A LAND USE STRATEGY FOR MCNABS AND LAWLOR ISLANDSHALIFAX HARBOUR
DEPARTMENT OF CANADIAN HERITAGE, PARKS CANADA
NOVA SCOTIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES NOVEMBER 1998
McNabs and Lawlor islands represent a truly outstanding park resource. Situated at the mouth of Halifax Harbour, in the midst of Nova Scotia's largest metropolitan area the islands are widely known for their outstanding outdoor recreational and natural and human heritage values. The islands therefore have potential to contribute significantly to the quality of life of residents within the greater Halifax-Dartmouth metropolitan area as well as other Nova Scotians and out-of- province visitors.
The Province of Nova Scotia has been a major landowner on McNabs Island since 1974, and for most of that period all provincial Crown lands there have been administered by the Department of Natural Resources as park reserve The federal government has also been a major landowner on McNabs and Lawlor islands since the early 1900s and since the mid-1960's most federal lands on McNabs island and all federal lands on Lawlor Island have been administered by Parks Canada. The primary long-term interest of Parks Canada has been in reference to Fort McNab National Historic Site.
In September of 1995, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada announced a joint public consultation process leading to the development and management of McNabs and Lawlor islands as parkland. As part of that process both agencies agreed to work together in preparing a land use strategy for the two islands. The stated objective of this land use strategy is to maintain and enhance the natural and historic values of the islands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
In October and November of 1995, a series of public open houses and formal hearings were held in Eastern Passage, Dartmouth and Halifax to provide interested parties with background information and opportunities for both informal and formal discussions on the management of McNabs and Lawlor islands as parkland. An independent consultant was hired to chair and facilitate the formal hearings on behalf of the federal and provincial agencies.
Approximately 175 people attended the open houses and forty-six oral and/or written submissions were presented at the formal hearings. A detailed summary report based on submissions made during the formal hearings was prepared by the facilitator.
This land use strategy provides future direction for the long-term management of McNabs and Lawlor islands as parkland. In preparing the strategy, careful consideration was given to comments received during the open houses and formal public hearings.Return to Index
Future Use of McNabs and Lawlor Islands as Parkland
The Province of Nova Scotia and the federal Department of Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada recognize that there is widespread public support for the designation and management of McNabs and Lawlor islands as parkland. Management of the islands as parkland would be intended to protect outstanding natural and historic resources and provide high quality opportunities for outdoor recreation, interpretation and outdoor education and eco-tourism. To this end, the Department of Natural Resources and Parks Canada are committed to the formal designation of McNabs and Lawlor islands as parkland and the management of the islands' heritage resources in a manner which will ensure their long-term ecological and commemorative value.Return to Index
Ownership and Administration
Currently, ownership of McNabs and Lawlor islands is split between the Province, the federal government and private landowners. McNabs Island has a total area of approximately 975 acres (395 hectares), of which the province owns 63 percent, the federal government 36 percent, and one percent is privately owned. The federal government owns all of Lawlor Island, which encompasses 136 acres (55 hectares). All provincial lands on McNabs Island are managed as park reserve, and most federally owned lands on McNabs Island and all of Lawlor Island are administered by Parks Canada. Nearly all the balance of federal land on the island is held by the Department of National Defense.
The Province agrees in principle to assume responsibility for managing a majority of McNabs Island and all of Lawlor Island for provincial park purposes, subject to negotiations with the federal government and associated conditions of transfer. The Province recognizes the express desire of Parks Canada to retain ownership and management control of lands associated with Fort McNab National Historic Site. Parks Canada has also agreed to stabilize the historic resources of Fort Ives prior to transfer to the Province and to provide the Department of Natural Resources with access to specialized Parks Canada expertise in the protection of the historic resources in future. The two agencies will work cooperatively, together and with other potential partners, in the planning, development, management and administration of the islands.
The close relationship of McCormicks Beach Provincial Park to the islands is recognized, as is the desirability of managing the site in a manner compatible with management objectives for the islands.Return to Index
The Province has purchased several key properties on McNabs Island in recent years totaling 60 acres (24 hectares), and the acquisition of the balance of private lands there is seen as the highest priority. Devils Island could potentially be incorporated into the proposed McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park, subject to the priority acquisition of private lands on McNabs Island. It is noted that Devils Island, along with McNabs and Lawlor islands, is designated as regional parkland, and has therefore been subject to corresponding development controls.
The option of extending the provincial park boundary for McNabs and Lawlor islands to include waters adjacent to the islands will be examined to determine its feasibility and implications. The purpose of any such boundary extension would be specifically to enable the regulation and control of recreational use in immediately adjacent waters.Return to Index
The primary management objectives for McNabs and Lawlor islands as a provincial park will include protection and maintenance of the islands' natural and cultural heritage resources, the development of interpretive and outdoor education opportunities, the provision of compatible forms of outdoor recreation and nature tourism and, finally, the provision of basic visitor services, including high quality, safe and dependable water access to McNabs Island. Management responsibilities for the islands may be assumed directly by the Department of Natural Resources or through partnership arrangements with parties whose interests are consistent with management objectives for the islands.
Fort McNab National Historic Site will continue to be managed by Parks Canada. The boundaries for Fort McNAB are those identified in the Halifax Defense Complex Management Plan approved in 1993.
The emphasis on the islands' natural and historic values will help ensure their careful protection, wise management and sensitive development. Lawlor Island will be afforded special protection status in consideration of the presence of several species of birds as well as deer. Pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Parks Canada has conducted an environmental assessment of Parks Canada's lands on McNabs and Lawlor islands. Information gained through this assessment will assist in efforts to protect the islands' important natural and cultural heritage resources. Any development of outdoor recreational and outdoor educational opportunities and of associated access facilities would be approved with due caution in consideration of protection objectives.
The islands, save for Fort McNab National Historic Site, will be classified as a natural environment park and their lands zoned to reflect an appropriate balance between heritage resource protection and recreational development and use.Return to Index
Interim management of McNabs Island will include the provision of basic facilities and services (e.g. water, pit toilets), the provision of limited outdoor recreational and educational opportunities (e.g. hiking trails, orientation, interpretive signage) and the collection and disposal of garbage. The delivery of these facilities and services and opportunities will be provided by both agencies, possibly in partnership with interested parties.
Both the Department of Natural Resources and Parks Canada will assess potential hazards on the islands particularly with respect to the historic sites, and respond as required.
Interim management of Lawlor Island will focus on the protection of the island's important heritage resources.
Provision of a higher level of facilities and services and outdoor recreational and educational opportunities will be provided when there is a management regime in place.Return to Index
Public access to McNabs Island will be by commercial ferry service or private boat, ideally with service offered from downtown Halifax, Dartmouth and Eastern Passage. Safe and reliable access will be provided in partnership with private ferry service operators. Improved docking and moorage facilities on McNabs Island will be provided when there is a management regime in place and a commitment to provide adequate facilities and services for higher visitation levels. Responsibility for improving docking and moorage facilities will be shared among key island stakeholders and partners.
Limited and controlled public access to Lawlor Island may be provided where such use is compatible with this strategy's emphasis on resource conservation and protection.
The needs of the physically challenged with be considered in planning access to and future use of, the islands.
A fixed link connecting one or both islands to the mainland is not supported.Return to Index
Travel on the Islands
The primary means of travel on the islands will be by foot. Bicycles will be permitted on McNabs Island for general recreational purposes, but their use will be restricted to designated trails (primarily the existing road network). Higher impact activities such as bicycle racing and off-road mountain biking will not be permitted.
The use of horse-drawn carts as a means of public transportation is supported in principle: however, recreational horseback riding is not supported.
Motorized vehicles other than wheelchairs, emergency and maintenance vehicles will be prohibited from the islands.Return to Index
Outdoor Education and Interpretation
During the recent public consultation process, there was widespread support for the establishment of an outdoor education centre on McNabs Island. The island's central location in the midst of Nova Scotia's largest metropolitan area and its rich diversity of natural and cultural heritage resources make it well suited for outdoor education and interpretation.
The concept of an outdoor education centre on McNabs Island is supported in principle: however the establishment of such a facility will depend on the involvement of a proponent and a partnership arrangement. One or more of the existing buildings on McNabs Island could be used as an outdoor education centre/field station subject to a feasibility assessment.Return to Index
Appropriate visitor services will be provided to help visitors enjoy their stay. Most services and facilities will be concentrated in the west central portion of McNabs Island in close proximity to the main public access point at Garrison Pier.. Consideration will be given to the provision of the following facilities and services: a visitor service centre providing orientation information, washrooms and change rooms, food services, picnic facilities. a main interpretative centre and a network of trails for hiking, viewing and interpretation. Consideration may also be given to the establishment of primitive, walk-in campsites and group camping facilities.
Proposed park facilities will be located to minimize their impact an the island's natural and cultural heritage values.
The level of facility and service provision on McNabs Island will be directly dependent on the availability of resources which, in turn, will be dependent on the availability of partners to participate directly with responsible government agencies in planning, design, development and operational activities.Return to Index
The Department of Natural Resources and Parks Canada are committed to ensuring ongoing consultation with Interested parties regarding the future development, management and operation of McNabs and Lawlor islands as parkland.Return to Index
The provision of services and facilities on McNabs and Lawlor islands through partnerships involving interested parties is supported where such development is compatible with natural and cultural heritage resource conservation and protection objectives. The need for all interested parties to cooperate and work with others will lead to the assessment of partnership opportunities in achieving common objectives in the areas of cultural and natural heritage protection and presentation, the delivery and operation of facilities and services, and in making the island a major attraction and destination in the metropolitan area.
The Department of Natural Resources and Parks Canada will maintain a strong presence in the ongoing management and operation of their respective areas of responsibility on the islands. However, a wide range of partnership initiatives will be considered subject to their consistency with management objectives associated with maintaining the natural and cultural heritage values of the islands.Return to Index
This land use strategy will provide the framework for the future management and development of McNabs and Lawlor islands as a provincial park and associated national historic site centered on Fort McNab. Management of the islands as parkland, and the provision of related facilities and services, will by necessity involve partnership arrangements between the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Parks Canada as well as between one or both agencies and interested individuals, organized groups and the private sector.
Within this framework, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Parks Canada are prepared to open preliminary discussions with potential partners and to receive partnership proposals, regarding the future management and operation of their respective areas of jurisdiction on McNabs and Lawlor islands including provincial parkland on both islands and Fort McNab National Historic Site, respectively. All proposals for partnership agreements will be evaluated to ensure consistency with this land use strategy. In addition, partnership proposals may be made subject of further planning and public consultation initiatives, as necessary to ensure the long-term integrity of the islands' natural and cultural heritage resources and to provide opportunities for public input where appropriate. Parks Canada will prepare a Statement of Commemorative Integrity for Fort McNab National Historic Site in anticipation of future partnerships.Return to Index
The Honourable Kennie MacAskill
Minister of Natural Resources
Province of Nova Scotia
The Honourable Andy Mitchell Secretary of State (Parks)
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