By Yvette d’Entremont-The Weekly News
It was standing room only for the crowd of more than 300 people who packed the Bedford Legion on Sept. 27 to passionately plead for a halt to the infilling of Bedford Basin.
Members of the Save the Bedford Waterfront Society hosted what they called a community rally and information session. They’re advocating for a coastal park and preservation of a natural tidal reef and migratory bird habitat along the shores of the basin.
The message from Bedford and area residents in attendance was loud and clear. They want infilling stopped, and are demanding a completely new concept plan and vision for the waterfront that’s reached through direct consultation with residents.
“We’re asking the province to stop, protect and consult. We’re not confused about what we want,” said Save Bedford Waterfront Committee co-chair Sandra Banfield.
Neither were those in the crowd. Speaker after speaker demanded the infilling stop and that the reef be protected. They used words like appalled, frustrated and disgusted.
Criticism ran high for the HRM Waterfront Development Corporation’s concept plan that proposed 30 or more four to 12 storey buildings along the waterfront that would house close to 6,500 residents.
In addition to destruction of the reef and increased traffic in an already overburdened area, residents said the high density concept plan would result in blocked public view planes of the basin.
“Bedford Basin belongs not just to the people of Bedford..but to the people of Nova Scotia and the people of Canada,” said Bill Grace.
Longtime Bedford resident Linda Winham reflected the sentiment of many who attended the meeting.
“We want a whole new start, not just some revision of what we saw tonight,” she insisted.
Basinview Drive Community School teacher David Connolly encouraged many of his Grade 6 students to attend the meeting. Several of them stepped up to the microphone.
“What would happen to all the animals if they do this? Where are they going to go and how are they going to live?,” asked Grade 6 student Ryan Clark to huge applause.
His classmate Mary pleaded that infilling be stopped before it’s too late.
“Me and other 11-year-olds and young people are the future generation. If our voice isn’t heard now, then when will it be?,” she said.
The municipality has halted the development pending a one year traffic and transportation study, to be followed by a year of public consultations.
“It’s clear people have issues and questions with what was being proposed..Nothing that you see there (in the concept design) is planning to be built right now,” said Colin MacLean, president of the Waterfront Development Corporation.
Members of the Save the Bedford Waterfront Society’s ultimate goal is to secure a meeting with the premier. They want infilling halted, the present site used as a grassed commons area, and the concept vision scrapped in favour of a new process based on direct community consultation.
In her remarks, Banfield shared details of a conversation she had with noted Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki via a radio call-in show earlier this week. When asked about infilling of the harbour and the natural tidal reef bird habitat, Suzuki was firmly rooted in her camp.
“We should not allow any human development of any area of nature that is still existent on the planet. We’ve got to curb our economic demands that make us exploit more and more of nature,” Suzuki said.
“I say in the year 2012 it’s nuts to think of using the oceans to dump..landfill into it. We’ve got to stop using nature as a garbage can.”