Battle over access to Sherbrooke Lake almost over

It's been almost two decades in the making and now two municipalities on the South Shore have finally found some common ground all centred on one of the largest lakes in Nova Scotia.

The municipal districts of Lunenburg and Chester dipped their toes into compromise and voted to work together on meeting the concerns of cottage owners and residents all looking to enjoy the benefits of Sherbrooke Lake. 

Back in September, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg bought two parcels of land for $254,000 with the idea of building a lake access park. The land purchased happened to fall within the Municipality of the District of Chester, which prompted residents in the area to demand a say in how the land would be developed.

'Being good neighbours'

Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, mayor of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, said "it all boils down to being good neighbours."

A park advisory committee will be formed with representatives from both municipalities. 

Bolivar-Getson stresses the committee will act in an advisory role only and her municipality will be financially responsible for the development and maintenance of the land purchased.

"We will be responsible for making the decisions and contributing the funding concerning the activities, features and design of the property," she said.

A stewardship committee will also be appointed to evaluate and monitor the park with representation from both municipalities.

A 'fishy' dispute

Despite the progress made in the dispute, Sherbrooke Lake cottage owner Greg Stokes still doesn't understand why the two municipalities were fighting over access to the lake in the first place. 

Stokes says it's a huge expense and thinks the money should be spent elsewhere in small communities that already have a multitude of parks on lakes in Lunenburg and Chester counties.

"It seems fishy to me. Why this push? And especially fishy, why purchase land in somebody else's municipality?" 

Lake pollution concerns

His biggest concern about opening the lake to the public is further pollution. 

"It's a lake that already has some algae difficulties, similar to what happens every year at Lake Torment just several miles away where algae blooms happen, when the water warms in the summer and the lake is closed for weeks at a time to the extent that you can't even let your dog swim in it. It's toxic."

Cottage owner Hugh Harper said he's concerned about the potential spread of invasive species to the lake, but is happy the municipalities have come to an agreement. 

"It finally gives public access to the lake in a controlled environment," said Harper. 

He said the agreement also addresses the main concern of power boats by limiting the size to 4.2 metres or less. He also points out that the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg will install a launch system similar to one on Church Lake that prevents a trailer from backing into the water. 

Public access

Bolivar-Getson won't say when access will be granted or when development will begin on phase one, which could include a park, hiking trails and picnic area.

"We would like to provide public access as soon as we can, but again, that comes down to the budget process and the availability to have the funds and move forward in that manner."