Online public consultation is now underway to determine the public’s thoughts on turning Carters Beach in Port Mouton into a provincial park.
In April, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin announced that 61 properties owned by the province would be protected and designated as wilderness areas and nature reserves. The aim is that the additional sites would support the government’s new 14 per cent land protection goal.
As part of the process, 60-day online consultations are to take place for several locations, including Carters Beach.
The process began July 13 and will continue through to September 27.
“In the past few years, a lot of effort has gone into determining the best way to manage this site to protect its natural features while sustaining public use,” Deborah Bayer said in an email. Bayer is the communications advisor for the Nova Scotia departments of Land and Forestry and Transportation and Active Transit.
“We believe the designation under the Provincial Parks Act will better help us meet our objectives for the site while balancing compatible recreational use.”
Carters Beach includes more than 95 hectares of coastal dune, forested dune, saltmarsh, and offshore islands including Spectacle Island and Jackies Island.
What to do about Carters Beach has been an ongoing concern of people in the local community, some of whom formed their own advocate group several years ago.
Carters Beach was originally purchased by Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources after it was identified as an important ecological site in the early 1970s.
It was labelled as a protected beach several years ago under the Beaches Act for that same reason.
In 2016, the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) stopped advertising and promoting the area due to its lack of facilities and concerns of the residences in the area. There is not adequate parking, no permanent washroom facilities and very few garbage containers on site.
RQM council has advocated to the province on several different occasions to either expand its offerings or find ways to limit access. A Carters Beach advocate group was formed several years ago made up mainly of people that live on Carters Beach Road, a narrow thoroughfare that is the only way in or out of the beach.
No Parking signs were posted on one side of the road several years ago as many times there was not enough room for vehicles to drive through; temporary washrooms have been set up for many years and a pack-in and pack-out garbage campaign started in 2018.
Carters Beach has seen up to an estimated 500 people a day come to the beach on long weekends over the past few years. Yet, the main beach parking lot itself can hold only about 15 vehicles.
In the latest attempt to get the province to move forward to introduce more protection or to make it into more of a site with better infrastructure, in 2020 RQM's council proposed that a working committee made up of local representatives, council and provincial groups be formed to get some plans moving forward. There had been no response to this request.
The property was also identified to become a nature reserve in 2013, however that did not happen and each year members of the council and the sitting mayor have listened to complaints in one form or another.
RQM Mayor Darlene Norman says that the beach became more popular about 10 years ago with photos of it hitting social media, causing more people to come and check out the pristine waters and white sand beaches.
She recognizes the allure of the beach for travellers but wants people to avoid the area.
“Until it is deemed a provincial park and adequate infrastructure is added, such as parking, washroom facilities and accessible access to the shore, don’t go,” she said. “It is unkind and unfair for those people in the neighbourhood to have driveways blocked, people lining the sides of the road, parking under no parking signs. There are so many other beaches on the South Shore with adequate infrastructure. I’m asking people to please avoid Carters Beach.”
Norman said she has not gone to the beach during the summer for many years because of the parking issues and the sheer number of people that invade the beach each summer.
She encourages people to have their say online and make their opinions known.
For access to the consultation site go to www.novascotia.ca/parksandprotectedareas.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin