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Protesters at Peggys Cove gather to shine light on effect of proposed viewing platform


PEGGYS COVE, N.S. —

The sea was calm on Saturday afternoon at Peggys Cove, but emotions ran high as a group gathered to express their concerns about changes to Nova Scotia’s world-famous scenic shoreline attraction overlooking St. Margarets Bay.

Roughly a dozen people under the banner of the newly formed group Save the Natural Beauty of Peggys Cove turned out to protest the Jan. 15 joint provincial and federal announcement of a $3.1 million development at the site. The project will include a new boardwalk and an extensive viewing platform extending over the rocks between the Sou’Wester gift shop and restaurant and the cove’s iconic lighthouse.

Organized by area residents and sisters Peggy Pippy and Laura Armstrong — who also created the Save the Natural Beauty of Peggy’s Cove group on Facebook — Saturday’s event was meant to point out how the new addition will forever alter the picture-postcard landscape that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area every year.



The group Save the Natural Beauty of Peggys Cove held a small rally Saturday to protest a development of a viewing platform announced last week by the Nova Scotia government. They say it will take away from the natural beauty of the area. - Eric Wynne/Chronicle Herald
The group Save the Natural Beauty of Peggys Cove held a small rally Saturday to protest a development of a viewing platform announced last week by the Nova Scotia government. They say it will take away from the natural beauty of the area. - Eric Wynne/Chronicle Herald

By the same token the project’s planner, Crown corporation Develop Nova Scotia, says it’s the constant influx of tourists that has made the changes necessary in able to facilitate bigger crowds and offer greater accessibility to the site for those with mobility issues.

“There is some work that is needed for greater accessibility. To this extent, absolutely not,” Pippy told reporters gathered outside the Sou’wester. “This is going to take away from the natural beauty of Peggys Cove, any concrete structure would.”

Like many Nova Scotians, Pippy only learned of the new development when it was featured in the news on Jan. 15. However, the Nova Scotia government issued a request for proposals in November 2019 that included plans for the viewing platform and new boardwalks as well as improved walking trails, more washrooms, an overflow parking lot and roadway improvements.

But Pippy echoed the sentiment of other local residents who feel that the consultation process did not adequately address their concerns.

“Absolutely, there should have been more consultation with the people of the province, and we want to know why this was hidden from the public until last week,” said the St. Margarets Bay resident, who feels the information about the changes to Peggys Cove was not made known in a widespread manner.



This illustration provided by Develop Nova Scotia shows the location of the planned viewing platform and route changes at Peggys Cove. - Contributed
This illustration provided by Develop Nova Scotia shows the location of the planned viewing platform and route changes at Peggys Cove. - Contributed

In a guest editorial published by the Chronicle Herald, Develop Nova Scotia president and CEO Jennifer Angel described a two-year process of formal and informal meetings with the community, local businesses, members of the tourism industry and the Mi’kmaq community over both the need for infrastructure improvements at Peggys Cove and any concerns the development might raise.

“The process wasn’t perfect, and COVID-19 added a layer of additional complexity in our engagement efforts,” wrote Angel, “but this is the most extensive public engagement we have ever undertaken, and we appreciate all the people who dedicated significant time and energy and ideas to this process.”

Halifax Regional Municipality District 13 councillor Pamela Lovelace attended the protest to speak with residents, and shared their concern that many in the area had been kept out of the loop about the forthcoming changes at Peggys Cove, leading to “this unfortunate situation where people feel they have to stand here at the lighthouse to protest.

“Citizens really do deserve to know about changes that are taking place to infrastructure that is owned by the public,” said Lovelace, who also wanted to know more about the possible effect on the shoreline’s status as a sacred Mi’kmaw sweetgrass harvesting area.



The snow-covered scenery on St. Margarets Bay provided a wintry backdrop for the Save the Natural Beauty of Peggys Cove protest and information rally on Saturday. - Eric Wynne/Chronicle Herald
The snow-covered scenery on St. Margarets Bay provided a wintry backdrop for the Save the Natural Beauty of Peggys Cove protest and information rally on Saturday. - Eric Wynne/Chronicle Herald

Patty Cuttell is the councillor for neighbouring district 11, and has a Master’s degree in urban and rural planning. Her district includes Prospect Road, one of two main routes to Peggys Cove, and it benefits from the connection. She also watched the protest, but as a witness to the stream of visitors who make their way through her community every day during a normal tourist season, she feels the changes are both necessary and sensitive to the feel of the location.

“I am happy to see the provincial and federal government taking action to improve the experience there. I think the plan is designed to lessen the impact of visitors to area,” said Cuttell in a message following Saturday’s event. 

“The new deck is being built in (Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal) lands, and will improve accessibility. I understand it has been a complicated negotiation and there are budget constraints. I'm happy to see this moving forward, and will be looking to see how the plan responds to further consultations regarding the sweetgrass harvesting areas.”

In her editorial, Angel responded to claims that the platform will block the view and destroy the area’s natural beauty by pointing out that 85 per cent of it will be built over the paved turning next to the Sou’wester that is now closed off, and it will not prevent visitors from exploring the rocks or interfere with ecologically and culturally sensitive areas.

But Pippy points to the 1,300 people who’ve signed up for her Facebook group over the past few days as a sign that there are still many Nova Scotians who don’t want to see the scenery become overwhelmed by improvements, and want to have a say in what happens with one of the province’s most famous attractions.

“Ideally, what we are asking for is to put a stay on the tender that is due on Feb. 3 at 2 p.m., to review the size and to hear the people of Nova Scotia,” said Pippy. “Because it’s the people of Nova Scotia along with the people of the village of Peggys Cove who should have the final decision on this project.

“It’s our tax dollars going into this project. ... It’s not too late to save what people come to see, which is the lighthouse on the rocks.”

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