Counterpoint: All Nova Scotians have stake in Owls Head golf issue

Contributed by Christopher Trider
The Chronicle Herald
March 1, 2021

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Bob Rosborough’s Feb. 20 opinion piece, “Sick of critics taking swings at golf development,” leaves out a number of significant aspects of the current debate on Owls Head. These aspects are important to understanding the widespread and growing public opposition to the secret removal of the property, referred to as Owls Head Provincial Park, from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan, and offering it for sale to a private developer.

Owls Head has a long history of protection that can be traced back to the intense public discussions of the mid-1970s around the creation of a potential national park on the Eastern Shore. The large, unique coastal Crown block survived that process as a natural environment park component in the Eastern Shore Seaside Park System. It was recognized as a park by public agencies for 45 years and was included in the final 2013 plan that identified the sites to be designated for protection to meet the province’s 13 per cent target as site #694. 

In 2019, we learned through a CBC investigation that Owls Head had been quietly removed from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan without any public notice or consultation and a letter of offer to sell the public lands had been signed.

Given the knowledge of the history of the protected status of Owls Head and the commitments and obligations to protect it as set forth in the plan, public opposition to its removal and sale started to grow. Many believe it sets a dangerous precedent for the other 150-plus “undesignated” sites in the protected areas plan, and a court challenge to the legitimacy of the process was launched. 

In addition, the government moved to sanitize websites and maps of any references to Owls Head as a park property and efforts to devalue the property, labelling simply “ungranted Crown land,” further inflamed the situation.

Unfortunately, the division of opinion on the delisting and sale of these park lands has become another issue that has polarized supporters and opponents along the Eastern Shore and beyond. 

I refuse to stoop to the level of Mr. Rosborough’s veiled personal attack and his references to concerned citizens as “ranting social media followers.” I certainly will never differentiate people by referring to them as “the only ones that matter.”

The secret delisting and offer to sell Owls Head Provincial Park for a golf course development is a matter of provincial concern. All residents have a stake in the “Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan” and regardless of where you live in this province, the protection of our remaining publicly owned coastal heritage properties that contain globally rare plant communities and offer over five miles of undeveloped shorefront is important.

If the proposed golf course development is such a wonderful thing, make the plans public and have a legitimate, independent review and environmental assessment that all residents of the province can access to express their concerns and opinions. Explain to Nova Scotians why this development cannot be built on private lands rather than sacrifice a unique, protected park property with important biodiversity and ecological values.

Stop the sale. Save Owls Head.

Christopher Trider

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