The new Peggys Cove viewing platform will mostly replace a paved turning lane and won't be built over any important Mi'kmaw sites, the CEO of Develop Nova Scotia said Tuesday.
Jennifer Angel leads the provincial Crown corporation building the platform. Angel said she listened to the protests against the platform over the weekend and understands how much people care about the area.
"We're reclaiming that space for people," she told CBC Radio's Information Morning.
Angel said 12,000 square feet of the deck will replace an existing paved turning circle. Another 2,000 square feet will extend beyond that, she said.
"There's a portion we're calling the Nose that is cantilevered out over some of the rocks in a bit of a more dramatic experience," she said.
People will still be able to walk over the rocks and paths to the lighthouse and enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean, she said.
Some of the weekend protesters complained that they hadn't been consulted. A Mi'kmaw activist said it could block access to sacred sweet grass.
Angel said they've been consulting widely since 2018, including with the 40 people who live in the village.
"This is the largest and deepest public engagement we've ever done," she said. "But we do think the concerns raised are authentic and are rooted in a true desire to protect the place."
Angel said she's spoken to the Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre in Halifax and with the activist, and has planned a site visit with them and a botanist.
"We're 99 per cent confident we're not in conflict with any sacred sites, but we're going to double check. And we will not be building a platform over a sacred Mi'kmaw site," Angel said.
Angel said people can join a public webinar Thursday at 6 p.m. to learn more.
'It's what a kind society does'
Paul Vienneau, an activist for people with disabilities and Halifax's accessibility consultant, said the platform will open up Peggys Cove to more people.
"I've had a 30-year span where I haven't been able to take part fully in many things," said Vienneau, who uses a wheelchair. "When I hear my human rights and my right of access easily debated away, it kind of makes me feel like I don't count as a citizen."
He said making the spot accessible to more people outweighs the changes to the area.
"I think it's what a kind society does. I think it's what an enlightened society does," he said.
"To have a safe place to sit in that air and look at all the rocks and the lighthouse and the ocean — I can't wait for that."
Gerry Post, an accessibility advocate, also welcomed the changes. He praised Develop Nova Scotia for taking accessibility seriously and said they've done great work.
"Before I became disabled — I use a wheelchair — I used to go frequently. Whenever visitors come from away, it's the first thing you do, right? You go to Peggys Cove and show it off and enjoy it," he said Tuesday.
"Since that, I've been there once, but basically sat in the car in the parking lot. It's not a very accessible place to enjoy that wonderful space there."
Post hopes the new public bathrooms will be fully accessible, including changing tables for young children and for adults who need support.
"It's not a big expense when you design it in from the front end," he said.
Work has not started on the platform, but it's due to open in June.
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