Province to ask community about New France partnerships

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on March 18, 2013

The Yarmouth information session on proposed protected areas had one of the largest turnouts in the province.

The provincial government doesn’t have a plan for Electric City. Yet.

The Nova Scotia government bought about 8,500 hectares of land around New France from Irving in 2010. Now as part of its proposed plan for expanding its system of protected areas, Natural Resources wants to designate 86 ha as a “park reserve”.

Basically that means setting the land aside for possible future use as a park, says Brian Kinsman, a senior planner with the Parks and Recreation division of DNR.

“We have no formal plans for that area,” said Kinsman at an open house in Cornwallis on Thursday, March 14. “We’ll be looking to communities of interest to see how we could protect the site.”

Kinsman was one a dozen DNR and Environment staff on hand for an open house in Cornwallis on Thursday, March 14, to answer questions and take public comments on the province’s plan to protect 12 per cent of the province by 2015.

[RELATED: Yarmouth Vanguard story on the Silver River Wilderness area]

Kinsman says a lot of people at the Cornwallis session had questions about New France.

“It is definitely one of the areas that people were most interested in talking about here today,” he said. “For a lot of people this is the first time they’re hearing about the province’s proposal for a park reserve.

Kinsman says so far they’ve heard from two main communities of interest about New France: people interested in preserving and presenting the history of the area and people who use the Irving roads to access the backcountry on ATVs.

In fact both groups share an interest in seeing road access maintained, says Kinsman, which is good because DNR would have trouble finding the money to do it alone.

“The Irving haul road has a lot of washouts and bringing it up to public standards would be an issue,” he said. “There’s a bridge, which is in rough shape. We haven’t decided what to do there yet. But the cost of providing public access, that’s an issue.”

He says ATV clubs have mentioned the possibility of taking on the job of replacing or upgrading the bridge.

“It might be not be a car bridge but just an ATV bridge,” he said. “That’s one idea.”

Ninety per cent of the New France site is on the west side of that bridge so visitors interested in the history could get that far in larger vehicles.

As for interpretation and other services at any future park, Kinsman says DNR would look to municipal councils or development associations to see what their thoughts and plans are.

“The site has been assigned to the parks program and we’re willing to work with whoever to protect and present the site in line with the values of the park system,” said Kinsman. “We’re putting the word out, if you have ideas about managing it as a park, come and talk to us.”

He says usually the process of developing a park management plan, complete with public consultation, takes at least two years.

He says the department does have experience protecting sites of historical interest and points to the Tidnish railway, the Moose River gold mines, McNabs Island and the Thomas Randall park as examples.

Kinsman said the proposed 8,500 ha Silver River wilderness area an lands adjacent to Electric City would also make it easier to protect the site.

Helen Smith, a consultation and outreach coordinator with the department of environment was also in Cornwallis, helping people understand the province’s plan – by letting them pick her brain, scribble on paper maps or zoom in on electronic maps on her tablet.

She estimates 75- 80 people came to the Cornwallis session.

Many came to find out if they would still be able to use certain roads and what activities would they be allowed to do in what areas, she says.

An online interactive map shows which roads would be ‘excluded’ (left open) or could become part of off-highway vehicle trail agreements – others she said would normally be posted and allowed to grow up.

To read the plan yourself, get more information and view the interactive map showing all the proposed protected areas with links to area profile sheets, visit the government’s website at .

Highlights of the plan for Digby County

New France park reserve, 86 ha

Tobeatic wilderness area expansion, 12,420 ha

Silver River wilderness area, 8,473 ha Blackadar Brook wilderness area 1,734 ha

Sissiboo Falls wilderness area, 1,205 ha Porcupine Lake wilderness area, 951 ha

Hectanooga Cedar Swamp nature reserve, 124 ha

Wentworth Lake nature reserve, 52 ha

Tiddville nature reserve, 30 ha

Wilderness areas protect nature and support wilderness recreation, hunting, sport fishing, trapping, and other uses.

Nature reserves offer the highest level of protection for unique or rare species or features; they are used mainly for education and research.

Provincial parks and reserves protect a wide range of heritage values and opportunities for outdoor recreation, nature-based education, and tourism.