Last week, some HRM staff and members of the public were surprised to learn a section of a long-time public park is not actually owned by the municipality.
Sir Sanford Fleming Park, the home of Dingle Tower, was donated to the city by Sir Fleming himself. The park includes a beach and picnic area on the Northwest Arm, as well a hiking trail commonly called loop trail.
"I think it's the public perception, and certainly the perception of a lot of our parks staff, that this was part of the park," says Shawn Cleary, HRM councillor for District 9, where the park is located.
However, Cleary says the far end of the trail lies on the Shannex Arborstone Advanced Care property, and a section of the loop is on property that has been privately owned since at least the 1930s, according to deed records.
Last week, that 2.3-acre waterfront property was listed on viewpoint.ca for $990,000.
"We want to get this piece of land so we can maintain the integrity of the loop trail, because otherwise it will be the double dead-end trail," says Cleary.
Cleary says HRM staff informed him about a year ago that the property owners were thinking about selling, and talks were in place for the city to buy it privately.
"As I understood it things were moving along, but then of course last week this piece of property popped up for sale publicly," Cleary says.
If the city doesn't get the land, and the new owners don't want to keep the trail, Cleary says the city might consider reconnecting a slightly shorter loop trail. "There's a hill between the two pieces of trail, and so to cut through that to reconnect that trail would be a heck of a job."
HRM staff says the Fleming Park situation is one-of-a-kind. "We're not aware of any other sites without easements or agreements in place," says Erin DiCarlo, a senior communications advisor at HRM. "This site is unique due to the historical nature of the property and trail."
Cleary says the city is focused on trying to invest in new parkland, not losing it.
In the next few years, he hopes that HRM will spend "millions and millions" on creating new spaces for people to get outdoors. The capital budget for 2019-2020 earmarks $7 million for parkland acquisition, and another $1.97 million for park recapitalization.