of the Halifax Green Network Plan now. A year has passed already. Decisions are being made that need the strong, science-based, direction provided by the unanimously supported HGNP.


Halifax’s rare “jewels in the crown”, the Sandy Lake area of Bedford:

January, 2019

In June of 2017 Dr. David Patriquin, botanist, came to visit the area as a one-time favour. What he found astounded him and caused him to return 26 times that summer/fall and to bring various scientists with him. His studies and visits continue to date. In his enthusiasm for what he is finding at Sandy Lake, he conducts walks and presentations and has created a website of his findings in order to help us protect this “jewel”.

Dr. Patriquin’s website is under development, but he is sharing it now so people can see how important it is to save this area. See his website at:

You will find a deep Acadian Forest with mature hemlock stands, extensive marshlands – rich in wildlife, with rivers and a deep freshwater lake that serves as a headwater to the Sackville River and summer home to salmon and sea trout. There is a public beach, unsupervised hiking and bicycling trails, ice fishing and skating, and so much more potential – if we can save it now. Few even know it exists – 20 minutes from downtown.

There will likely never be another chance to preserve such a stunning area for the long term benefit of the entire Metro community and Province. We will need your help. We expect to request letters of support from you in the near future, as the public awareness campaign is starting.

Come and visit, and stay tuned!


COMMENTARY: Spare HRM’s Sandy Lake ‘jewel’ in suburban HRM from bulldozers
The Chronicle Herald, March 7, 2018

Sandy Lake, pictured, is critical to the integrity of the Sackville River system and is worth protecting.

Halifax is unique as a major metropolitan area that is penetrated and surrounded by natural spaces offering a wide range of landscapes and outdoor experiences.
The city’s developing Green Network Plan is essential to preserve these natural areas across HRM and provide landscape connectivity to ensure that local populations of plants and animals do not become isolated.
Recent purchases of lands by HRM in the areas of Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes and the Purcell’s Cove Backlands are key steps in the realization of the Green Network. There are others that still need protection, such as the Sandy Lake area that stretches between the Sackville River and Hammonds Plains Road of Bedford.
Nearly 50 years ago, the Sandy Lake area was selected as one of seven unique “jewels in the crown” of Halifax-Dartmouth that should be protected for their ecological richness and for community education and recreation. Each area was seen as unique from each other and outstanding in its own right. The Canada Land Inventory Recreation Capability Survey gave Sandy Lake the highest rating of any inland site around the metropolitan area.
Over the years, all six of the other areas (including McNabs Island and the Shubenacadie Canal) have been preserved, but Sandy Lake Regional Park ran into difficulties of various kinds. At amalgamation, the Town of Bedford’s work to acquire land and create the regional park there fell by the wayside.
A large area on the eastern side of Sandy Lake — the Jack Lake lands — appears secure. Lands to the west and north of Sandy Lake that are critical for maintaining the integrity of Sandy Lake and the watercourse through Marsh Lake to the Sackville River are at risk.
A clearcut of old forest in 2013 raised alarms. Now those lands lying close to Sandy Lake could be developed with residences for as many as 12,000 people. Sandy Lake is one of many jewels across HRM that continues to wait for legal protection from development, and it may not be able to wait forever.
There are many reasons why the Sandy Lake lands are worth protecting in the form of a Sandy Lake Regional Park. The Sandy Lake watershed is the largest sub-watershed of the Sackville River and hosts populations of seagoing American eel, Atlantic salmon, Gaspereau and speckled trout.
The integrity of this system is critical to the Sackville Rivers Association’s efforts to revive salmon in the Sackville River system. This park would protect Bedford from increased flooding by protecting the Sackville River flood plain. The wetlands bordering Sandy Lake and Marsh Lake and along much of Peverill Brook leading to the Sackville River host a complex, healthy ecosystem that includes large populations of amphibians and turtles.
Sandy and Marsh lakes are bordered by rich drumlins that support magnificent mixed, multi-aged Acadian forest with significant old-growth stands. The whole sweep of forest provides a wildlife corridor at the neck of the Chebucto peninsula, north to the Sackville River and the mainland — an important link to be preserved by the Green Network Plan.
Currently, a wide variety of outdoor activities are conducted on these lands, including mountain biking, birdwatching, swimming, paddling, fishing, dog-walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, to name a few; the power lines are popular corridors for ATVs. There are wonderful opportunities for “forest bathing” amid old-growth and along hemlock-lined sections if Peverill’s Brook. There is so much more potential — if we can save it now. Few even know it exists — a rich and unique jewel of nature only 20 minutes from downtown.
Recent limnological observations suggest that Sandy Lake is in a precarious state and almost certainly would not survive the cited development. With such precious populations of fish, amphibians, turtles and other wildlife including river otters, why shouldn’t we strive to “walk the story backwards,” towards a cleaner, oligotrophic state? This is even more urgent in the era of climate warming.
As a growing city, it is clear Halifax needs housing development. We need to protect our beautiful natural systems while making it easier to develop in existing built-up areas. Allowing housing growth in what was so long known as an important natural asset may yield short-term returns for the city, but turning such a natural wonder into housing would be a colossal loss to the community, to the city, to Bedford, Hammonds Plains, Sackville, to the green network, and to the unique ecosystem it nourishes in the Sackville River watershed.
Citizens and the Town of Bedford have worked since before 1970 to keep it safe and to acquire 1,000 acres — the halfway point of a magnificent park plan. Time is running out because development has been on a parallel path and is close to overtaking the park goals. Delays to the Green Network Plan are putting places like Sandy Lake at risk. We need to see concerted action from HRM to enact the Green Network Plan and ensure that jewels like Sandy Lake will be preserved for generations to come. There will likely never be another chance to preserve stunning areas like Sandy Lake for the long-term benefit of the entire city and province.

Karen Robinson is park committee chair of the Sandy Lake Conservation Association. She also writes on behalf of the Sackville Rivers Association.

Green Network Submission:

June, 2017

A submission by the Sackville Rivers Association and Sandy Lake Conservation Association can be found here.


Sandy Lake Park Petition:

November, 2014

The North West Community Council voted to request a staff report in response to the Sandy Lake Park petition that was received on September 15, 2014 and include an update on all previous studies in the area.


Sandy Lake Watershed Study:

September, 2014

HRM has scheduled the final public meeting for the Sandy Lake Watershed Study. It will be held on Thursday September 11th from 7-9pm at the Bedford Hammonds Plains Community Centre, 202 Innovation Drive, Bedford.


Sandy Lake Watershed Study:

February, 2014

HRM has scheduled the first public meeting for the Sandy Lake Watershed Study. It will be held on Thursday February 20th from 7-9pm at the Bedford Hammonds Plains Community Centre, 202 Innovation Drive, Bedford.

Please visit HRM’s website at  under the title “Upcoming and Recent Events” for more information.  We hope to see you there.


Media Advisory:

September, 2013

Follow-up to Clear cutting of land near Sandy Lake Bedford

Meeting between Sandy Lake Conservation Association (SLCA) and George Armoyan

On the evening of September 19, 2013, the Sandy Lake Conservation Association (SLCA) met with Mr. and Mrs. George Armoyan and Councillor Tim Outhit to discuss the development of the Armoyans’ land which borders on Sandy Lake.

The SLCA will be given the opportunity to participate in the selection of the consultants who will plan the potential development, and will also be able to participate in the consultation process.  This process will be in addition to any public process that will happen under HRM’s procedures if and when HRM decides that any development is to happen.

There were several immediate concerns addressed regarding access to the land and future cutting.

Mr. Armoyan said there will be no further cutting of his lands in the foreseeable future in the Sandy Lake watershed area.

We discussed having a barricade erected at the entrance to the property to further protect the lake.

The SLCA was able to pass on valuable information to the Armoyans regarding the fragile ecosystem of this lake and the importance of protecting it for future generations.

Discussions went well. The Armoyans were very appreciative of the information and very respectful of our position and indicated willingness to help us protect the lake.

It is the hope of the SLCA that we, along with the Armoyans, and the city, will be able to work together for the protection of Sandy Lake and its watershed.


Media Advisory: August, 2013

Clear cutting of land near Sandy Lake Bedford

On August 22, 2013, we engaged the media to try to stop the cutting of trees nearest the lake because that area had the potential to be included in or linked to a Regional Park around Sandy Lake.  HRM’s development process requires that 10% of the value of developed lands must go to some form of land dedication, and this area had prime park land potential.  On Friday August 23, 2013 the developers agreed to stop cutting at least temporarily.  All major media followed the story. Some media coverage can be viewed by clicking on the following link.


Community Discussion:

July, 2014

A community member expressed concerns in an email on our SLCA website comments section. We replied to the individual and copied as many lake dwellers’ emails as we have. In case others have similar concerns, here is a summary of the message plus our reply:

The writer said he read the history of Sandy Lake that we, the SLCA, have on our website, and concluded in error that our organization had made an application to government to stop the use of speed boats on Sandy Lake.  The main concerns were, from what we understand from the message:  1. that lake dwellers would no longer be able to use their motorized crafts, and 2. That residents such as himself were not included in this application.  The writer was aware of, and supported, the earlier action that blocked the planned public boat launch at the Lions beach, and that the residents’ usage of boats had been “grandfathered in”.

SLCA reply, July, 2014:

I hope this email helps clear up some misunderstandings. First and foremost, we would like to emphasize that what you read on our website was only a historical account of the lake’s past. We gathered this information from some long-standing Sandy Lake residents and various documents that we had access to. That boat proposal happened long before SLCA formed and it was included in the history we put together when we formed last summer in response to the Armoyan land clearing.  We did not make that boat proposal and we don’t know details of what happened. We don’t know exactly when the proposal was made, but apparently several lakes were submitted at the same time for consideration.  Sandy Lake did not have a problem at the time and no action was taken.  We didn’t know until we read your email to us that you were also unaware of the past proposal to make the lake free of speed boats.

We know that an earlier organization did stop the proposed public boat launch that had been planned by the municipality. … You seem to share our concerns that a public boat launch, that is, too many motorized boats, would harm the lake’s ecology.  However, we have made no such suggestion in our petition.  We do believe that preserving the nature, the watershed, the living creatures, around the lake is important. We think that you agree this is important too.  How this is done is not up to us.  We are not experts in this.  If HRM decides on its own to look again at limiting speed boats, we expect we would all be part of the discussions during the public processes that we believe are mandatory. That is, if the petition even gets past the first phase. We also believe that grandfathering in of current lakeside dwellers boats is a likely outcome.  Mike and I both have motor boats.

You likely recall that Bedford had once planned to make this area a regional park. We learned last summer that when amalgamation happened that plan apparently dropped away. As far as we know, no one around the lake knew this plan had been dropped.  The petition we wrote is only to request that HRM look again at the possibility of making a regional park here and to include Sandy Lake in that plan. Details of what that would involve would be discussed in the next phases if we even manage to get that first commitment to “take a look” again.

Initially, some of us thought that 5-acre lots with one house per lot might be the best solution but, as we gathered additional data, we have learned differently.  We propose in our petition that a park is still the best way to protect the lake, however, when and if HRM looks at the issue they may have other ideas.  The point is to get them to look at the issue.   Our studies over the past year have caused us to believe the park to be the best plan, but the city has qualified staff who, if HRM agrees to do the study, will assess and report to Council, to our councillors, and to citizens in general – in particular all of us around the lake will be paying attention and will be ready to take part in any public process.

At the very least our petition shows that citizens are concerned about this lake’s welfare. If and when HRM has studied the issue, then we all as citizens have the right to be included in discussions, plans, or public meetings.  The city has resources and protocols for involving citizens on a bigger scale. This would ensure that everyone who is interested would have a voice.

SLCA has been more than occupied getting Armoyan stopped and learning all the things we needed to know about the system and how it works, about the history and characteristics of the lake, about the watershed study, and so on. Keeping up has been enough of a challenge, but surely you know that I put effort, including phone calls, into making sure other Sandy Lake residents knew what we were doing and knew about our website.  We did not know the site’s email message feature was not working well.  We believed that people would send messages through the email feature if they had concerns or questions or wanted to offer to help us. However, once we did access it, the complete history of activity included only your email and some test messages we had sent to ourselves.  Because no one seemed to be sending messages, we put effort into calling people like yourself anyway just to make sure no one was left out. I asked those I called to let their neighbours know.

Don’t forget please, that the crisis time when we were trying to get Armoyan stopped went on for several months, and in that time we did a lot. We had a huge amount to learn, plus we all have jobs and busy lives, and it was a crisis that continued from day to day as the trees kept coming down. It was a huge job that ate up our summer, yet we sincerely also tried to keep other residents informed.

We developed a public action plan this winter when the time consuming and urgent “finger in the dam” work had eased off.  The original plan was to organize a public meeting in June and to find out what procedure would get the protection of Sandy Lake onto City Council’s agenda. However, when we learned that a petition was all that was needed, then why do more work than was necessary? Besides, we thought, the city has better procedures for public processes than we have, so let’s just get the process started and the meetings will follow within that process.  So we drafted a petition and again contacted lake residents to help get the petition signed so we could get the lake’s protection into the city’s plans, likely through activating the old park plan.

I hope that Mike & I made it clear (at the meeting of lake dwellers and concerned citizens that was organized by citizens on June 22, 2014) that this petition is simply to get HRM to approve funding for the STUDY on what is feasible.  I think that you would agree that it makes sense to let those with the knowledge and resources at their disposal to start the assessment process, based on history, prior studies and their own data.  Let’s put our tax dollars to work.

I hope that this reply helps us all see that we are interested in the same things.  Protecting the lake is more likely to happen if we are doing what we are doing. That is, getting HRM to study the issue.

If you have questions or concerns please do contact us. I believe that you have Mike’s and my phone numbers, but emails are fine too.


for the SLCA