Caller Peter Barss on Maritime Noon

Maritime Noon
CBC Radio
March 17, 2021

Topic: How to Make Rural Communities and Small Towns Better Places to Live

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Peter Barss: Hi. I have two points to make, and they’re related. One is, I don’t believe that the preservation of our environment is at the top of the list of the government. The perfect example is Owls Head.

Most people, I think, are familiar with that situation now. But you have a rugged terrain, rock ridges that harbour endangered species of animals and plants. The government negotiated (or is negotiating) a proposal by a wealthy American to build three golf courses there. That means number one, destroying a beautiful environment that people could enjoy and number two, it would most likely be a gated or very exclusive kind of community. There are condos and high-end houses that are associated with this proposal.

What I don’t understand is why, when that proposal was first suggested, it wasn’t dropped out of hand, wasn’t even considered.

The second point that I want to make is that increasingly, people who own land are putting up “No Trespassing” signs. I remember the time when, if you wanted to take a walk along a beach, you didn’t have to worry about being thrown off. And that is not happening anymore. There’s very little land that is open, especially along the shore, that’s open for everybody to enjoy. I’ve done some research on right-to-roam laws in Europe. In many European countries, as long as you don’t go peeking in peoples’ windows, building fires, and cutting down trees, and so on, you have the right to walk wherever you want. So I think it’s time for everybody to consider exactly what land ownership means. And I don’t think it means putting up “No Trespassing” signs and threatening people if they try to access a beach that’s been available for generations.

Well thanks for the call, Peter. I just want to bring Tristan in here. Tristan, how much does environment and open areas play a factor here when we’re trying to make areas more liveable?

Urban Planner Tristan Cleveland: Absolutely, it’s a key point. And I think the strategy we need for rural Nova Scotia is two-part. One part is to protect those natural environments that are the reason that people want to move to these places. I was involved in creating just that kind of plan for Halifax – the Halifax Green Network Plan – it’s exactly this strategy. You protect those assets and then you (as much as possible) incentivize and encourage growth in these community town centres, where you can create a bustling main street, and then you have the best of both worlds, beautiful communities to visit and beautiful natural areas to visit.

And the caller also raised another important point, which is access. So many lakes, so many shorelines have been developed to the point that the community can no longer get to the water. So, we need a concerted strategy, that when there’s a beautiful lake, there’s an access point for people to go swimming, and for canoes, and all that type of recreation.

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