A Brief History of Parks & Trails in Cole Harbour was presented by James Tudor, an Honourary Life Member of CHPTA, to the attendees of the Association’s 25th Anniversary celebration held on September 9, 2023.
In the early 1970’s, with Halifax’s growing population, planners concluded that new parks and active transportation corridor systems were required to meet the needs of a growing population. This led to a major review by H.J. Porter & Associates Ltd., Environmental Consultants, submitting a final report in 1979. Thereafter, it was referred to as the Porter Plan.
The Province of Nova Scotia selected various priority areas to start working on, one of which was The Cole Harbour-Lawrencetown Coastal Heritage Park system, which is the focus of this presentation. The Province began acquiring blocks of land in the early 1980’s, which they required to fulfill their master plan. They were able to acquire these necessary blocks through various means.
One major piece of this puzzle was held by Halifax County, which the County sold to the Province for a dollar in 1986, with the clear understanding the that Province would build a Provincial Park. Included in this sales agreement were two conditions: a) the two cemeteries would be clearly marked and maintained and b) the existing barn would be maintained and utilized. Neither condition to date has been met.
The Province was about to start re-building the four burnout bridges that crossed the Cole Harbour estuary when apparently, due to some community push back from the Eastern Shore, the Province ceased all work on that project, and that is where it sat until Cole Harbour Parks & Trails Association (CHPTA) arrived on the scene. Land acquisition on the Cole Harbour side continued until all the lands required to build, what is now known as the Cole Harbour Heritage Park, were acquired.
In 1993, the vision of a national trail system from coast to coast was gathering momentum under the banner of the “Trans Canada Trail”.
In 1996, the Halifax Regional Development Agency was created with four separate Local Development Associations (LDA) representing all of Halifax Regional Municipality.
It quickly became quite evident that there was an appetite throughout HRM for active transportation corridors connecting most, if not all, areas in HRM.
The LDA encompassing Eastern Passage and Cole Harbour morphed into the Cole Harbour Parks & Trails Association (CHPTA) with the vision of connecting Eastern Passage, Cole Harbour, Lawrencetown and surrounding areas together.
CHPTA quickly got to work planning, reaching out to other groups and residents. The Association wanted an assurance from the Province that the land acquired by the province would be an official Provincial Park before it committed to much time and monies to its creation. The Minister of the Department of Natural Resources, Eleanor Norrie, indicated support and CHPTA was able to start moving forward. It wasn’t until December 1998 that the Cole Harbour Heritage Park was designated a Provincial Park.
From these humble beginnings a group of volunteers dared to dream and dream big. With cap in hand, we developed relationships and learned the art of leveraging monies. CHPTA built a four-hundred-acre Provincial Park and at one point had built and managed twenty-six (26) kilometers of multi-use trails.
CHPTA has built infrastructure for the people of Nova Scotia probably in excess of three (3) million dollars. If usage is an indicator of success, CHPTA has been very successful; with in excess of 200,000 users a year. Since the number of users in Provincial Parks seems to be elusive, the Association is unable to compare its number of users against other Park numbers. However, they are confident that CHPTA’s numbers would rate quite high compared to other parks in the province.