Park History

Sackville Lakes Park and Trails Association

Second Lake: An historical perspective

 

Second Lake and its watershed might well be called “Hidden Lake”. It remained isolated from major settlement and development through most of its history, since the coming of permanent settlement to the area with the arrival of Edward Cornwallis in 1749. In September of that year, two months after the founding of the town of Halifax, Cornwallis, sent a company of Mohawk Rangers, under the command of John Gorham, to build a fort at the ‘head of the bay where the road to Minas begins’ to protect the so called ‘backdoor’ to Halifax from French and/or Mi’kmaq attack. The fort never fired a shot in anger and in the end, ironically, was used more as a security post to intercept runaway British soldiers.

 

The watershed of Second Lake was originally encompassed in five grants of land. The first and southernmost area, nearest the Cobequid Road, was located in the large grant of approximately 5,500 acres made to Colonel Joseph Scott in 1765. Scott had been a Cornwallis settler in 1749 and would become Sackville’s first entrepreneur and proprietor of the Sackville Estate. Before his death in 1800, he would build the first saw and grist mills on the Sackville River, and also his residence, the Scott Manor House, which still stands today.

 

The Sackville grants north of the Scott grant, which came after the settlement of the Seven Years War in 1763, were long narrow five-hundred-acre grants of land which extended several miles inland from the grant line which was the old road to Windsor, now the Old Sackville Road. The first four of these grants, with the Scott grant, comprised most of the Second Lake watershed.

 

Second Lake, or as it is referred to on some early maps, “Middle Lake”,or “Double Lake”, was even more isolated than First Lake in the early years after 1749. From the Windsor Junction side of the lake, to the north, this body of water was often referred to as “Kehoe’s Lake”, after a family by that name who held property in the area. This lake of many names was protected by geography and the positioning of roads and settlement patterns, from the rapid development of the 1970s and 1980s, which impacted so greatly on its neighbour, First Lake, just over the ridge. Even now many Sackville residents have not taken the trek over the ridge and have therefore not seen Second Lake.

 

A more detailed history of land use around the greater Second Lake area is provided in Appendix 1.

 

 2.1 Second Lake: The move to create a park

 

The community first expressed an interest in a large green space to serve as a park as early as the 1970s. The province had obtained land in the “Sackville Lakes District” in the 1960s for the development of affordable housing. The value of the land for use as a park had long been recognized because of the landscape type, forest cover, clear lakes, and proximity to large scale planned developments.

 

The collective actions of several regional community groups finally resulted in the formation of the Second Lake Regional Park Association in 1998. The mandate of the new group was the protection of the Second Lake lands for use as a regional green space. In February of 1999, approximately 700 acres (300 hectares) of the Second Lake land assembly was transferred from the provincial Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs to the Department of Natural Resources for protection as parkland.

 

A detailed summary of the land planning and actions to protect the land can be found in Appendix II.

 

 

 

 

Appendix I and II

 

 

Appendix I.

 

A.1. History of land use in the greater Second Lake area

 

Second Lake and its watershed might well be called “Hidden Lake”. It remained isolated from major settlement and development through most of its history, since the coming of permanent settlement to the area with arrival of Edward Cornwallis in 1749. In September of that year, two months after the founding of the town of Halifax, Cornwallis, sent a company of Mohawk Rangers under the command of John Gorham to build a fort at the ‘head of the bay where the road to Minas begins’ to protect the so called ‘backdoor’ to Halifax from French and/or Mi’kmaq attack. The fort never fired a shot in anger and in the end, ironically, was used more as a security post to intercept runaway British soldiers.

 

Passing by the fort was the road to Windsor, which met the Cobequid Road to Truro, several miles beyond the Fort at what is now Fultz Corner in Sackville. To the east of the Windsor Road and to the north of the Cobequid Road lay the watersheds of the Sackville Lakes. The watershed of First Lake, or as it was sometimes called on old maps, “Crooked” or “Sandy” Lake, remained largely undeveloped until the late 1960s and 1970s. It was used for logging from time to time and supported small subsistence farming in some areas closest to the Cobequid Road. It was this land, about two hundred and fifty acres, that was acquired by the Reverend Benjamin Gerrish Gray in the early 1800s from the Sackville Estate of the late Colonel Joseph Scott.

 

Gray was the first resident clergyman in Sackville as the first minister of St. John The Evangelist (Anglican) Church. The lower portion of his land, nearer the Windsor Road, was sold by Gray to William Fultz, soon to be proprietor of the Twelve Mile House in 1812. The upper part of Gray’s property, which ran to the western shore of First Lake, was known as the “wood lot”, “wherein William Henry, a man of color, now lives”. The “wood lot” was mortgaged by Gray in 1825.   In later years, Thomas Caudle had a barn on the property and from time to time logged the land. The part of the property nearest the Cobequid Road became the Caudle Park Subdivision in the late 1960s.

 

First Lake was used for fishing and casual recreation and several families had camps on the shores of the lake. Ice was cut on the lake in winter for refrigeration purposes later in the year and Baxter’s Nursery in the 1950s piped water from it to its business on the Windsor Highway (now Sackville Drive). This watershed would be heavily developed in the 1970s under the provincial government’s land assembly project, which created a satellite community for the Halifax and Dartmouth area. The result of this rapid development was a serious degradation of the water quality of the First Lake watershed. Beyond the eastern shore of First Lake and over the ridge lay the largely undisturbed Second Lake and its watershed.

 

Second Lake, or as it is referred to on some early maps “Middle Lake”,or “Double Lake”, was even more isolated than First Lake in the early years after 1749. From the Windsor Junction side of the lake, to the north, this body of water was often referred to as “Kehoe’s Lake”, after a family by that name who held property in the area. This lake of many names was protected by geography and the positioning of roads and settlement patterns, from the rapid development of the 1970s and 1980s, which impacted so greatly on its neighbour, First Lake, just over the ridge. Even now many Sackville residents have not taken the trek over the ridge and have therefore not seen Second Lake.

 

Ironically, Second Lake contributed unwittingly to the neighbouring First Lake development by being the source of water for early central services in Sackville and Bedford. A pumping station was located at the western end of the lake and capacity was believed to be sufficient to support a community of more than twenty thousand people. Plans included a daily output of up to just over two million imperial gallons. This was never required as the area came to be served by the Halifax Pockwock system by the end of the 1970s.

 

The watershed of Second Lake was originally encompassed in five grants of land. The first and southernmost area, nearest the Cobequid Road, was located in the large grant of approximately 5,500 acres made to Colonel Joseph Scott in 1765. Scott had been a Cornwallis settler in 1749 and would become Sackville’s first entrepreneur and proprietor of the Sackville Estate. Before his death in 1800, he would build the first saw and grist mills on the Sackville River, and also his residence, the Scott Manor House, which still stands today.

 

The Sackville grants north of the Scott grant, which came after the settlement of the Seven Years War in 1763, were long narrow five-hundred-acre grants of land which extended several miles inland from the grant line which was the old road to Windsor, now the Old Sackville Road. The first four of these grants, with the Scott grant, comprised most of the Second Lake watershed. In all, there would be thirty-two grants, known as the “farm lots”, running to what became the Hants County line. Lots one to four, which were north of the Scott property, were those of Andrew Bower, Daniel Miller, John Triter, and Johann (John) Fultz. The latter grant was made in 1773 and was located in the area included in the watershed just north of the lake. These lands were at the extreme ends of the long lots, far from the grant line road on which most people lived in the early years. They were also quite far back from the “new road” (Sackville Drive) constructed through the floor of the valley of the Little Sackville River in the mid 1820s. In this “hinterland”, early and late comers hunted and fished and at times logged, but for the most part, the area was left undisturbed.

 

The north side of the Second Lake watershed was eventually affected by development, the most significant being construction of what became the Dominion Atlantic Railway line and the Beaver Bank-Windsor Junction Cross Road. On the south side, an early map indicates at least one homestead was located, at least in part, in the Second Lake watershed in the mid 1860s, near the crest of the ridge which separates the watersheds of First and Second Lakes. The Ambrose F. Church map for Halifax County, with information current to about 1865, shows a “J. Robinson” located in this area. Today, in the woods, one can still pick out the remains of stone walls and fields, apple trees, a well and an old rock foundation. The census of 1871 identifies a “Robertson” family in this general area near the Cobequid Road. It consisted of John, a farmer, born in Nova Scotia, but, claiming Scottish ancestry and age forty-five. As well, his wife Margaret, age fifty, with three teenage children: Elizabeth, age nineteen; John, age seventeen; and Agnes, fourteen. Further research may well reconcile the two names as being one and the same family. A further clue that the name may be Robinson comes from the fact that an early reference point for property descriptions in the general area of the lakes is referred to as the ‘old Robinson line’. In much later times, just after 1920, we know from first hand family accounts that a West family lived in the same location. However, children of this family recall that the old rock foundation and walls were already there eighty years ago, being the remains of an earlier homestead, most likely that of the “Robinsons”.

 

Garland West who died, in 1965, at age seventy six and his wife Amelia Jane (1892-1968), lived in this somewhat remote location, for a time, after the Great War of 1914 –1918, in which Garland had served in the 1st Newfoundland Regiment as a private. Later they would move their house on rollers to a site on McIntyre Lane closer to Cobequid Road. Their daughter, Mary (West) Kemp, still recalls the pleasant natural surroundings in the watershed of Second Lake near her home. She recalls particularly how Mi’kmaq people would camp near the Windsor Junction Station and come to collect ash saplings in the homestead area with which to make baskets, axe handles and other items characteristic of their culture. As well, a prominent natural feature was a an old white pine tree, thought to be 200 years old, which is still standing now, near the original homestead site. Hazelnuts could be found growing along the stone wall in the area of the pasture where the West family kept a cow.

 

In all the Wests would make three land purchases in the area between 1921 and 1935. The first was property including the old homestead acquired from John and Alice Smith. The second, in 1923, was the lot near the United Baptist Church on Cobequid Road, from John Smith, to which the Wests moved their house. The third lot was a fifty acre parcel of woodland between First and Second Lakes, purchased in 1935, which had at one time been the property of George Smith. The Church Map (1865) shows a “Mrs. George Smith” and a “J. Smith” in this general watershed area. The property descriptions in the West’s deeds included references to the “old wood road” running through the watersheds of First and Second Lakes. In addition, there was a reference to a road locally called a “stagecoach road” running between the two lakes from Cobequid Road past the West property to Beaver Bank. Certainly residents of Sackville as early as the 1860s petitioned for a road link through to Beaver Bank in this area. It is unclear if such a public road was ever built or if the roadway, parts of which may still be seen in the First and Second Lake watersheds, served that local purpose as well as a logging road.

 

The settlement that did occur from the south side of Second Lake pushed in from the Cobequid Road. Here, during the War of 1812, were settled a number of African American families who were escaped slaves and therefore refugees from the United States. Most of these people, who came from states located near Chesapeake Bay, were resettled in Preston and Hammonds Plains, but several smaller settlements were developed including the one on the Cobequid Road. The census of 1871 reveals that several families of “African” origin were living in this area between the First and Second lakes and the Cobequid Road. They had family names that included: Williams, Butler, Clarke and Smith. The oldest, in 1871, was “Aimy Smith”, who had been born eighty-eight years before in the United States, almost certainly as a slave. The Lieutenant Governor in 1817, Lord Dalhousie, visited the refugee settlements and reported that he found that “almost every man had one or more acres cleared and ready for seed and working with an industry which astonished me.” Dalhousie, who took a great interest in these settlements, provided seed potatoes along with cabbage and turnip seeds. However, hard work would not be enough in many cases as the refugees had been settled on marginal land and their arrival had coincided with two natural disasters, the ‘year of no summer’ in 1816, and the ‘year of the mice’ in 1817.

 

The most prominent natural feature on this section of the Cobequid Road was and is the ‘Great Beech Hill’ which rises nearly three hundred feet and affords spectacular views of the surrounding watersheds, including those of First and Second lakes. Although many travellers and residents alike have passed by along the “road to Truro”, and in the nineteenth century using a stagecoach diversion to the north of the hill to avoid the steep grade, few penetrated very far into the watershed of Second Lake. Thus, cultural intrusions were minimised into what is still a largely pristine natural area, hidden away from, but now close to, tens of thousands of people.

 

 

Appendix ll.

 

A.2. The move to create a park

 

During the late 1960s the Nova Scotia Department of Housing acquired much of the land surrounding the Sackville lakes for future residential development. In 1970, Murray V. Jones and Associates, prepared the Sackville Lakes Development Plan for the Nova Scotia Department of Housing. Although the Plan was for continued urban housing development, it recognized the “tremendous potential for a variety of recreational opportunities”. This opportunity was further supported in 1971, by the Metropolitan Planning Advisory Committee (MAPC), when they identified the area as having important ecological, aesthetic and recreational potential. In 1971, during his assessment of the intrinsic values of the natural environment around greater Halifax-Dartmouth, P. B. Dean, Wildlife Biologist, Department of Indian Affairs and Wildlife Development, in his Natural Environment Survey, included the lands around Second Lake. He noted variety of deep rich soils, streams and marshes, introduce variety into the landscape and support special habitats for a large number of plant and wildlife species.

 

The Sackville Chamber of Commerce, during the 1987 Sackville Civic Status Review, conducted a survey where residents identified their important long-range plan for more parks and recreational areas and environmental planning. The Department of Lands and Forests Preliminary Report, Provincial Park Proposal for Second Lake, (1987), identified “a remnant old growth forest stand which represents an excellent interpretive opportunity for the Metro area”. Their preliminary review concluded “a provincial park at that location could provide a wide range of outdoor recreational and outdoor educational opportunities” for the Metro area. In 1988, Lake District Recreation Association, prepared a submission for the Municipal Plan review for Sackville, supporting a Provincial Park at Second Lake. The 1990 study, Examination of Sources of Bacterial and Chemical Contamination: First Lake, Halifax County, N.S., W. C. Hart and D.H. Waller, The Centre for Water Resources of the Technical University of Nova Scotia, found Second Lake as being “typical of an undisturbed lake in Nova Scotia. In 1992 the Department of Housing tasked environmental planning students, of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, with a study of future development potential of Second Lake lands. The students concluded highway and housing development had environmental limitations and consequences and that the area would provide education as well as aesthetic opportunities.

 

Efforts to protect the Second Lake lands for parkland became anchored in the community in 1990 with the establishment of a Second Lake Subcommittee by the Sackville Rivers Association. In response to the focused community efforts, the Sackville Community Committee of Halifax County Council passed a motion in December 1991 supporting the transfer of all provincially held Second Lake watershed lands to the Department of Natural Resources for designation as a Park Reserve. In February 1992, the N. S. Department of Transportation hosted a community open house on plans for a highway in the area. The resultant evaluation of 226 questionnaires indicated 80% of the respondents opposed highway construction at Second Lake and identified their main concern as environmental protection. Acknowledging “the community had significant and legitimate concerns”, the Provincial Government established the Second Lake Land Use Committee (SLLUC) in 1992. This committee, ten senior provincial staff and the five elected Sackville Municipal Councillors, met intermittently over a period of sixteen months, “with a mandate to include housing, highway and parkland” and released their report, Land Use Around Second Lake, in 1993. Although the SLLUC Report proposed a plan for 390 acres of parkland, 400 acres for housing and highway construction, the Province took no action to transfer parkland or change the land use designation. In 1994 the Sackville Community Council of Halifax County Council formed the Second Lake Advisory Subcommittee “to review the SLLUC report for accuracy and completeness and examine the issues as they related to a park at Second Lake”. In effect, municipal representatives wanted to determine the level of support for the SLLUC report within the local community. Conclusions from that review were presented at a public meeting prior to the merger of Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996. The subcommittee concluded that housing, a 4-lane collector highway and park were not compatible uses for the land given its configuration and features. They also described the park type desired as a large scale “passive recreation” park.

 

During 1993 and 1994 the Halifax County Municipality prepared amendments to the Sackville Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS), pertaining to the 390 acres identified for parkland, which referenced the “strong community support for reserving lands in the Second Lake watershed for a park”. These amendments recognized the “significant community resource” and the long-term preservation through passive parkland development. To address the known environmental sensitivities the Halifax County Planning Department developed a Park Conservation Designation for the Sackville MPS. Although the municipality endorsed the amendments, they were not approved by the province who acted to retain the 1982 residential zoning.

 

Community groups, residents and elected officials continued to press for preservation of the Second Lake lands as parkland. Additional support came in 1995 when Sackville Recreation, a committee of Lake District Recreation Association, and Halifax County Municipality, presented the Recreation Implementation Strategy for Recreation in Beaver Bank-Sackville, prepared by Environova and UMA Group. The strategy identified the Second Lands as a top priority in future planning considerations for passive recreational open space.

 

In the spring of 1998 the Second Lake Regional Park Association was formed representing the surrounding communities of Sackville, Beaver Bank, Windsor Junction, Fall River, Waverly and Bedford. The membership has and continues to act on behalf of the community to provide leadership on issues related to Second Lake Park, including environmental protection, promotion of the development and management of passive recreation opportunities, public participation, and community stewardship.

 

In February 1999, the Government of Nova Scotia, under Premier Russell McLellan, announced the transfer of approximately 660 acres of land at Second Lake, from the Department of Housing to the Department of Natural Resources, for designation as park reserve. In December 1999 an additional 29 acres was transferred to bring the parkland acreage to 700 acres.