Save Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes


Canoeists on Susies Lake, one of several Birch Cove Lakes put in danger by facilitator’s report. Photo by Irwin Barrett. Used with permission.

Here is my open letter to Mayor Mike Savage and Halifax councillors.

Dear Mayor Savage and Councillors,

From the moment I took my first hike in the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area, I was amazed by the beauty of the landscape. With all the lakes, trees, streams, and rock outcroppings providing stunning views, it was pure Canadiana in all its splendour.

I fear with the recent facilitator’s report that some councillors will forget about the promise that was made by council to create an urban wilderness park in conjunction with the province. I also fear that Council is not fully aware of the tremendous opportunity that will be lost. The Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park is an opportunity to create a mini-Kejimkujik within our city limits.

It would be a tremendous recreational destination that would be accessible to all in Halifax because one could get to it on a city bus. Once there, one could enjoy a quick paddle or rent a canoe. There is a portage route around the lakes that provides the quintessential Canadian experience right in our backyard. We need to preserve this and promote it, not allow more urban sprawl.

No decision to set land aside for parkland is ever regretted. Point Pleasant Park, Shubie Park, Hemlock Ravine, and Fleming Park are just a few of the cherished parks we have in our city.

The recent facilitator’s report failed to achieve its stated objective or even meet the stated terms of reference. Please reject it and do not enter into any secondary planning with the landowners. Instead, I urge Council to purchase these lands and make this park a reality. If you do, it will be your finest accomplishment and a legacy for which future generations will thank you.


Ryan Van Horne

NOTE: If you would like to learn more about this issue, please go to this link on the city’s webpage and read the facilitator’s report. If you would like to make your own comment, you can e-mail directly to or use this link provided by CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Wilderbeats know how to connect with kids

The Wilderbeats in concert at The Music Room in Halifax while recording a promotional video.

I made my debut for Halifax Magazine in their June issue with my article and photo spread on The Wilderbeats, a children’s band from Halifax. (See story here.) My kids are big fans of the group and watching them in concert and interviewing them provided me with some insight on why kids and grownups who listen to their music love it so much.

The three members of The Wilderbeats — past and present — have two important things in common.

  1. They love connecting with kids during a performance, and;
  2. Their catchy music has a clever way of educating people about nature.

The first reason is why they have dedicated so much time to the genre despite the difficulties children’s musicians face achieving commercial success. The latter is why their music is so noteworthy and not only deserves to be famous, but should be.

For Ashley Moffat, who started The Wilderbeats in 2001 with Joyce Saunders, her personality doesn’t change when she’s on stage. She treats kids the same way she would treat an adult and that’s likely because she admits to having a little bit of kid in her.

“They’re just my buddies, I don’t talk down to them,” she said during an interview for the feature article in the June issue of Halifax Magazine.

Audience participation is a key ingredient in any Wilderbeats performance and part of why they love performing for kids says Shannon Lynch, who replaced Moffatt as Saunders’s sidekick in 2009.

“How boring can you get if you don’t want to children to join in,” Lynch says. “They just want to mimic, they want to be part of it. Kids are the greatest audience ever because they don’t lie to you. If they don’t like what’s going on, they will just shut down. It’s amazing, as a performer, to have a clear read on your audience.”

When Moffatt is writing music, she looks for inspiration in nature and while she often sings about Canadian wildlife, she admits some creatures catch her fancy from afar. One such song would be Clickety Clack, I’m a Yak.

“I come across things that I think are cool,” Moffat said. I put it in a song and try to make it fun.”

Fun indeed; I’ll forever remember my three-year old coming into our kitchen while that song was playing and hopping and bopping to the tune.

For Saunders and Lynch, their love of nature — and sharing that with kids — comes out in their music.

“We have a really deep appreciation of the Earth and all of the different creatures,” said Lynch. “We can share that with children and hopefully, cultivate, instill and inspire an appreciation and an excitement on their part about some of that immense beauty.”

Lynch has teased Saunders about her song Himalaya, Home of Snow because it’s a bit too “chewy” or technical. It’s a beautiful song, though, and teaches kids a great deal about the world’s greatest mountain range.

Saunders takes the ribbing good-naturedly, but adds “kids are way more intelligent than we are in many ways. There’s a certain age where kids like to know stuff. They really want to know the big words or how things work.”