HRM Sandy Lake Ecological Features Assessment completed 9Jul2022

UPDATE JULY 12,2022:
Council passed the boundary study motion unanimously (motion below, moved by Counc. Blackburn, Seconded by Counc. Outhit):
That Halifax Regional Council direct the Chief Administrative Officer to:
1. Incorporate the analysis and findings of the Sandy Lake Ecological Features Assessment in the planning and development of Sandy Lake Park.
2. Review and use the findings of the Sandy Lake Ecological Features Assessment in the background studies being undertaken for the Sandy Lake Special Planning Area, including organizing the form and location of development to best protect at least:
a. the suggested widths for important corridors,
b. the suggested riparian and watercourse buffers, and
c. the identified areas of predicted old or mature forest.
3. Explore the use of conservation easements as part of the Sandy Lake Provincial Special Planning Area background studies to manage ecological features or corridors that extend outside of the conceptual park boundary.
4. Assess how to best organize land use and green infrastructure as part of the Sandy Lake Provincial Special Planning Area Background Watershed Study to mitigate any downstream impacts to the Sackville River and Sackville River Floodplain.

Link to Council discussions vote:

On Nov 9, 2021, Halifax Regional Council directed the “Chief Administrative Officer to direct staff to retain an independent consultant to direct staff to retain an independent consultant to assist with expediting the preparation of a staff report and recommendation for the purpose of identifying an optimal conceptual boundary for an expanded Sandy Lake Regional Park based on environmental information about the area considering:

“a) The natural vegetation buffers required to protect the water quality and reduce downstream flooding of Sandy Lake, Sackville River, associated tributaries and wetlands.

“b) The size of park needed to protect the multi-aged and old growth Acadian Forest in the area and documenting the habitats at Sandy Lake for their potential to support species at risk.

c) The locations of wildlife corridors that should be established to protect wildlife both within the park and movement through the area between the Chebucto Peninsula and mainland Nova Scotia.

“d) Identification of a secondary, western trailhead.”

The 72 page study, dated June 27, 2022 was released to the public on July 8, 2022 with recommendations by staff to be addressed  on July 12, 2018. View announcement and document at

It was noted that “The study context and assignment did not include a consideration of human values, including considerations for matters such recreation potential, which would be essential in the delineation of conceptual park boundaries and trailhead location. A future western trailhead was not specifically identified but the findings of this Study should allow the planning team to consider an appropriate trailhead location with ecological characteristics in mind.”

Figure 8 provides a striking graphic of ecological  sensitivities:

Screenshot of Fig 8. Ecological Features Heat Map

From the description (p 34 of the report): “The final ecological features heat map visually represents the areas of the Sandy Lake Study Area that are of higher or lower ecological value based on the chosen characteristics (28) representing important ecological values. These characteristics were chosen to be able to identify “hot spots” relative to other areas in the Study Area. As shown in Figure 8, the features that scored the highest (bright yellow) were mainly aquatic or riparian features focusing around Sandy Lake, Marsh Lake, Jack Lake, and the Sackville River. There is a distinct corridor of high scoring features surrounding the Sackville River that highlights the importance of this system and its surrounding habitat. Marsh Lake has been identified in other studies as being of high importance to the larger ecosystem and this is again reflected in its scoring in this analysis. Given that these
two areas were identified as high scoring features and are aquatic habitats, protecting open water and riparian areas should therefore be a key consideration in further park and development planning.

The medium (orange) values represent areas of mature forest and habitat that are important to avian species at risk as well as important corridor areas and should also be considered for park and development planning. Maintaining connectivity through these medium scoring areas also supports the overall success of the high scoring riparian features. As was expected, the industrial or urban areas (ie – Agropur Cooperative – Farmers Dairy) scored low (blue).These areas include impermeable surfaces and human disturbance that are negatively impacting their value. ”


Also View Regional Plan Review. Recent comments from HRM:

We are pleased to inform you that the project’s Phase 3: Quick Adjustments Report has been released and will be considered by Regional Council on July 12, 2022. This report provides an update to the Regional Plan Review work plan, and proposes amendments to the Regional Plan, community plans and land use by-laws to:

· Support site-specific requests for development;

· Require Council-approved Priority Plans to be considered during plan amendment processes;

· Remove barriers to developing tiny homes and using converted shipping containers as dwellings;

· Allow the adaptive reuse of municipally-registered heritage properties across the region;

· Support ongoing work on community benefit action plans in historical African Nova Scotian communities;

· Support the consideration of important environmental features during secondary planning processes;

· Update the Conservation Design Development policy to improve policy implementation; and

· Address various housekeeping items.

We encourage everyone to continuing following the Regional Plan Review and sharing your comments with us! Please visit the Regional Plan Review’s Shape Your City page for information and updates.

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