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'Fixation' with Cape Breton golf course development baffles West Mabou Beach park advocate

Updated: Mar 4

Ian Nathanson Saltwire - Jan. 29, 2023

Full article published here

West Mabou Beach Provincial Park - Ian Nathanson, CAPE BRETON POST

MABOU — Lessons should have been learned from the 2021 controversy over proposed plans for a golf course at Owls Head, says a Mabou-based advocate for the West Mabou Beach Provincial Park.

“The way that was done was not very good,” Nadine Hunt, a retired teacher who chairs the West Mabou Beach Committee, told the Cape Breton Post in a phone interview on Sunday.

“Owls Head was, at the time, listed as a park reserve; it wasn’t actually listed as an official provincial park. And yet here was one group trying to overtake it for a similar project.”

Ultimately, plans for an Owls Head golf course were withdrawn, and the park has since been awarded provincial park status.

Now with talk ramping up that a Cabot Cape Breton developer is considering plans to create a privately-owned golf course on the site of West Mabou Beach Provincial Park, Hunt is renewing her call to keep the provincial park as is.

Speaking before Inverness County council on Thursday, Hunt reiterated to a packed room in Port Hood that preserving the park of its natural beauty and habitat remained paramount.

According to Hunt’s presentation, the park is home to more than a dozen threatened or endangered species — including one species indicated on a sign leading into the coastal park’s picnic area: piping plovers.

Values well documented

“The values of this park are well-documented by biologists, geologists and other experts of government, non-government and university sources,” she said in her speech.

“If you or I made one pass through the dunes with an ATV, we would be subject to a fine of up to $2,000 plus have our machine confiscated. Yet this golf proposal would turn our peaceful, pristine and healthy environment into a noisy, dusty construction zone for years as it strips away 95 per cent of the dunes and decimates the overall habitats.”

She also noted some historical background: In 1983, the land had been expropriated for what the government of the day said was “the purpose of establishing a recreational area for the public.” A proposed development of the area in 1988-89 fell through and was stopped by the department of the environment; a local campground owner tried unsuccessfully in 1999-2000 to turn the campground into a golf course, with the government of that day designating West Mabou Beach as a “natural environment park.”

Cabot’s first attempt to propose a golf course in parts of the park also was rejected for much of the same reasons, Hunt explained.

Bafffled over ‘fixation’

Yet she remains baffled why the developer from Cabot Cape Breton has, in her words, this ‘fixation’ on wanting to build a golf course on the park’s land, despite past rejections.

“The bottom line with all of this is Cabot doesn’t (seem to) care,” Hunt told the Post. “And because they coveted this spot, the developer does not respect the fact that it is a provincial park, which means it’s for all the people; that there are living things down there that need a home; and our wishes to keep this place as natural as it is.”

The Cape Breton Post attempted to reach Ben Cowan-Dewar, CEO of Cabot Cape Breton, through his assistant. But a phone call left on Friday went unreturned. Read the full article here.

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