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Friends of McNabs Island's Comments on DRAFT Management Plan

Submitted to Department of Natural Resources November 15, 2002

Overall the Friends of McNabs Island support of the management plan for the Halifax Harbour Islands. The society has worked toward provincial park status for McNabs and Lawlor islands since the society was founded in March 1990 and is pleased that the islands have finally been designated under the Provincial Parks Act.

 This critique will refer to specific parts of the Draft Management Plan for McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park as follows:  

 P. 17 Cultural Heritage

The plan refers to “a wide variety of materials including maps, military plans, paintings and sketches, photographs, written accounts, and artifacts form part of collections maintained by agencies such as the Public Archives of Nova Scotia and Parks Canada as well as a number of private collections". The plan should reference the Discover McNabs Island guidebook which to date is the most concise history of the islands.

 P.18 Interpretive Opportunities

This section of the document ignores the work of the Friends of McNabs Island in providing information about the island’s cultural and natural history. Since 1990 the Friends have provided information to the public by producing and distributing maps, brochures, newsletters, educational kits, and books and well as presenting illustrated presentations, conducting guided tours and large-scale beach clean-ups of the island, and maintaining island trails and outhouses. This volunteer service has been the ONLY information and interpretive service available for those interested in the Halifax Harbour Islands.

 P. 25 Park Objectives

The management objectives for McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park state that “protection will include protection of the islands’ natural and cultural heritage values, including natural processes, ecological functions and selected cultural sites" The Friends would like to point out that if "natural processes" are to be maintained then nothing will be done to protect McNabs Pond from reverting back to saltwater. This brackenish pond provides habitat for many species of birds and is a favourite location for birdwatching. During recent heavy storms the sea has washed over Maugers Beach,  the Lighthouse Road and into McNabs Pond.  In order to protect McNabs Pond, natural processes should be mitigated to protect the pond and Maugers Beach.

 P. 26 Facilities and Services

The document states that “development of park infrastructure on McNabs Island will utilize the green approach". The Friends concur with this concept, but would like to take it further to promote the island as a sustainable island park. This would enable the park to access additional funding that could promote the island's sustainable features.

 P. 27-28 Environmental Protection Zone

According to the document the “environmental protection zone incorporates areas of the park that are highly sensitive or contain significant heritage values that require protection". The Friends believe that all areas south of Fort McNab can be classed in the Environmental Protection Zone. Zoning this area as an EP zone would protect the area from any development as well as discourage visitors from accessing the Rifle Range that poses many hazzards.

 The Detention Barracks should be classed as a Resource Conservation Zone. This area offers an ideal location for camping which is away from the beach areas that are sensitive to trampling and disturbance.

 P. 31 Managing for Ecological Integrity

The document refers to retaining the "ecological integrity of the islands, natural geomorphic and biologic processes". The Friends believe that in some instances, there should be human intervention to protect the ecological integrity of the island as it is today. By allowing "nature to take its course" and coastal geomorphological processes to precede the island could lose wildlife habitats such as McNabs Pond.

 P. 32 Public Access

The document states that “responsibility for improved docking and moorage facilities will be shared among key island stakeholders and partners". The Friends believe that the province should accept responsibility for moorage and docking facilities on the island. This is not something that should be contracted out to "stakeholders and partners" who might have vested interests.

 P. 33 Range Pier

A new dock at this location is a necessity. The Range Pier/Wreck Cove access is now the primary access point for small boats. This side of the island offers protection from strong SW winds that make tying up at Garrison Pier difficult even for larger commercial craft.

 P. 34 Ives Cove

The public should have access to the island at Ives Cove or Ives Point. During the 1800s Ives Point was the main access point to the island. The point is close to many historic features on the island including the Conrad and Lynch Houses and Fort Ives. By allowing a drop off service at Back Cove, Garrison and Ives Point or Cove, visitors will be able to save on travel time and hike one-way on the island. This will enable visitors to visit more areas of the island. At present it takes 30 minutes to walk from Fort Ives to Garrison Pier and an additional 15 minutes to walk to Back Cove from Garrison Pier. The management plan should consider citing a wharf at Ives Cove or Point. In the interim, access to the current government wharf should not be for the exclusive use of DNR staff.

P. 34 Mooring Sites

The document states that no additional mooring sites will be authorized. What is the status of the mooring sites that are already in existence?

 P. 34 Travel on the Islands

Although bicycling on the island is an ideal mode of transportation, the Friends believe that unless DNR plans to monitor and enforce bicycle traffic on the island, all bicycles should be restricted. Relying on the good will of island visitors is not enough. Under wet conditions trails can be easily damaged by bicycles. Conflicting use for trails that are considered suitable for both cyclists and walkers is an issue that has not been considered. All the trails except Forsythe St./Garrison Road are overgrown and not wide enough for both types of use. 

The primary mode of transportation on McNabs is by foot. The Friends understand that not everyone, including many of our members, who want to visit the island is mobile. Offering a trolley service for disabled visitors could be a long-term objective. In the short-term given the limited funding from the province any funding directed toward a trolley service is not practical.

Winter travel on the island should be mentioned in the plan. Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing should be considered compatible with park objectives.  

P. 35-36 Visitor Services

The plan proposes that the area between Maughers Beach and Garrison Pier should house a “visitor services centre, providing information, washrooms and changerooms, food services and the main interpretive facility". The Friends believe that such development on the site of the former oil storage tanks is not the best location for a VIC. The Centre should be located at the former Teahouse or at the Lynch house. The Friends believe that existing buildings should be used first prior to the construction of any new facilities. However, a kiosk or shelter should be built at all the main access points to the island (Back Cove, Ives Cove, Garrison Pier). If a changehouse or canteen is  needed then the WWII era Pump House along Garrison Rd could be converted into a service facility.

The plan states that “Currently only limited facilities and services are offered on McNabs Island.  Some of these have been provided through agreement with the Friends of McNabs Island Society and include pit toilets, garbage collection, trail maintenance and a small number of interpretive programs.  In fact this section of the plan was changed from the original draft of May 9, 2002 and now  implies that the Friends provide only SOME OF the services. In fact, the Friends provide ALL of the current services on the island.

There needs to be more recognition of the services that the Friends have provided over the years. The Friends have done a considerable service to the people of Nova Scotia by carrying out the work that is normally done by paid DNR staff. Without the efforts of the Friends of McNabs Island Society it is unlikely that there would be a park on McNabs and Lawlor Islands today.

The issue of waste management on the island is not discussed at all. There needs to be a waste management strategy put in place for the park. The island is an ideal location to support a waste reduction program that would promote sustainable use of limited island resources. For example, the island could support its own power generation from wind energy and conserve its water resources by only installing composting toilets and greywater wash stations. The park should enforce a pack-in, pack-out policy for all visitors.

 Maugers Beach Area

There are exiting outhouses behind Maugers Beach. A boardwalk should be constructed over the dunes to discourage visitors from trampling the mareen grass enroute to the outhouses.

The boardwalk to the lighthouse should be reconstructed to provide access to the Maugers Beach lighthouse. Eventually DFO will be divesting of all lighthouses including Maugers Beach. The plan should have a pro-active policy to secure the lighthouse from DFO for the park.

 Ives Cove Area

In keeping with the agreement between Parks Canada and DNR the commemorative integrity of Fort Ives was to be maintained. Since the fort was transferred to the province, the province has done nothing to maintain the stabilization work that Parks Canada did in 1996. The iron works, railings, and rifled muzzle-loading cannons need painting and some of the buildings need to be secured. The seachlights and casements at Ives Shore Battery have deteriorated considerably and need attention before they collapse. 

If a picnic area is to be located at Fort Ives it should be in the area near the entrance so as to not disturb the visitor experience of a military square. There should be no garbage facilities at this or any other site on the island. Visitors should be told that there is a pack-in, pack-out policy in place.

The Friends support the removal of some trees within Fort Ives’s boundaries to restore the seaward viewplanes of the site.

Conrad/Lynch Houses

These houses have been empty since 1986. For the past ten years the Friends have arranged for these houses to be open during the annual Fall Foliage Tours of the island. They are the focal point of visits to the island. Restoration of these houses needs to be a priority. The Friends recognize that these houses need considerable repairs to bring them up to current building code standards. The character of these houses both inside and out must maintained. The Friends support the idea of using these houses for an interpretive or education centre, and do not want these houses made available for exclusive use to certain groups only. Whatever the final use for these houses will be, they must be open to the public.  

P. 37 Camping

The Friends agree that the park is a day-use park and therefore support limited camping on the island. To discourage beach camping and its negative impact on the island, only two inland sites should be proposed for campsites. The former oil storage area near Garrison Pier and the Detention Barracks site nearby would be suitable locations for camping. By limiting camping to only a few areas, camping on the island can be managed better and the beaches, which are currently the most popular sites, will be protected.  There should be no camping off the Military Road. The Friends do not endorse coastal camping on the island at all.

 P. 37 Information and Promotion

Again the information that the Friends have provided over the years to promote a park on the islands is ignored in the plan. The management plan should address the valuable contribution that the Friends have made to the park and the considerable financial savings that DNR has realized as a result of the Friends’ volunteer efforts.

 P. 38 Interpretation and Outdoor Education

The “island” theme is not mentioned and is one that should be emphasized. Islands are a unique microcosm of the larger environment and hold a special meaning for many people. There is an opportunity for McNabs and Lawlor Islands Park to bring this island theme forward. Islands need to be sustainable and island parks should be developed recognizing the constraints of the island environment. A sustainable island park can be a showcase of best practices for how to develop a better sustainable world.

  P. 47 Park Boundary Offshore

The document states that “it would be desirable to extend the park boundary offshore beyond the ordinary high water mark.  This would provide for the protection of much of the park’s intertidal zone and enable park regulations to be applied within the coastal use area associated with the park". The Friends strongly support the extension on the offshore park boundary to include  either the waters from headland to headland or 100 metres from the high water mark around both islands, whichever is greater. All of Drake’s Passage (between McNabs and Lawlor) should also be within the park boundary. By controlling the waters around the park DNR will be able to ensure compatible park uses for these waters. 

P. 50 Partnerships

The Friends support working in partnership with DNR. However, the society has never been adequately compensated for the services that it provides in delivering park objectives. McNabs and Lawlor Islands Park certainly has benefited from this partnership as volunteers performed duties that would normally have been done by paid staff. The Friends are sceptical that partnerships with the private sector will result in a benefit to the park.

 P. 51-53 Implementation Strategy

The whole implementation plan should be re-worked. In some cases development in Phase One is premature. For example, park fees cannot be charged until there are facilities in place on the island. Transportation rates to the island are already too high. Additional park fees on top of boat fees are not necessary at this time.

Some issues such as the construction of a wharf at Range Pier/Back Cove should be a priority in Phase One. Due to the sheltered nature of this side of McNabs, this is the primary access point for small boats from all sides of Halifax Harbour.

As mentioned earlier in the document on P.26, the park should adopt a “green” conservation approach for all facilities and operations. Therefore, composting toilets should be used instead of vault toilets.

The fate of the Conrad/Lynch houses should be explored in the early stages of park implementation. These homes have been empty long enough and are deteriorating quickly.

  P. 54 Selected References

Catherine McCarthy’s honours thesis entitled A Sustainable Management Model for McNabs and Lawlor Islands Park (1999) should be added to the reference list.