Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!
Advertisement

Preserving McNabs Island

Care of unique Halifax park rests mostly with volunteers

by Rebecca Zimmer

McNabs Island, a little bit of wildness just a twenty minute ferry ride from downtown Halifax. Do we realize how lucky we are? Photo Friends of McNabs Island Society
McNabs Island, a little bit of wildness just a twenty minute ferry ride from downtown Halifax. Do we realize how lucky we are? Photo Friends of McNabs Island Society
Yoga was just one of the many activities offered during the annual McNabs Island picnic. The event is organized by the Friends of McNabs Island Society, a group of volunteers who work hard to preserve the beautiful island in the mouth of Halifax Harbour   Photo Rebecca Zimmer
Yoga was just one of the many activities offered during the annual McNabs Island picnic. The event is organized by the Friends of McNabs Island Society, a group of volunteers who work hard to preserve the beautiful island in the mouth of Halifax Harbour Photo Rebecca Zimmer

KJIPUKTUK, (HALIFAX) - It is a place of mystery and wonder but it is also a bit of a charity case.

The Annual McNabs Island picnic last Saturday brought an estimated 460 locals and tourists to the beautiful island in the mouth of Halifax Harbour to participate in guided tours and activities.

The picnic was supported by some forty volunteers, members of the Friends of McNabs Island Society. Cathy McCarthy is one of those volunteers. She believes very little has been done by the government to support the island and its provincial park.

“There are really no resources going into McNabs Island...,” says McCarthy. “For the provincial department of Natural Resources the maintenance is very minimal, that's really all they do [is mow the grass].”

Many historic buildings and fortifications still remain on the island, which is almost entirely publicly owned. Fort Ives, Strawberry Battery and Fort McNab are part of the Halifax Defense Complex, the forts surrounding Halifax Harbour that protected the city during the War of 1812 and World Wars I and II with lookout points, gun mounts and anti-submarine netting.

Fort McNab, located near the McNab family cemetery is a National Historic site and is looked after by Parks Canada and is well preserved. But Fort Ives on the north tip of the island, as well as the century-old houses that still remain on the island are basically left to their own devices.

Midway King, Bill Lynch's childhood home still stands on the island. It is closed to the public and is slowly deteriorating.

“The Friends of McNab would like to get those houses to become registered as historic properties with the province so we are trying to work on that now,” says McCarthy.

Over the past 25 years, the Society has organized island clean-ups, published books and pamphlets about the history of the island and worked on trail upkeep to keep the island accessible to visitors. All that was accomplished solely through volunteer labour.

Since 2010 visitors have been welcomed by two summer students, paid for through government funding.

A new information centre took two years to complete, with all the grant proposals, information panels, research, photographs, and contract work shouldered by the Society. “There is a lot of room for more improvements because a lot of the trails need extensive work and we just haven't had time to get going on any of those,” McCarthy says.

Brian Kinsmen with the provincial Department of Natural Resources says that with 130 provincial parks in Nova Scotia government has to prioritize.

“In some years we are able to invest in McNabs, in other years our priorities may be elsewhere,” Kinsmen writes in an email.

In recent years, the priority was to purchase back the few remaining private properties and this year the department will be investing $80,000 for maintenance of the main homes, says Kinsmen.

The provincial government works very closely with the Friends and it, “very much appreciates their dedication to protecting island resources and enhancing visitor experiences.”

But there are some things the Friends cannot do on their own.

Enforcement is something that Department of Natural Resources has to deal with. With a lot of public traffic and minimal official presence on the island, provincial park rules are not properly enforced, says Society board member Dachia Joudrey.

“It's very disconcerting to come here after you've done beach cleanup and you see people leave their garbage behind.”

“Some people who live in Halifax have never been here,” says Joudrey. “And I think people forget the importance of this place.”

 


Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
Topics: Environment
586 words

Advertisement

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!