The Rick Howe Show
February 11, 2021
Radio host Jordan Morgan speaks with two residents who support the delisting, sale, and development of Owls Head Provincial Park.
Disclaimer: In the interest of fairness and transparency, we have included all of the audio files and have transcribed all of the interviews. However, not all of the claims have merit. We’ve included a few suggested posts at the bottom of this page, which have verified information on the history and ecology of the park.
“We want to build three separate courses. But you know, and I, and I want to be really, really clear on this Jordi. Like, when we say we are going to build these courses, we want to do this sustainably. Right now, you know, we are being challenged or all businesses are being challenged with these ecological issues and climate change. But we really want to do this. And we want to move forward doing this ethically, and environmentally friendly. And we want to protect the wetlands and the coastal barrens, and we are aware of the habitat for endangered species and the globally rare ecosystem. But we are going to do, or Mr. Gilbert is going to do, his utmost to take care of all of this because he is a philanthropist and an environmentalist.”Megan Scheffers
Jordi Morgan: Owls Head… It’s a coastal headland on the Eastern Shore, and about 660 acres of that headland is provincial Crown Land. It’s been managed as a provincial park since the 1970s. So, we want to talk about this because it was never legally designated as a protected area, but it was proposed for designation in Nova Scotia’s 2013 Parks and Protected Areas Plan. However, there have been people who are interested in providing some development in the area. What they’re looking to do is to build some golf courses in that particular region (Little Harbour).
So we are joined today by a couple of residents who are actually in favour of the development down there because there has been a fair amount of conversation from people who have environmental interests that are concerned about what’s going to be happening to that piece of land. Megan Scheffers and Harvey Stevens, as I said, are residents of the area near Owls Head and they join us on the phone this morning.
Megan Scheffers: Hi!
Jordi Morgan: Hi. Hi, Harvey.
Harvey: Hello Jordi, good to hear ya.
Jordi Morgan: Well, it’s good to hear you as well. How’s it? How are things on the Eastern Shore today?
Megan Scheffers: Sunny and amazing
Harvey Stevens: Better if we had some golf courses.
Jordi Morgan: Okay, I don’t know if you’d be out on them today.
Megan, I want to start with you. This has turned into a bit of a political football. It seems that there have been negotiations that have been going back and forth. People who are opposing this have been saying this is kind of a “backroom deal” that has been put forward, has been approved by the Treasury Board, and that the folks who should have been consulted weren’t consulted about this, from an environmental perspective.
First, give us kind of an overview of how this has transpired and why you are in support of it.
Megan Scheffers: Well, first of all, one of the things that I want to do is get rid of this negative perception. And I want to harvest some positivity around this amazing piece of property. Now, the sad part is, no one was ever interested in this property. So it was deemed un-granted Crown land. And when that happens, basically, it’s not uncommon, or it’s not unusual, for government to speak to investors or people that are interested in that piece of Crown land. So because it was un-granted, at that time, no public consultation was needed.
Jordi Morgan: Okay, well help me understand this. Because what I had read is that in 2013, there was a proposal that it be designated as a protected area but it wasn’t, so…
Megan Scheffers: A proposal. It was never, it was never a park. So, have you been to this piece of property, Jordi?
Jordi Morgan: I have not, unfortunately. I’ve heard a beautiful piece of land though.
Megan Scheffers: It is; it’s a neat piece of land. But if you go there, you probably can’t even find it. And I think a lot of people that go there actually end up on Mr. Gilbert’s land and they think it’s the Crown land. Because he owns over 200 hectares. So, anyway, no, it was, you know, reserved, but it was never designated. So, that’s another part of the puzzle that we need to overcome. And again, we need to, you know, squash this negativity that’s coming from our opposition.
Jordi Morgan: Okay, so you’re talking about, Mr. Gilbert; this is Beckwith Gilbert and his wife, Kitty. They own the land; they bought, apparently, or they had already owned about 130 hectares of land, which was next to Owls head, and they were looking to expand what they held. Is that correct?
Megan Scheffers: They own actually over 200 hectares.
Jordi Morgan: Okay.
Megan Scheffers: And the feds own 16 hectares, and the province owns over 200. So between the province and Mr. Gilbert, it’s about half and half.
Jordi Morgan: Okay. And the plan is to put in a golf course. Again, I’m not intimately familiar with the story, so you have to help me a little bit. The idea was that they’re in the area; they were looking to do something similar that’s happened to Inverness in terms of economic development.
Megan Scheffers: Yes, so the Cabot Links and the Cabot Cliffs, which are world-renowned, in the top 50 around the world. What we’re trying to achieve is a business development project called the Lighthouse Links using this coastal property, which includes the dunes. Right now, it’s amazing because it has an undiluted (??) surface and sandy barren soil and indigenous grasses. So it’s the perfect location. Based on, you know, where the best golf is in the world, which is Scotland. Nova Scotia is second to none, in our opinion.
Jordi Morgan: Okay, Harvey, tell me a little bit about the feeling in the community right now. And maybe just give me a sense of the community itself, how many people are there, and how they feel about this particular project?
Harvey Stevens: Well, there’s 767 people in favour on the Eastern Shore right now for these golf courses. And they can’t wait to see it developed, to help expand the economy, which we need desperately down there.
Jordi Morgan: Is it generally just fishing? I know that there’s a fishing community down there, maybe you can just sort of tell me a little bit more about the community itself? And what makes up the economic foundation now?
Harvey Stevens: It’s mostly fishing communities, yes. We have a lot of tourism comes down there as well, kayakers and things like that.
Megan Scheffers: But Jordi, when he speaks to the tourism, we actually only own 2% of that market.
Jordi Morgan: Right. So tell me, I know you said 770 odd folks, is that a petition that you’ve signed? Or what? Give me kind of a sense of what that means in terms of the entire community? What is your sense of the level of support in the community for the project?
Harvey Stevens: I’ll let Megan speak on that there.
Megan Scheffers: Sorry, Jordi. He’s super excited. But I have a lot of the facts, here in front of me. So we had 767 signatures on our petition. These are quality signatures from a certain radius, when we started walking around with a petition. So we gathered signatures from Sheet Harbour to Lake Charlotte. And basically, what we have are people that actually live here. They work here, they play here, and they pay taxes here.
Jordi Morgan: And just in terms of the opposition, I mean, you go out and you do a petition like that, did you get a feeling about how many people who were opposed to it versus were in favour of it?
Megan Scheffers: You know what, if you walk into Little Harbour today, I think there’s two signs that oppose it. And I think there’s what, 40 signs that approve it?
Harvey Stevens: Yes, it’s 95%, in favour, for sure.
Jordi Morgan: And what, in terms of economic development, would this mean? I mean, how much are they looking at investing into the area? What does the play look like?
Megan Scheffers: So here’s the amazing thing. Right now, Mr. Gilbert is starting with, or he wants to start with, $100 million of his own, without any government funding.
Jordi Morgan: Okay… and that is going to build one golf course? Because I had read that you were looking at three separate facilities down there.
Megan Scheffers: Yeah, so we want to build three separate courses. But you know, and I, and I want to be really, really clear on this Jordi. Like, when we say we are going to build these courses, we want to do this sustainably. Right now, you know, we are being challenged or all businesses are being challenged with these ecological issues and climate change. But we really want to do this. And we want to move forward doing this ethically, and environmentally friendly. And we want to protect the wetlands and the coastal barrens, and we are aware of the habitat for endangered species and the globally rare ecosystem. But we are going to do, or Mr. Gilbert is going to do, his utmost to take care of all of this because he is a philanthropist and an environmentalist.
Jordi Morgan: Megan, Harvey, thank you very much. We appreciate getting your perspective on this from the community. We’re going to be talking to some folks who are opposed to it in just a couple minutes, just to get a clear picture of both sides of that argument. But we do appreciate you taking your time this morning to help our audience understand what’s going on.
Megan Scheffers: Yeah, because we want to be heard as a collaborative voice here on the Eastern Shore, and we really want to cleanse the perceived incorrect dealings – the perception of the incorrect dealings by our Nova Scotia government.
Jordi Morgan: Okay.
Megan Scheffers: [indistinguishable] we want you to know Owls Head Park was not officially designated and that it was un-granted Crown land.
Jordi Morgan: Okay, Megan.
Megan Scheffers: We really want you to know.
Jordi Morgan: Okay, Megan. Yep. Well, thank you. I think you’ve made your case there. Thank you very much. I do appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning. Harvey, thank you, as well.
We’ll take a quick break right now. We’ll be back in just a couple of minutes and look at the other side of that issue here on the recap show.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.