Long Lake Provincial Park (Nova Scotia)

Long Lake Provincial Park is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was initiated in 1981 by then Premier John Buchanan after Halifax's water supply had been shifted from the Spruce Hill/Long Lake/Chain Lakes watershed to the Pockwock Lake watershed near Hammonds Plains. The 2095-hectare park, formally established in 1984, constitutes the bulk of these former watershed lands. Other portions were deeded to the municipality of Halifax, and the area around the Chain Lakes is still administered by the Halifax Regional Water Commission, since the Chain Lakes remain the city's emergency water supply.

The lands included within the present park boundaries have had a long history of human use, including logging, several farms and many small granite quarries which provided the stones for many of the 19th century buildings in downtown Halifax.[citation needed] As part of its development as Halifax's watershed lands, in the early part of the 20th century an earthen dam was erected on Pine Hill Lake, greatly enlarging it. A long concrete and earth dam was constructed on Long Lake, again significantly expanding its area. A pipeline was built connecting the two lakes, and to the adjacent Chain Lakes. The entire area has been logged extensively in the early part of the 20th century, but a few scattered old growth trees remain. The north eastern side of Long lake featured world war I barracks location, extensive trenches and machine gun battle emplacement which protected movement from the St. Margaret's Bay and Prospect bay roads into Halifax. This fortification is known as Chain Lake Position - Locality 2 [2]

The lands were part of Halifax's old water supply system. In order to protect the water quality, about 16,000 acres of land was left "virtually untouched" into the 1970s. In the years leading up to the 1977 commissioning of the new Pockwock water supply system, concern began to mount over the fate of the old watershed lands, which were considered to have high ecological and recreational value. Residents feared that the area would be spoiled by suburban development.[3]

A regional plan adopted in July 1975 proposed that the watershed lands would form one of seven new regional parks in the Halifax-Dartmouth area.[4]

The 2,095-hectare watershed lands were acquired by the province in 1981 and put under the management of the Department of Natural Resources for use as a provincial park.[1] Long Lake Provincial Park was formally created by Order in Council (OIC) 84-1189 on October 9, 1984, comprising part of the old watershed lands. Application altered (by the withdrawal of 1.23 hectares) by OIC 93-364 on April 14, 1993.[5]

Long Lake is a provincial park controlled by the Department of Lands and Forestry of the Government of Nova Scotia (formerly called the Department of Natural Resources).[1] However, the park has never had a fully approved management plan and so is relatively unknown as a public space, despite its proximity to central Halifax and its large size (rivalling that of the Halifax peninsula). In 2003, the Department of Natural Resources entered into consultation with the Long Lake Provincial Park Association on the development of a management plan. In early 2015 the Long Lake Provincial Park Association started to build accessible walking and cycling trails on the East side of the lake off of Northwest Arm Drive in Spryfield, there are now approximately 5.5 kilometers of wide multi-use trails that traverse along the east side of Long Lake and a loop around Withrod lake. Benches are installed along the trail and members of the public can have plaques installed on the benches. There is also a parking lot and a washroom across from the Cowie Hill Road. Another parking lot has been added along with an Kayak/Canoe launch at the location of the old pumphouse on Old Sambro road across from Schnare street. The are further plans to build a mountain biking area on the west side of the lake . On behalf of Bicycle Nova Scotia and the mountain bike community in general Randy Gray submitted a Mountain Biking Management Plan to be included either in the main body or as an appendix to the Management Plan. This was submitted after about six years of involvement and consultation with the Long Lake Park Association's Board of Directors and the Long Lake Park Association's Management Plan Committee. It can be read here: . It was never discussed by the Long Lake Provincial Park Association after submission. It was rejected by the Department of Natural Resources.

Long Lake has been designated by DNR as a "conservation-oriented" provincial park and can be viewed as an "urban wilderness", even though much of its area has been altered by previous human activities and uses. It is anticipated that there will be no campgrounds or other high-impact projects planned for the park in the foreseeable future. This is in contrast to an aborted early plan to develop a resort area and artificial beach on the south side of Long Lake, which resulted in a wide roadbed stretching from halfway between Long Lake and the intersection of Old Sambro Rd. and Leblin Drive, to within about 183 meters of the lake itself. Extensive erosion along this roadbed has resulted in a strip of exposed bedrock which has been subsequently dubbed the "scar road" and is easily visible from the air. Most of the large southern portion of the park is expected to be designated as a "conservation zone" in the final version of the development plan, along with selected areas of the deciduous and mixed forest in the more heavily used northern region discussed above.

Long Lake Provincial Park is bordered by the Old Sambro Road on the east, Dunbrack Street (formerly Northwest Arm Drive) on the NE, Watershed Commission lands bisected by the St. Margaret's Bay Rd. on the north, (the only entrance to the park which currently has a parking lot is located off this road, close to its intersection with the Prospect Rd.) and Prospect Road on the west. It can be viewed from:

Although there is room along the roadside at a few of the more frequently used entrances for 2 to 4 vehicles, the only parking lot is currently the one built by the Water Commission. The management plan proposes another parking lot be built off the Old Sambro Rd, and there is discussion with the city to use a portion of the Exhibition Park lands as a parking lot mainly for the park, with concomitant restoration of the major park access point there as well. There is the parking lot built in 2018 on Old Sambro Rd near where it meets Dunbrack Street (formerly North West Arm Drive). This location also includes a Kayak launch. Paddle boards are also popular here and can be rented from a local business.

The northern portion of Long Lake Provincial Park (north of Long Lake itself) and the adjacent Water Commission lands between the park's boundaries and the St. Margaret's Bay Rd. is home to a network of narrow single-track mountain bike trails that is noteworthy for its challenging terrain. Many of the trails are organized into a series of loops (approximately 9.5 kilometers of trail) that can be ridden a number of ways. Most trails are unmarked. Although this area of the park represents a small portion of its total area, it and an adjacent narrow strip of land at the northwest end of the park (which contains a small waterfall and a popular swimming spot) receives over 90% of the park's total usage.

Long Lake Provincial Park is home to a number of lakes and ponds. The eponymous Long Lake, with an area of 154 hectares, is the largest. It was created in the 19th century when a wooden dam was built on McIntosh Run, causing rising water levels to connect two pre-existing lakes, Cocked Hat Lake and Beaver Lake. The resultant Long Lake has a maximum depth of 30 metres.[1]

The park's second-largest water body, Spruce Hill Lake, was formed in a similar manner. A dam was built on Spruce Lake in 1867, connecting it to nearby Fosses Hill Lake. Today, the resulting Spruce Hill Lake is 102 hectares large, and has a maximum depth of 12 metres.[1]

Other lakes in the park include Witherod Lake (12 ha) and Narrow Lake (9 ha).[1]

In addition to the legal activities detailed above, illegal park uses include:

Like most other parks in Halifax, it suffered extensive tree-loss as a result of Hurricane Juan on September 29, 2003. Many paths were blocked and some of the less-used ones remain that way. Most have since been cleared by citizens, however, since the province does not actively manage provincial parks before a management plan is created and approved. The slash created by these downed trees, which include many mature large, mature spruce trees, has created a significant fire hazard, although to date this has not created a problem.

As mentioned elsewhere in the article, many of the more often used trails suffer from extensive erosion, and some have become quite wide because of people avoiding wet areas or creating short-cuts.

Water quality is good overall, but is affected somewhat by runoff from the nearby Bayers Lake Industrial Park, and locally, by off-leash dogs swimming in the lake.

In the large southern region of the park, extensive damage has been done by all-terrain vehicles, especially in boggy areas and along trails. This is an ongoing problem which will hopefully be remediated via education and more vigorous enforcement of regulations.

In November 2015, around 3.8 hectares of land within the park was illegally clearcut by a private company. Resourcetec Inc. was hired by Dexter Construction to cut trees on property owned by Dexter along Old Sambro Road, beside the park. Resourcetec subcontracted the work to Scott and Stewart Forestry Consultants, who accidentally cut down trees on Crown land. Resourcetec was alleged to be the most culpable party. The company pleaded guilty and was fined in 2016. In response to this incident, provincial fines against illegal cutting on Crown land were significantly increased in November 2016.[6]

Habitats within the park are extremely varied, and include various kinds of wetlands, old-growth vegetative successions from areas previously farmed, an area planted with pine trees by the Boy Scouts in the 1960s, extensive barrens in the southwestern portion of the park, some mixed hardwood/softwood and predominantly hardwood (oak, beech, witch hazel, birch, red maple) areas in the small northern part of the park discussed above, and extensive areas of boreal forest in the SE region - largely red and black spruce, balsam fir and red maple. As with most parts of Nova Scotia, large, old white pines dot the park, being left over from the logging which most areas underwent before their designation as watershed lands. It is worth noting that healthy populations of orchids can be found in some of the marshy portions in the park.

The park's fauna is healthy and varied and includes many deer, the occasional moose, multitudes of squirrels, fox, bobcats, chipmunks, three or four species of frogs and salamanders, many fish and bird species, beavers (who have extensively altered portions of the park), muskrats, snakes and others. Unverified reports of lynx tracks and spoor also exist[citation needed]. Bears have not been reported within the park in recent years.