How to Keep Sandy Lake Healthy: A Users Manual
An information package for shoreline owners and lake users can be found here.
Halifax’s rare “jewels in the crown”, the Sandy Lake area of Bedford:
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: http://versicolor.ca/sandylakebedford/
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
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:
A submission by the Sackville Rivers Association and Sandy Lake Conservation Association can be found here.
Sandy Lake Park Petition:
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:
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:
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 www.halifax.ca/planhrm/ under the title “Upcoming and Recent Events” for more information. We hope to see you there.
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.
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.
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