A new five-kilometre trail in Long Lake Provincial Park opens on Earth Day (April 22). It’s unique because it’s a manicured trail in a 2,000-hectare woodland where the start and stop trails were mostly bushwhacked by people heading for the lakes to go kayaking or canoeing.
Two developers, Polycorp and Atlantic Developments, are spending about $500,000 to build the trail. Regulations require developers to provide green/public space if their projects reach a certain size, but this trail is not part of their obligations.
Atlantic Developments is building Long Lake Village across Northwest Arm Drive from the trail. Many homes are up, but construction is still ongoing. There’s a playground, its paint still a shiny blue, sitting on a stretch of grass.
This green space is one of the requirements in the development agreement with the municipality, said David Graham with Atlantic Developments. The other requirement is a parking lot across the street—a much needed access point to Long Lake Provincial Park.
Donna Flemming, chair of the Long Lake Provincial Park Association, says currently the main access is a “horrendous” parking lot and parking on the shoulder at St. Margaret’s Bay Road, making access to the park difficult. “Because the trails were never accessible, the only people who really used them were people who grew up in the area and knew of the trails beaten down by people walking back to access the lake,” she says.
Flemming says she’s thrilled about the trail, which will connect Northwest Arm Drive, Old Sambro Road, and Peter Saulnier Drive to the existing trail system. She says it will be an accessible, gravel-covered trail where parents with strollers, or people in wheelchairs can meander through the park.
The trail will help with other plans the association has been working on. Flemming says the trail will lead to a spot by Old Sambro Road where they’d like to build a picnic area.
While building a trail may appear like a purely altruistic gesture by the two developers, it’s not. Graham says it’s also business decision: it helps sell Long Lake Village.
“In this particular instance, Long Lake Provincial Park is a jewel in the heart of Halifax and it’s only 10 minutes from downtown,” he says. “It’s an amazing asset to have such a phenomenal park and a 3.5-kilometre lake only 10 minutes from downtown but I don’t think it’s an asset if people can’t use it.”
It’s fairly rare, Graham says, for developers to go beyond what they’re required to do by the municipality. “The trail is a deal we as developers did with the provincial government and it had nothing to do with any development rights we got on the land at Long Lake Village,” he says.
When a development reaches a certain size, developers must provide 10 per cent of the developed area for some kind of open space to be used by the public, explains Peter Bigelow, HRM manager of real property and planning. But exactly what kind of public open space obligation (trails, playgrounds, etc.) varies in urban, suburban, and rural developments.