A gigantic chunk of the Chebucto Peninsula---8,266 hectares known as the Five Bridge Lakes---took a step toward official wilderness protection Friday, when the province kicked off the public consultation period required for the designation. The land in question is mostly contiguous crown land bounded roughly by highways 103 and 333. It does not include a large parcel of HRM-owned land known as the Western Common (see map), but the city is supportive of the wilderness designation and has long-term plans to turn its land into a park.
The proposed wilderness area is bisected by the Old Coach Road, a rough gravel trail that once provided the only land connection between Halifax and the small communities on St. Margarets Bay. Under the proposal, that trail and a north-south fire road would remain open to all-terrain vehicles, but the other trails in the area, including the Bluff Wilderness Trail, would be off-limits for ATVs.
With wilderness protection recently given to Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, just to the north, the Five Bridge Lakes Wilderness would make the Halifax Metro area unique in Canada in terms of large wilderness areas so close to an urban area.
You can learn more about the proposal at thecoast.ca/bites; at displays at three public libraries (Tantallon, Spring Garden, Alderney Landing) through March and at an open house at the Dal Student Union, March 10, 11am-2pm. The public comment period closes April 30. —Tim Bousquet