Parking The Common: Documentation Of Phylum Paveia

Friends of Halifax Common are pleased to sponsor a photographic exhibition for Photopolis, an annual exhibition of photography in Halifax. Please join us for the opening reception on Tuesday, October 7, from 5 – 7 pm (location below) to congratulate collaborators Peggy Cameron and Kathleen Flanagan.

small-e-cardOpening Reception:
Tuesday  October 7, 5 to 7 PM

October 7 – 31, 2014
9:30 am – 5 pm weekdays

Dalhousie School of Architecture
5410 Spring Garden Road, Halifax
Main Entrance on the monitors

Parking The Common: Documentation of Phylum Paveia

This study classifies invading species of Phylum Paveia (parking lot) responsible for the creeping disappearance of the Halifax Common. Ecological examination reveals P.Paveia colonizes territory replacing endangered natives such as Lawnis tranquilis, Gardenia publica and Serenis communis.  Identified Paveias include Genera Bituminus (asphalt), Lapillius (gravel) and Cementus (cement) and species civitis (city), ecclesiais (church), hospitalis (hospital), imperium canadis (federal government), imperium nova scotis (provincial government), privatis (private), scholis (school), and universitis (university).  This study raises doubt about notions of improvement historically rooted in imperialist ideology that, unless mitigated, will result in further colonization.

Parking The Common is sponsored by Friends of Halifax Common and is part of Photopolis.

Halifax Common vs. Spot Re-Zoning

There are 2 proposals for spot-rezoning for highrises near the Willow Tree intersection.  These are not permitted under present planning regulations.  Please read below to learn what the implications are and how you can be involved.


When developers apply for special exemptions or changes to smaller parcels of land that ignore an existing master plan and are at odds with a big picture view of what is permitted under existing zoning regulations its known as spot-rezoning.


Near the Willow Tree intersection (Quiinpool Road, Robie & Parker Streets), two developers are trying to increase height limits and reduce or eliminate open space and set-back requirements.  These are applications for spot-rezoning.  The proposed spot-developments are looking for major exceptions to present land-use by-laws that are based on broad and comprehensive public consultation. These existing plans and regulations provide a predictable framework that guides development.

Unfortunately this kind of spot re-zoning creates exactly the sort of controversy that blames Haligonians for being against developers and change. Too bad, because a 2013 Stantec Report said lots of change for required density is permitted under the existing planning rules.

Effect of Spot-Rezoning on the Halifax Common

The 1994 Halifax Common Plan emphasizes that views, streetscapes and trees are an essential features of the Halifax Common and its perimeter.  Spot-developments allowing high-rises will permanently alter the experience of being on the Halifax Common by blocking the view and sky, increasing the shadows and increasing the wind.  When you walk home from downtown the western sky at this location will be blocked. People working or living in the private sky-scrapers will be the private owners or our Common view. As well, it sets a precedent for spot re-zoning and breaking height restrictions with any future developers who are hoping to re-develop their properties with high-rises anywhere around the perimeter of the Halifax Common.


What you can do:

An for each proposal must be completed by October 10th.
APL proposal survey >

Woodward proposal survey >

Next there will be a public meeting scheduled. The survey does not offer the option of “no change to allowable height” or “no change to allowable set-backs” but you can write this as you preferred choice in the comment section. The survey is also incorrect about the shadow effect of tall-thin buildings being less than shorter ones.

Some details:

APL Redevelopment: Presently, the corner of Quinpool and Parker Streets has a maximum allowable height of ~ 5 and 14 storeys, north-west of the Willow Tree.  The APL re-development proposal wants 12 storeys (3 times the allowable maximum) and 28 storeys (2 times the allowable maximum).

Westwood Redevelopment: The former Cruikshank’s funeral home (2 storeys) and a single family home (2 storeys) at 2032-2050 Robie Street, north-west of the Willow Tree has a maximum allowable height of ~ 4 storeys.  The Westwood re-development proposal wants 24 storeys or 6 times the allowable maximum height.

Setbacks: Existing regulations requires that apartments have a set back of 20 or 10 feet to reduce the effect on the neighbouring properties such as solar loss or wind.  Both developers are looking for complete exemptions.

In  2013 study HRM commissioned a Stantec report that concluded there is enough existing development potential within the Regional Capital to meet future density targets set out in the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy based on EXISTING height allowances.  Changing the rules to favour individual developers isn’t necessary to achieve density and existing neighbourhoods can continue to be protected.

The Halifax City Staff report favours density but ignores the results of its own Stantec Report.


Some Height Comparisons

  • Welsford Apt. – 19 storeys
  • Atlantic Hotel – 16 storeys
  • Quinpool Towers – 12 storeys
  • Aliant Building – 21 storeys
  • Fenwick Towers – 32 storeys
  • APL Proposal – 28 & 12 storeys (allowed now – 4-storey & 16 storey)
  • Westwood  Proposal- 24 storeys (allowed now – 4 storey)


Write the Mayor and Council directly at:

The Coast – Sidewalk Closed Use Other Side

total cost estimate $31 million (2011)

total cost estimate $31 million (2011)

Letters to the editor, July 31, 2014
Just like spending millions of dollars to widen Robie Street at Cunard or millions to widen Chebucto Road itself,
blowing $12.9 million on the North Park roundabouts project is out of sync with a big-picture integrated transportation strategy. The money will do nothing to reduce heavy reliance on cars by improving public transit (buses and trains), land use planning (better ways to access public transportation and active transportation) or moving people in and out of the downtown, not just cars.
As a spending priority, compare that single project’s $12.9 million to HRM’s Active Transportation budget of $42.5 million for five years ($8 million/year) and the peninsula’s five-year $100,000 bike lane budget. Or the $0 budget for the auto-ownership-alternative CarShare.
Roundabouts are out of sync with a number of major studies and plans that have major implications for commuting on and off the peninsula.These include an integrated landscape design for the North, Central and South Common committed to in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan; the final Cogswell Interchange redesign; implementation of the HRM Pedestrian Safety Committee recommendations; the HRM report on how to fix Metro Transit; and the completion of a commissioned Commuter Rail Feasibility study.
Commuter rail has been tossed around HRM for decades and always thrown out because of cost. In 2011 estimates for a route including Windsor Junction, Mill Cove, Rockingham, Mumford and the Via Rail station was estimated to have capital infrastructure costs of $31 million and operating costs of $6.6 million. The roundabouts project is almost one-third of a rail total of $37.6 and whereas commuter rail would have enormous potential to completely transform transportation for the entire region, roundabouts are single-point.
And just why are the two North Park locations a priority? If it’s about safety, shouldn’t roundabouts be built in HRM’s least safe intersections? None of HRM’s 214 pedestrian/bicycle/vehicle collisions in 2013 occurred at either of these locations. (Stats weren’t available for previous years.)
These designs are primarily to maximize vehicle flow (at least as far as the next intersection). The Halifax Cycling Coalition has lots to say about there not being a real bike lane and features to maximize cycling safety.
Cutting down 30 trees and moving 30 trees is a bit of an intrusion into existing green space so it is important that HRM finally has a tree budget, but it shouldn’t just be because of a public relations exercise. For more info see —Peggy Cameron, co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common

North Common Roundabout – The Big Picture, News 95.7 Rick Howe Show


Listen to News 95.7 The Rick Howe Show Interview with Peggy Cameron

North Common Roundabout Design (birdseye)On July 7/14 Rick Howe interviewed Peggy Cameron (representing Friends of the Halifax Common) about The Big Picture and the $12.9 million dollars spent on the North Park Roundabouts. Peggy questions how this expenditure meets HRM’s stated long term goals.

Trees, Traffic & Roundabouts

FHC isn’t wading into the pro or anti roundabout on North Park Street debate but instead asks…

North Park Street

North Park Street

1. How does this $12.9 million expenditure fit into an integrated transportation strategy* that is about moving people, not just cars into and out of the downtown?  Should the cost $12.9 million be a spending priority when HRM’s 5-year Active Transportation budget is only $42.5  ( ~ $8 million/year); the bikelane budget for the peninsula the next 5 years is only ~$100,000 and there’s no money for supporting auto-ownership-alternatives such as CarShare?
2. Why are these roundabouts being installed in advance of
a. an integrated landscape design for the North, Central and South Common based on the 1994 Halifax Common Plan?
b. a final Cogswell Interchange redesign?
c.  implementations of recommendations from the HRM pedestrian safety committee; and
d. the release of HRM’s report on how to fix Metro Transit?  This includes an in-depth commuter rail feasibility study
3. Why are the 2 North Park locations a priority ? Shouldn’t roundabouts be built in HRM’s least safe intersections?  None of HRM’s 214 pedestrian/bicycle/vehicle collisions in 2013 occurred at either of these locations. (Stats with category breakdowns aren’t available for previous years.)
4. The designs are to maximize vehicle flow. Why isn’t there a real bike lane and features to maximize cycling safety? The Halifax Cycling Coalition has lots to say on this.
5. Doesn’t cutting down 30 trees and moving 30 trees seems like a bit of an intrusion into existing green space? Couldn’t a slight design change save 2 mature elms? It is important that HRM finally has a tree budget but it shouldn’t just be because of a public relations exercise.
*An integrated transportation strategy would be looking at the big picture &

Willow Tree Roundabout

Willow Tree Roundabout

trying to reduce heavy reliance on cars by improving public transit (buses & trains) and land use planning (better ways to access public transportation and active transportation) . Fifteen years ago HRM spent millions of dollars to widen Robie Street at Chebucto (NW corner of the Halifax Common). They also spent millions to widen Chebucto Road. Part of the QEHS land swap includes plans to widen the south side of Bell Road by 38′ and remove up to 17 trees.  And add a roundabout at the Willow Tree.

Disappearing Green Space, News 95.7 Interview With Rick Howe

Peggy Cameron on News 95.7 the Rick Howe Show – 2014/07/07

Rick Howe discusses the disappearing green space on the Halifax Common with FHC’s Peggy Cameron. We have been losing more than an acre per year and City Counselors show no hurry to protect the remaining green space.

The Halifax Common – Unlock The Potential

The People's Common

It’s the People’s Common

Join the Friends in championing the Halifax Common. Your enthusiasm about caring for the heart and lungs of Halifax- 240 acres of public open space – already has strong roots in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.  Help make sure the North, Central, South Commons’ vibrancy, beauty and identity continue to strengthen our neighborhoods, our common connections to each other and remain for all to enjoy.
The 235 acres of common land that King George III granted in 1763 “for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax forever,” includes all the land bordered by Robie and North/South Park Streets between Cunard and South Streets.  Originally the predominant uses were as a military ground, for public grazing & wood, and as public open space.
Over the next two and a half centuries, public institutions were added to the common as these were seen as appropriate public uses.  Today much of this land is occupied by the hospitals, CBC television studios, Queen Elizabeth High School, the new Citadel High, Camp Hill Cemetery, Dalhousie’s Carleton campus, the Public Gardens and Victoria Park, the Museum of Natural History, All Saints Cathedral, etc.
What Happened?  In the early years the land was considered a bit of a wasteland and over the years using it for institutions and selling parcels to private owners seemed like a positive civic step.
Unfortunately, as a result, less than 1/3 of the original Common remains and more is in danger of being lost.

Op-Ed – Running Circles Around Common Plan

Celebrate the Common 250 2014Celebrate the Common 250+1  -June 23 is the 251 anniversary of the signing of the original 1763 land grant “for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever”. This year also marks 20 years of the city ignoring the 1994 Halifax Common Plan as it continues to set its own short-sighted agenda.  see more Running Circles Around Common Plan

Parking on the Halifax Common

Entrance to Temporary Garages on North Common at North ParkParking on the Halifax Common is illegal and signs are posted.  At a fundraiser held on Saturday June 7th up to 100 vehicles were parked on the North Common and at the Pavilion on the Central Common. Why didn’t  HRM staff on duty have the parking ban enforced?  Was it because they didn’t know, because permission was given or because they chose to ignore it?  Parking on the Common isn’t a new problem but it is getting worse.

100in1Day – Fun Ideas For Better Public Space

On Saturday, June 7th, 2014, Halifax joined 15 other cities around the world for 100in1Day, a festival of citizen-driven action that showcases people-ideas for a better city.

100in1Day FHC Action

100in1Day FHC Action

FHC’s “urban intervention” was a fun, low-cost way to showcase a simple idea for a better city – we cleaned a bus shelter and provided it with seating, a route map (we couldn’t find an on-line schedule), a bouquet of flowers, a 100in1Day poster, weekend newspapers and magazines and of course some Celebrate the Common 250 books.  Its the second year we’ve done it and we hope it catches on.


Questioning A New Permanent Building- June 5th

Questions and comments for consideration
1. Temporary Buildings:
a. As per the change to the legislation the only building permitted is the one exclusively to support the Oval.  What is the schedule for removal of the temporary buildings now in their 5th year?
ovalb.-The Museumplein in Amsterdam is one example of many of a public park that kept its green space by installing underground parking and buildings-there is even an underground shopping centre. Why isn’t the building being built underground with underground parking and a walkway/tunnel to the Central Common?
c. Kiosks are not legal buildings exclusively to support the Oval – Why aren’t food trucks used- they could be parked on the street?

2. Chillers:
a-The chiller building is illegal and ugly. The chillers by-product is waste heat that is not being used. Will the Chillers be put undergournd or incorporated into the basement of the new building so the waste heat can be captured for warming?
What is the level of efficiency of the chillers?
b-Is Halifax buying ghg offsets for the electricity to make the Oval more green?

3. Budget:
In 2012 the budget was $1.4 million.
a-What is the budget for the building broken down in 3 components: capital, operational and staff salaries.
b-Are staff new employees or are they taken from other recreational sites?

4. Lighting:
There is no known correlation between increased lighting and safety-only a sense of safety.  Prior to the Oval reports of crime on the Common had gone down for ten years.
The inverse square law for light states that if you double the distance of your subject from your light source you get 1/4 of the light.  If you triple it you get 1/9.  And if you use stadium lights you wreck the neighbours’ sleep.
a-Why then would you not put in more light fixtures on shorter poles thus saving money and having more effective lighting? For example 16 times the power is required to light the Oval because of the distance of the poles from the surface.

5. Oval Footprint and Aesthetics:
a-When will the road to the centre of the North Common’s temporary garages be removed and remediated?
b- When sponsorship was announced it was for the winter season not year round as the Oval was not programmed for summer use. When are the winter flags (seasonal) scheduled to be removed?
c- When are the 2010 promised improvements to the North Common not related to the Oval scheduled to take place-entrance plazas, seating, landscaping, tree planting and field improvements? In 2010 the budget was $3 million, What is the budget now?
d- Parking on the Common is not permitted and it is not safe for pedestrians, especially at the road/path/crosswalk interconnects on Cogswell and North Park. With a building there will be many more pedestrians and cars. What is the plan for enforcing parking at the Pavilion and stopping the driving on the Common along the roadway to the now temporary garage? Why is staff parking at the Pavilion permitted – why not have reserved on-street parking?

HRM Public Meeting – New Permanent Building, North Common.

Have your say about the new permanent building on the North Common
Date: Thursday June 5, 2014
Time:  6:30pm to review presentation panels & 7pm for the formal presentation
Location:  Atlantica Hotel (former Willow Tree Holiday Inn)

Isn’t it time for a big picture plan that respects the 1994 Halifax Common Plan? In March 2012 HRM found out through a legal opinion that buildings on the Common are likely illegal. So  instead of respecting the law, HRM lobbied the provincial government to change HRM’s Charter to permit the legal erection of a permanent building on the North Common in exclusive support of the Oval.

We agree that so far the aesthetic of the Oval has been a junk heap but is a new building is necessary? FHC suggested spending the money to improve the Central Common Pavilion; or to host a yearly international design competition for warming huts like Winnipeg does; or to use yurts as found in many ski hills & golf courses. These were ignored. This permanent building is another major encroachment on the remaining ~ 30 acres of the original 240 acre land grant. We like the Oval but we love the Common.  At the public meeting in 2010 everything was about the concerts and $3 million was promised for improvements to the North Common.  Now its all about the Oval.  What’s the big picture?

Book Launch and Events

Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good
Heather Menzies 

Everyone is welcomed to attend events with award-winning author Heather Menzies in celebration of the launch of her new book, Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good.

Tuesday June 3rd, 7PM
Book Launch
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer Street

Monday June 2nd,  3:30 – 6:00PM
Community Picnic/Potluck Supper
Park Avenue Oven, Dartmouth Common

Monday June 2nd,  7:30PM
Book Launch
Mahone Bay Centre

A memoir of personal and political discovery, Menzies’ focus is on the need to reclaim common resources to work together to build a better society. Her message is especially relevant to Friends of Halifax Common who present these events in cooperation with Halifax’s Lifelong Learning Network, Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies (MSVU), Common Roots Urban Farm, the Council of Canadians, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia.

Paved Garrison Ground

Parks Canada Paves Garrison Grounds

Work has begun by Parks Canada to pave the parking lots on the Garrison Grounds in anticipation of meeting more demand for parking and having more concerts.
Choosing to asphalt the Garrison Ground parking lots is really a vote against heritage, the environment, the health benefits of public open space and a vote for the car.  As with widening roads, increasing parking capacity is short sighted and limited. All it really does is create more demand.
People come from all around the world to visit Citadel Hill, a designated national heritage site-they don’t come to see new parking lots freshly asphalted.
FHC had a meeting with Parks Canada officials about the decision to pave the Garrison Grounds.  We were left with the impression that they had not done enough homework before making their decision.  There was no user study conducted (is the parking serving visitors, staff or off site clients?).  There was no
exploration of options such as carshare, bus-only, or higher parking fees to increase turn over and availability.  They were unaware they might likely have higher water fees because HRM Water Commission has a stormwater charge based on
impermeable surface.  They also have no landscaping plan in place.  They do not know how the parking lot will connect with the Citadel (if it even will).
In the case of hosting more concerts, they have not previously enforced requirements that promoters rehabilitate the grounds post-concert, and they were unaware that the city had paid ~$50,000 for a long-term agreement to access an artificial tarp to put down in advance of the concerts on the Common and that
this might be available to Parks Canada. Why not build the rehabilitation requirement into the promotor’s contract and enforce it with a bond or insurance?
A direct known outcome of climate change is that Halifax will have more extreme weather events – that means lots of rain and lots of runoff.  Anyone who walks or bikes along Bell Road in any season, especially winter knows that the sidewalk turns into a water-course. Asphalt on the Garrison Ground will make this worse.
There is limited public open space on the HRM peninsula.  If there were too many people arriving at the Public Gardens by car, it would not be acceptable to the public to have part of the Public Gardens paved.  It would not be acceptable to pave more of Central Park if there were more New Yorkers who wanted to visit the it. Why should we accept the Garrison Grounds being paved for expanded use as a
parking lot?
Now that the decision has been taken to pave the parking lot the likelihood that it will be unpaved in the course of the next 20-30 years in about zero. Its disappointing that Parks Canada would take this decision but it is also time for HRM to have a better handle on what it wants for public open space and that
parking lots are not it.

(Peggy Cameron recorded an interview on CBC Info Morning (Friday, Nov 22, 2103 ) with more detail on this topic.)

Wrap-up: Celebrate the Common 250

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Halifax Common, Friends of Halifax Common organized one big party. On October 4, 5 & 6th, 2013 we  hosted 3 days of over 50 events to commemorate the gift of the Halifax Common “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever,” by King George III in 1763.

CTCLogoThe events included a series of public walks & talks on and about the Halifax Common.  Eight commissioned works to Celebrate the Common included theatre, circus & dance performances, exhibitions, sculptures & installations.  Lots of activities happened throughout the entire area of the Common – meditation, yoga, cricket, baseball, kite-flying, henna tattoing, biking, bike-repair, drumming and potlucks.

Two books were published to highlight the history and place of the Halifax Common in the everyday lives of the people of Halifax.  Gaspereau Press and FHC launched a special anthology of original poems, “Writing the Common”.  These were selected from submissions to a special request from over thirty  authors inspired by the Common.

And a commemorative collection of archival images and maps contrasted with present day photos by Alvin Comiter documenting 250 years of the Common was be exhibited and printed, “Celebrate the Common”.

Over 11,000 people came out to view, participate and share food during the 3-day celebration.

Celebrate the Common 250

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Halifax Common, Friends of Halifax Common have organized one big party. On October 4, 5 & 6th, 2013 we will host 3 days of over 50 events to commemorate the gift of the Halifax Common “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Commons forever,” by King George III in 1763.

The events are displayed to the right. You can roll your cursor over an event to hilite it. A window will pop up with more info. Click on the title to see the full page for that event. Use arrows on the bottom of the pages to see the next event. Because there are so many events we have made an download of the full schedule with a corresponding map. New events were added to the roster after this was printed.

The Printer-friendly version of events (below) is an up-to-date version of events and is a handy summary of the on-line schedule. We’re sure ONE of these schedules will work for you!

> Download Celebrate 250_Event Schedule/Mapacrobat_icon
> Download or print-out Printer-friendly Event Schedule (7 pgs.)acrobat_icon

> See Online Events Posterboard/Schedule
> Download the entire schedule to your calendar (iCal, Outlook or Google)

> Volunteer at Celebrate the Common 250

> Register with Friends of Halifax Common to make comments on this site.

for immediate release

September 24, 2013

Friends of Halifax Common Celebrate the Common’s  250th

(Halifax) On October 4, 5 & 6, Friends of Halifax Common invite the public to join in the free festivities to Celebrate the Common 250 and help mark the 250th anniversary of Canada’s oldest Common. Events at <> are being updated daily.

In 1763, King George III gifted the 235-acre gift of the Halifax Common to the “inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever.” Numerous free public walks and talks, like October 4th’s “The Halifax Common: 250 Years of Community Use (cows, cricket, circuses, Catholics, Sir Paul and the skaters)” will explore the history and changing landscape of Canada’s oldest Common.

Commissioned art installations like Fenn Martin and Tj Ediger’s Dead Falls and Ashley Bedet’s Rabbit Trap, and performances like DaPoPo Theatre’s The Poor House, and Mocean Dance’s Common Flock will connect the audience to the Common through themes of nature, community, safety, personal inspiration and fun. Other art installations and performances like Halifax Circus take place throughout the North, Central and South Common on Saturday October 5.

Inspired by FHC and published by Gaspereau Press, a book launch of the special 250th anniversary anthology of contemporary poems, Celebrate the Common, will be held on Sunday, October 6.  FHC will also launch a commemorative collection of archival images and contemporary photos by Alvin Comiter documenting 250 years of the Halifax Common.  A  public slideshow of these images, projected on the exterior wall of the Nova Scotia Museum next to Bell Road, is scheduled.

All activities including lectures, music, tours, art projects and sports and leisure activities; such as baseball, football, cricket, Nordic Pole Walking, Yoga, meditation, kite-flying and bicycle maintenance; are free to the public. And everyone is invited to bring a Picnic, food to share, or make a purchase at the Popup-Picnic-Potluck hosted by the Common Roots Urban Farm.

As of 5pm Sept. 24 daily schedule updates will be available at:

For more information:
Peggy Cameron, (t) 429-4372/902-258-3354
Keith McPhail,, 220-1967


Poetry Call for Submissions

The call for poetry submissions is now closed.
Celebrating the Halifax Common – 250 Years

Friends of Halifax Common and Gaspereau Press look forward to launching the poetry anthology as part of the October 3, 4 and 5th celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Halifax Common.

We’ll keep you posted on details.

Welcome to our new site!

The Friends of the Halifax Common are happy to connect with you via our new site. We now have an interactive calendar of events.

Registered users can now log in and make a comments. Over time we will develop this site to facilitate discussion between FHC members and the public.

Media Release – Cost of Oval

HRM City Staff Not Calculating Real Cost of Oval

oval(Halifax) In its rush to Save the Oval, the HRM staff report on the Canada Games Oval, recommending a single centralized skating facility on the North Halifax Common, has miscalculated the price tag and budget implications.

“One cost missing is NSPI’s forecasted 20% electricity rate increase by 2015, on top of the 43% since 2002″ says Alan Ruffman, Executive member of Friends of Halifax Common.

“Another is the increased cost of energy consumption and maintenance of such a large outdoor ice surface when Environment Canada is telling us that, thanks to climate change, we’ve just come through the warmest winter on record- the 14th in a row, and one with many extreme weather events that bring high winds, high rain and snowfalls and lots of power outages,” concludes Ruffman.

Derek Hawes, project manager for the Ice Rink Energy Programme that is operated through the Recreation Facility Association of Nova Scotia, raised several concerns with HRM about the oval.

“This one facility has a similar refrigeration capacity as eight indoor community arenas, and in another location such as the Central Common or Beasley Field, the waste heat could be used to heat approximately 140 homes or the equivalent number of public buildings such as hospitals or a school,” said Mr Hawes.

“I suggested a number of other skating options, including skating paths in Victoria Park, on the Grand Parade or other community destinations where the waste heat could be used, but for the staff, the oval on the Common was a done deal,” Mr. Hawes continued.

Hawes is also concerned about the quality of the refrigeration units the city purchased: “I have reason to believe the long-term operating and maintenance costs will be significantly higher than staff projected.”

“Unfortunately, Council was misled and based their decision on misinformation provided in the staff report- If the oval goes ahead, it would be the most expensive and environmentally unfriendly rink ever built in the province.” concluded Mr. Hawes.

Friends of Halifax Common presented at several HRM Community Council meetings to urge more time be taken so the best decision is made. Members suggest that the oval could be a focus for the redesign of the Central Common or, as proposed in the original plan for the Canada Winter Games Skating oval, to have a network of community neighbourhood skating venues throughout HRM instead of forcing everyone to drive to one destination.

The North Common is less than one-third of the original public open space on the Halifax Common.

“The skating oval is another example of where the HRM staff are rushing into a poor planning decision for the Halifax Common instead of respecting a long-term master-plan,” said Beverly Miller, FHC Co-chair. “Public open space on the Halifax Common will be lost, or continue to be covered with concrete or remain under threat of commercialization as long as there is no proper public process,” concluded Miller.

The estimate for making the oval permanent is approximately $6 million dollars. Although sponsors have come forward, all HRM taxpayers will be contributing $8 per $100,000 property value. No estimates have been provided for multiple outdoor skating rinks throughout HRM.


Media Contact: Peggy Cameron-902-258-3354 / Derek Hawes-902-403-6511 (c)
View Larger Map

Media Release Earth Day – FHC Commemorate Freshwater Brook

Earth Day – Friends of Halifax Common Commemorate Freshwater Brook’s Path

photo(Halifax) Friends of Halifax Common (FHC) are marking Earth Day by outlining a portion of the historic Freshwater Brook, a watercourse that lies buried underneath the Halifax Common.

“One of hundreds of interesting suggestions from citizens of Halifax included in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan was to “daylight” or expose Freshwater Brook or even just sections of it,” said Peggy Cameron, co-chair of the Friends of Halifax Common. “Unfortunately, HRM continues to ignore that master-plan and to little by little give away or pave the public’s open space,”  concluded Cameron.

Although the Common was once defined as the land area or watershed that drained into Freshwater Brook, today the only remnant of the brook is Griffin’s Pond in the Public Gardens. The skate park is on the site of what was formerly known as Egg Pond.

“Sadly, the Halifax Common compares too well with how we humans treat our environment,” said FHC supporter Moire Peters. “Despite solid scientific understanding about our need to respect our ecosystems, we continue to pave our land, pollute our watersheds and ignore what the implications for the future will be,” concluded Ms. Peters.

Less than 1/3 of the Halifax Common’s original 235 acres that King George III granted in 1763 “for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax forever” remains as public open space. Few citizens know that the Halifax Common includes all the land bordered by Robie and North Park, Ahern, Bell Road and South Park Streets between Cunard and South Streets.

Another Earth Day Action to raise attention about the need to protect ecosystems invites Nova Scotia citizens to bring jars of tap water to the provincial legislature on Hollis Street between 1-2 pm on Friday. This rally is a call for a ban against hydraulic fracking, a method of exploration for shale gas that threatens water and air quality.


Media Contact: Peggy Cameron: 492-4372

The Path of Freshwater Brook Commemorated

photoFriends of Halifax Common celebrated Earth Day 2011 by installing 100 blue stakes along the former pathway of Freshwater Brook. Approximately 30 willow tree switches were planted alongside the blue stakes which were decorated with fish – as a reference to the former waterway. The original Halifax Common included the lands which drained into this stream that is now buried, channelled or diverted underground. The watershed was a marshy, wooded area with the stream starting above the North Common and running through the Central Common (the small Egg pond there is now part of the skate park), the Public Garden (Griffin Pond) all the way to the Halifax Harbour below Inglis Street. In former times ships would collect fresh water from this brook at the Harbour outfall.

Illustration of the Freshwater Brook’s path from “Representing Halifax: Exploring the Potential of the City through Mapping” by Matt Neville.

Media Release – $6M for Oval is Ad Hoc Planning

HRM Staff Support of $6 Million Centralized Oval is Ad Hoc Planning

(Halifax) The HRM staff report on the Canada Games Oval recommending a single centralized skating facility on the Halifax Common is ad hoc planning, according to Friends of Halifax Common (FHC). The group questions the oval’s placement, the planning process and the price tag.

“Friends of the Halifax Common definitely support an outdoor rink, but we believe other locations such as on the Central Common or the Wanderer’s Grounds, or several outdoor skating rinks in local communities throughout HRM would be just as popular as the single giant oval on the North Common” said Peggy Cameron, Co-chair of the Friends of the Halifax Common.

The North Common is less than one-third of the remaining public open space on the Halifax Common, which extends from Cunard St. to South St., bounded by Robie, North Park and South Park Streets. All decisions made by staff and council since the Halifax Common Plan was adopted in 1994 have been inconsistent with it.

HRM staff’s January 2010 North Common Master Plan included ‘improvements’ to the North Common with the major portion of the $2.7 million budget going towards permanent infrastructure for the private, expensive mega-concerts. Reference to these already made expenditures have dropped out of site.

The temporary Canada Game’s skating oval was to be on the North Common near Robie St. at the Willow Tree intersection. Instead the oval was constructed closer to North Park St. almost on top of the proposed permanent concert venue, where it straddles two baseball fields and blocks the major walking path to and from the downtown.

“The history of poor planning decisions by HRM staff with respect to the Halifax Common, means millions of scarce tax dollars continue to be squandered,” said Beverly Miller, FHC Co-chair. “Public open space on the Halifax Common will be lost or remain under threat of commercialization as long as flavour-of-the-month is the basis for decisions” concluded Miller.

The estimate for making the oval permanent is between $4 and $6 million dollars. Between 77,000-100,000 people skated on the central oval over the 77 days it was open at an estimated cost of $410,000. No estimates have been provided for multiple outdoor skating rinks throughout HRM.


Media Contact: Sheilagh Hunt- 425-3725

Birds Eye view of North Common

Birds Eye view of North Common

View Larger Map

Also see: Spacing Atlantic Article “Skating Around the Important Questions” January 21, 2011.

The Tragedy of the Common – Coast Magazine

The Tragedy of the Common: If the Common is so common, why can’t common people decide how to use it?

The Coast Magazine, Opinion – Sustainable City, by Chris Benjamin

Tragedy-of-the-Common_THECOAST – PDF

from: common/Content?oid=1503404
“Picture a pasture open to all.” So wrote Garrett Hardin in his 1968 Science article, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” His thesis was that a shared natural resource, in self-interested human hands, could only be destroyed. It was a thought-provoking article that is still invoked to advocate and justify private ownership.

The history of our own Halifax Common at times veers toward destruction, but it has survived shared ownership by the people, either because or in spite of municipal government intervention. The Common was once a shared Hardinesque pasture. It has also been a campground, a dump and a race track twice—once for horses and once for cars. It used to be much bigger, but pavement, steel and glass ate the grass.

It was granted in 1763 by King George III “for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax forever,” and we’ve been arguing about how to use it ever since. Some want more green space, some want more infrastructure. The idea of “daylighting” an underground stream was even considered, but the plan died because it would eliminate three to eight sports fields.
Since amalgamation, those decisions lie with HRM regional council.

Councillors from Hubbards to Ecum Secum decide what happens to Robie Street residents and businesses. City staff, led by real property planning manager Peter Bigelow, implement those decisions. He stood before about 75 local residents in late January and unveiled the latest multi-year plan for the North Common. “We’re only making minor adjustments,” he tells me later.

Most of the plan is good. Pathways are being widened for better bicycle and police vehicle access, as per a new crime prevention strategy. Lighting will be improved, and the fountain is being upgraded. Trees are being planted. A massive new rink is going in for the Canada Games, and will be open to the public for much of next winter. (Strangely, it will be relocated after that, presumably to the district of the councillor who wins the blindfolded cage match.)
The controversy is over mega-concerts. “We’re going to upgrade one area,” Bigelow explains, at Cogswell and North Park. A hard, permanent sub-surface will be placed under the grass, and a power source and seating will be added. Instead of experimenting with different parts of the Common, concert promoters will be funnelled into one corner, presumably cutting down on Keith Urban-type desecration of the whole park. The cost will beabout $600,000.

Bigelow says the Common is ideal for audiences in the tens of thousands because it is walking distance from the homes of 50,000 Haligonians, cutting down on auto traffic. But its immediate neighbours aren’t thrilled at the prospect of more surviving Beatles, Eagles and Monkees, and the eating, drinking, pooping masses they bring.

“Mega-concerts don’t fit the spirit of common land,” says Jill Ceccolini, who has lived nearby since 1994. “They don’t support local music, they’re not accessible or community-spirited.

“Parking is disrupted, you see people peeing on your yard or trying to sit on your porch, throwing cigarette butts—there’s no clean-up outside the actual Common.”

Daniel Rainham, who lives near the Common and is an environmental health professor, is put off by the scale of the concerts.
“With such limited space it seems unreasonable to shut down all other uses for one concert,” he says. “I don’t see anything wrong with having smaller, less invasive shows.”

Ceccolini believes that the motivation for mega-concerts is economic gain for a few promoters, who along with the city are “treating the community as a commodity. Maybe the city doesn’t have a sense of what people want.”
She feels that the money—both this new infrastructure and the subsidization of concerts themselves—would be better spent showcasing local artists. Rainham suggests budgeting for “maintenance of existing facilities and planning for different future uses other than hospitals and schools and parking lots—based on a broader discussion of what people really want.”

Ceccolini calls the January public meetings a “slick sell job,” rather than the genuine consultation she thinks the Common deserves.

Bigelow disagrees, saying that mega-concerts are just one tick on the city’s checklist of cultural programming. He adds that the popularity of mega-concerts speaks volumes. “When you have 40,000 people showing up to a concert they’re voting with their feet.”

Further consultation seems unlikely. “Council has already had that discussion,” Bigelow says. Call it the tragedy of the Halifax Common: what is supposedly for everyone has been decided by the few.


Article The Right to the Common – by Katie McKay

from: SPACING ATLANTICguach-ptg_common

HALIFAX – Last Wednesday January 20th, HRM staff presented the plan “Improvements to the North Common” [PDF] to a full house, where there were more people in attendance than there were chairs. The presentation of the plan lasted an hour, and although only 30 minutes was set aside for input from the public, the question period ended up continuing for over an hour and a half, until only a handful of people were left in the room.

In this new century, we are facing a different kind of threat to public space— not one of disuse, but of patterns of design and management that exclude some people and reduce social and cultural diversity… to read more download pdf

Drawing Green Parallels – Chronicle Herald

Drawing Green Parallels
Commons supporters, climate change activists join forces to highlight need to protect nature

By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE Staff Reporter, The Chronicle Herald

’Our vanishing Halifax Common(s) is a metaphor for the disappearance of our global Common, most urgently our atmosphere and climate’ SHEILA HUNT – Friends of the Halifax Common

Remnants of the original Halifax Commons are representative of the “disappearance of our global Common,” park lovers and climate change fighters say.

An event promoting today’s International Day of Climate Action and bemoaning the vanishing Halifax Commons was held Friday afternoon. Less than one-third of the Halifax Commons’s original 95.1 hectares, granted in 1763 by King George III, is public open space, say Friends of the Halifax Common.

Members and supporters drew a line around the entire perimeter of the original Commons. Volunteers were supplied with chalk at various meeting points around the site.

“Our vanishing Halifax Common(s) is a metaphor for the disappearance of our global Common, most urgently our atmosphere and climate,”” said Friends member Sheila Hunt.

“Our air, water, and land — the common heritage of all people — are being degraded,” she said in a release. “How we choose to deal with the finite natural resources of our planet has lasting repercussions for future generations.”

Today, the climate change event begins at 2 p.m. near the pavilion on the Commons, which is by the park’s swimming and wading pools.

The event is part of the global <> movement.

Similar happenings are being planned for Wolfville, Bridgewater and other communities in the province.

Canadian delegates in December will join those from other countries for a UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

Regarding the dwindling Commons, Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown) said many residents in her district would like to see land reclaimed for use as public green space.

This is a test

But priorities shift, she said, and decision-makers must address society’s needs.

Ms. Sloane pointed to the site of the former Queen Elizabeth High School, which she said is on original Halifax Commons land.

She said the property is part of a land swap with the province, and the government could end up using it for additional space for the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.

Having said that, Ms. Sloane said she supports at least considering the possibility of reclaiming Commons land when an opportunity arises.

“I think it’s something that we have to have in the back of our heads when we see land swaps or land deals going on,” she told The Chronicle Herald.

According to the Friends, halting the land swallowing that’s gone on is just what the politicians should be doing.

“The lack of appreciation of the need for green space allowed the land to be assigned other uses over the years, including hospitals, schools and other public and private institutions. It’s time to halt, or even reverse, that trend,” says the group’s website.

’Our vanishing Halifax Common(s) is a metaphor for the disappearance of our global Common, most urgently our atmosphere and climate’ SHEILA HUNT – Friends of the Halifax Common

Take a Chalk Around the Common

Halifax, NS- In support of, International Day of Climate Action, Friends of Halifax Common are inviting the public to volunteer to help them in drawing a chalk line around the entire perimeter of the original Common. Join them on Friday October 23rd from 12-2 p.m.

Less than 1/3 of the Halifax Common’s original 235 acres granted in 1763 by King George III is public open space.

“Our vanishing Halifax Common is a metaphor for the disappearance of our global Common, most urgently our atmosphere & climate” said Sheila Hunt of the Friends. “Our air, water, and land – the common heritage of all people – are being degraded. How we choose to deal with the finite natural resources of our planet has lasting repercussions for future generations.”

Volunteers will be supplied with chalk at meeting points around the Common and asked to use their imagination to illustrate the border of the Common with drawings of sheep & cows, cabbage & corn or words to encourage governments to act on climate change.

“Without truly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels we will continue to put the entire global common at risk,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada, Atlantic Chapter. “We hope this early action to re-define the Common will bring attention to the International Day of Climate Action. The website, has information on what people and communities are doing worldwide.”

Meeting points for volunteers to get chalk and directions are: Robie St. at Cunard, Jubilee or University; South Park St. at South or Spring Garden Rd.; Bell Rd. across from the Bengal Lancers and North Park St. at Cogswell.

Click here for a map of the commons
Information on October 24th International Day of Climate Action:
Sign the Kyotoplus petition:>

For more information contact (en francais aussi)

Peggy Cameron, FHC co-chair and Executive: 902-492-4372


Media Release – Common for Sale?

Is the Halifax Common for Sale?

HRM Council is going to sell the Queen Elizabeth High School site, Halifax Common land. This is to facilitate Flagship Developments on Spring Garden Road & Queen (the new public library) and the Grand Parade & Province House.

The Halifax Common Plan is very specific about the amount of city-owned land in the Halifax Common not being decreased (3.1). The Plan recommends preserving public open space for a variety of outdoor recreation and leisure activities or other suitable public uses.

It specifically mentions the Queen Elizabeth High School as being an example of a property to be returned to the city when it is declared surplus by the School Board. At 5.5 acres it is the largest parcel of land that could revert to public open green space.

Friends of the Halifax Common believes the newly constructed Halifax Infirmary Emergency site (which happened without due process) could be leased to the province BUT the balance of the Queen Elizabeth High School lands should become public open green space.

Details on what the city is proposing can be found at:

What’s wrong with the HRM staff report:

HRM Council has “flagship development” projects slated for Spring Garden Road /Queen Street and Grand Parade / Province House.
These projects “balance future land use objectives with the goal of creating a liveable, prosperous, vibrant, attractive urban and legislative precinct respectively”. This will be facilitated through a land sale, including Halifax Common land- the 5.5 acres from the former Queen Elizabeth High School.
FHC SAYS: Why can’t the Halifax Common be HRM’s flagship undevelopment?
The Halifax Common creates a “liveable, prosperous, vibrant, attractive urban precinct” – why wreck it?
There will always be a reason to give away the Common. Imagine New York allowing 5.5 acres of Central Park to be sold for a building.
The Real Cost?

HRM is trading 269,994 ft2 for the province’s 131,330 ft2
It’s getting half as much land (137, 664 ft2 difference) but its still paying the province $1.9 million.

FHC SAYS: Is this good dollar value?
Would a farmer make this decision about a piece of land?

From the HRM Staff report:

Amount of land being transferred to the Province in ft2
255,742 + 13252 = 268,994
Amount of land being transferred to HRM:
47,040 + 84290 = 131,330
Public Green Space:

All of the lands traded will be used for buildings. There is no net gain in public open green space.

FHC SAYS: It is projected that the peninsula population will be increased by 15,000 to 20,000 by 2020. Build a building on Common land and we lose that land for another 100 years.

A lot of details on what HRM is proposing for land use are about traffic:
widening Bell Road 38 feet to four lanes- to ease the flow of cars, buses, emergency vehicles and no kidding cyclists!;
new building design by the captial district health has to leave space to accommodate future traffic and intersection improvements at Robie and Bell Road and Bell Road at Trollope (a rotary anyone?)
FHC SAYS: Widening roads doesn’t work & is not sustainable.
It’s like going on a diet by loosening your belt – that’s not sustainable prosperity!
Health Care:

HRM staff cite CBC radio interviews as their source for evidence that the VG site is in bad conditions. They don’t cite the Dal Surgery 2007 report which gives many examples of how efficiencies could be improved within the existing infrastructure:
– completing the 6th floor of the Dartmouth General;
– increasing long-term care bed numbers,
– using efficiencies within the region etc.

The report mentions… ” with changing demographics, additional hospital capacity/beds is expected”
…”health care is a major economic contributor to HRM, the province and to peninsula Halifax and expansion at the QEII complex would add 2000-3000 staff”

FHC SAYS: Why would the city (and province) supporting a model that promotes illness as an economic driver rather than wellness?
Why isn’t Capital Health building up- increasing density, instead of out?
Are all Nova Scotians going to receive health care in Halifax?
Health Benefits from Public Green Space:
There is lots of evidence that even small parks in the heart of our cities can protect us from strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stress and perhaps even promote faster healing after surgery.

These benefits are also linked to reducing the “health gap” between rich and poor. A recent report in the British medical journal The Lancet (there are many others!) determined Green Space reduces the “health gap” between rich and poor.

FHC SAYS: Not everyone has a cottage or an out of town vacation. Public open space is free!
Many of Halifax residents live in apartments and don’t own cars, are seniors or students and live on fixed incomes.
Bill 204

In order to be able to SELL the Common, HRM requires an Act of the Legislature, Bill 204.
An Act to Enable the Transfer of Lands Necessary for the Expansion of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre

At Law Amendments FHC stated:
The Act to enable the selling of part of the Halifax Common does not respect the 1763 vision of King George III nor the 1994 vision of citizens and Halifax city staff who developed the Halifax Common Plan.

FHC requested: …that the Act be reworded to allow the new Halifax Infirmary site to be leased to the province but keep the balance of the Queen Elizabeth High School land as public open green space.

Friends of Halifax Common Challenge Sale of Common Land – Media Release

Friends of Halifax Common (FHC) are calling on the provincial government to stop the sale of 5.5 acres of Halifax Common land at the former Queen Elizabeth High School (QEHS). The QEHS land is included in a land swap between HRM and the province. FHC says this a bad deal. HRM will lose public open green space, pay $1.9 million for the land swap but will acquire half as much as land as the province.

All the traded land will be for two “Flagship Developments” purportedly to create a livable, prosperous, vibrant, attractive urban and legislative precinct.”

“What’s wrong with the Halifax Common being the Flagship Un-development?” asks FHC co-chair Peggy Cameron. “Isn’t supporting public parks and open green space, places to walk a dog, throw a Frisbee, go for a run, or plant a garden just as important for creating a healthy, vibrant, livable city as building more buildings?”

“What’s at stake is the park used by many Halifax residents who live in apartments and are students, young families or seniors with low incomes,” said Cameron, noting that the skate park and only children’s play ground on the North Common are directly opposite the ambulance driveway to the new hospital emergency entrance.

By ignoring the 1994 Halifax Common Plan’s instruction to retain all land in the Halifax Common including the QEHS, Council continues to whittle away at the public area bounded by Cunard, South, Robie and North and South Park streets. Less than one-third of the original 235 acres of the Halifax Common remain.

“Where is the overall vision for how the city could be look? That scale of landmark is like New York’s Central Park,” FHC co-chair Beverly Miller explains. “Imagine the uproar in Manhattan if the City gave away 5.5 acres for a building.”

HRM’s staff report promises lots of green setbacks and walkways, but based on similar pledges when part of Tower Road was given to the VG hospital, the city’s track record on such promises is poor.

“It’s incredible that after Chebucto Road, that HRM is ‘easing traffic circulation’ by widening Bell Road 38 feet,” said Laena Garrison, Ecology Action Centre’s transportation expert. “The proposed bike lane’s location, on an ambulance route along a busy thoroughfare through a large intersection, is questionable in terms of safety” stated Garrison.

HRM needs the provincial government to pass Bill 204 to sell the Common. Presenters before Law Amendment’s Committee suggested the government help protect the Common by leasing the new emergency site to Capital Health but keeping the rest of the QEHS lot as green, open, and Common.

The British medical journal The Lancet recently reported that green space reduces the “health gap” between rich and poor The Regional Plan wants 15,000 – 20,000 more residents on the peninsula by 2025 without any plan for additional open space.

– 30 –

For more information contact:
Peggy Cameron, FHC co-chair and Executive: 902-492-4372
Beverly Miller, FHC co-chair and Executive: 902-429-9540