Newville Lake picnic area closed to public

Andrew
Andrew Wagstaff
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Government balks at slight rent increase on property

HALFWAY RIVER – For the first time in more than 40 years, visitors to what was the Newville Lake day-use park are being greeted by a fence and a locked gate.

Steven Jenkins is upset with the recent closure of the Newville Lake provincial day-use park, and is hoping the department of natural resources and the property's owner can come to an agreement to reopen the park to the public.

The property is no longer a provincial park, due to the expiry of the lease between the department of natural resources and its private landowner, much to the displeasure of at least one person who used it on a regular basis.

Steven Jenkins of Springhill said he and his family have been stopping at the park for years, and had no idea it was even in danger of closure until he saw “private property” signs there earlier this year.

“Not everybody knows it by name, but everybody knows what it is and where it is,” said Jenkins. “Everybody I spoke to has brought their kids fishing here, and that’s why I’m angry, because I bring my grandkids here.”

Established in 1972 as a roadside provincial picnic park, the Newville Lake park was unique in the provincial parks system because it was operated through a private land lease, according to department of natural resources spokesperson Bruce Nunn.

“The province has determined that renewal of the lease is not appropriate at this time and the province will focus its efforts on the provincially-owned lands that comprise the Parks and Protected Areas Plan released in August 2013,” said Nunn. “There are no other changes in provincial park openings in the province.”

Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie has confirmed that the closure was a result of the department failing to come to terms with the owner on the renewal of the lease. he said hhe province was offering a lease of $1,550 for five years, while the owner wanted $2,000 over five years, amounting to a difference of less than $100 per year. According to Jenkins, the province countered with an offer of $1,750 over five years, a difference of only $250.

Property owner Cameron Fullerton said it's not even about a dollar value for him, but said he was told last November that the department did not want the property anymore.

The operating costs for the park were $6,500, and it was looked after by staff from the department of natural resources office in Parrsboro. But Baillie contends that the operating costs were not an issue for the government, as it was prepared to pay them under the lease agreement it offered.

“I think it’s a disgrace that the park is going to close over a couple hundred dollars,” said Baillie, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. “The benefits to the area far outweigh the trivial amounts involved.”

Baillie raised the issue in the legislature last week, calling on the province and the landowner to get back together and work out a deal.

Meanwhile, the Municipality of Cumberland County is also in discussions about possibly opening the property back to the public as a municipal park, something neither Baillie nor Jenkins think is necessary.

“We’re talking about $250, which is less than the premier spends on lunch in a week,” said Jenkins. “What really aggravates me is they have allowed this to drag on until now, to the point where we have ‘private property’ signs up there and a gate. I have all the sympathy in the world with the gentleman who owns the property, because this is a typical government move of closing this park without telling the people.”

Jenkins said he has met people from all over the world at the park, including countries such as New Zealand, Germany, France and Switzerland.

Baillie said he appreciates that the municipality is working on a “Plan B,” but said he is not ready to let the provincial government off the hook yet.

“This is an example of bureaucracy going crazy when common sense should prevail,” he said. “Given the small amounts involved, surely they can come to some agreement in the middle.”

Fullerton said the property goes back for generations in his family, and that he has no plans for it right now, although he has been offered money from a private individual to park a trailer on it for the summer. He said he is open to discussions with the province again.

awagstaff@citizenrecord.ca

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Organizations: Progressive Conservative Party

Geographic location: Newville Lake, Parrsboro, Cumberland County New Zealand Germany France Switzerland

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Recent comments

  • wingman
    May 05, 2014 - 11:12

    Don't expect much from Baillie. I asked him to look into the shooting range in Oxford. Got one reply and nothing else. This area not important enough for him. His eye is on HRM where all the votes are.

  • justagirl
    May 05, 2014 - 10:09

    If it wasnt an issue of money, why not just take the governments counter offer???

  • ralph
    May 01, 2014 - 22:06

    This seems a lot like the stairway to the Joggins beach a few years ago .DNR removed them without any input from the community these people come up with any excuse at all to get out of doing a little bit of work..Where has the days of a little common sense gone like come on why would anyone close a park that is well used over a few hundred dollars.Maybe if their pay was looked at the way these leases have been maybe these people would think different.

  • David
    May 01, 2014 - 16:59

    From Amherst to Pugwash there are about 7 or 8 Provincial parks some with washrooms. When you leave Amherst to go to Springhill Parrsboro, Advocate, Five Islands there are no provincial parks or picnic areas. Why?

    • ralph
      May 01, 2014 - 22:10

      This seems a lot like the stairway to the Joggins beach a few years ago .DNR removed them without any input from the community these people come up with any excuse at all to get out of doing a little bit of work..Where has the days of a little common sense gone like come on why would anyone close a park that is well used over a few hundred dollars.Maybe if their pay was looked at the way these leases have been maybe these people would think different.

    • ralph
      May 01, 2014 - 22:18

      Its simple Dave the same old crew thats been there for years who do what ever they feel like ,no one to answer to .Maybe time to replace them.Almost sounds like some Fire Departments ,think they own them after being there a while.

  • ron canning
    May 01, 2014 - 11:21

    if it were my property i would open it to the public , it's really no good for anything else , everything comes down to money

    • noodle
      May 08, 2014 - 08:49

      To Ron Canning: I can see why the owners don't open it to the public - it's a liability issue. If someone gets hurt on the property the owners are liable. When the province was looking after it they covered the liability, but why should the owner have to take out insurance so the public can use his/her land - public rest stops should be the province's responsibility not individual land owners.