Prince Albert Road Redesign:
Good things sometimes come to those who wait and so it is with Prince Albert Road. You might recall the HRM meeting at the Mic Mac Aquatic Club on potentially redesigning Prince Albert Road back in 2017, or, if you were following my website, my post about the potential project. To quickly recap, Prince Albert Road from Sinclair to the Parclo is very overbuilt. It’s a four-lane street that becomes two lanes at Sinclair, and none of the side streets divert off a lot of traffic, which means that whether the road slims to two lanes at Sinclair or at the Superstore doesn’t make any real difference. The traffic capacity in either case is the same. The whole area seems to have been built on the assumption that we would one day run four lanes all the way down to Alderney.
While Prince Albert’s extra two lanes provide no additional traffic capacity, they do create conditions for speeding, which makes the area more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, and for motorists entering or exiting from side streets. There is also an opportunity cost to the current four-lane design since the land lost to all that wasted asphalt is space that could be used for other things, such as additional greenspace along Lake Banook.
The plan was to repave Prince Albert Road in its entirety back in 2017, but on my urging, HRM instead opted to do a detailed look at the underlying design for the Sinclair – Superstore portion. HRM held a public meeting at the Mic Mac Aquatic Club back in the fall of 2017 to explore three concepts. From that work, a clear preference for narrowing the street and adding the reclaimed space onto the Banook trail emerged. HRM has now completed detailed design work to turn that preferred concept into reality. Below is the future for Prince Albert Road. If you don’t want to squint, you can check out the full size version in a new window by clicking here (best viewed on a laptop or desktop)
The redesigned Prince Albert Road will become two through lanes at Prince Albert and Braemar. A third lane will remain at intersections to allow for left turns onto Sinclair, Celtic, Glenwood, and into the Banook Shores parking garage, but otherwise the street will be two lanes. The slip lane where Prince Albert Road joins onto, well, itself, will disappear and instead Prince Albert Road will have a proper T intersection with Braemar.
The redesign recaptures a large chunk of space. The highlighted green areas show reclaimed park space, which will be particularly significant in front of Banook Shores. The expanded greenspace will provide more of a buffer between the multi-use trail and traffic. The crosswalk at Lakeview Point Road will be much safer as pedestrians will now only have to cross two lanes of traffic rather than four. Pedestrians also won’t have to watch out for vehicles coming up fast through the Prince Albert slip lane the way they do now. Speeding should diminish significantly as the wide, underused four lanes will no longer send drivers the message to step on the gas. There will also be painted bike lanes installed for cyclists that don’t want to share space with pedestrians on the multi-use trail.
HRM’s intent is to tender the redesign of Prince Albert Road later this year. A greener, safer, and more pedestrian friendly Prince Albert Road is right around the corner.
Cancer Survivors Garden:
You might have noticed the construction equipment along Alderney Drive just before King’s Wharf. Construction of the Cancer Survivors Garden is getting underway. While we lose many people to cancer, many others go on to live long and healthy lives. The idea behind cancer survivor gardens is to celebrate survivors. There are many cancer survivors gardens around the world, but this is the first one in Atlantic Canada. The garden will feature benches and landscaping arranged around a path that is shaped like a ribbon. I’m very pleased that this garden has found a home on the Dartmouth waterfront. Many thanks to Jim and Judie Edgar who spearheaded this project. Without them, it wouldn’t be happening.
There will be a central art piece. When the Garden was first announced I did hear from several people in Dartmouth’s arts community expressing concern that HRM follow the public art policy. A report on the art component will come to Council in the future.
With the arrival of the summer heat, Dartmouth is once again taking to the lakes for recreation. Unfortunately, an algae bloom was sighted on Lake Mic Mac earlier this month, prompting HRM to issue an advisory for both Mic Mac and Banook. I know, from personal experience, how important the lakes are to life in Dartmouth. They’re integral to our community. They’re part of what makes Dartmouth, Dartmouth. It’s vital that we take care of them. The trend over the last several years of increased closure days due to both e-coli and algae blooms has been distressing. The lakes have been sending us signals that all isn’t well. It’s something that both Councillor Mancini and I have brought to Council, and HRM has been working on it.
Blue green algae is actually not an algae at all, it’s cyanobacteria. It’s always present in freshwater and only becomes problematic when it multiples in large concentrations into a bloom. When certain varieties of cyanobacteria become stressed, they release toxins that are harmful to people and animals. Large concentrations of stressed cyanobacteria means more toxins and is why we need to avoid contact with blooms! So why does cyanobacteria go from being a harmless background organism into a harmful bloom? Cyanobacteria multiples in large numbers when it’s well-fed with nutrients, particularly phosphorous. Where does phosphorous come from? Many sources. It falls from the sky in wind and rain and is present naturally in the soil from animal waste and decaying plant matter. Phosphorous concentrations in urban areas tend to greatly exceed what we would normally see in a natural environment, because urban areas have a lot of additional sources such as lawn fertilizer, pet waste, sewage, and runoff from development sites. In urban areas, the normal dynamic of runoff being slowed and absorbed into the ground and taken up by vegetation is also disrupted because there are so many more hard surfaces (pavement, buildings, etc) that don’t absorb runoff and fewer naturalized areas. Solutions for dealing with phosphorous are challenging because they typically require either expensive infrastructure investments in things like stormwater systems or collective action (getting everyone to not fertilize their lawns and pick up after their pets is hard).
So what’s it all mean for Banook and Mic Mac? Algae blooms, high e-coli levels, and the growth of aquatic plants (so-called weeds) are all signs and symptoms of the same thing: nutrient loading in the lakes. HRM completed a detailed study of the lakes last year and is working with the consultant on follow-up work/review. The staff report on the study with recommendations for action is scheduled to come to Council in September.
HRM hasn’t been waiting though on finalizing the report to Council to get moving on the low-hanging fruit. HRM and the Province are close to deploying nets on the Circ Bridge to get rid of the pigeons (the waste from their roosts under there goes direct from pigeon to the lake), HRM launched a campaign aimed at dog owners encouraging people to deal with their pet’s waste responsibly, and Halifax Water has done a detailed investigation of the sewer system (no leaks, cross connections, or homes without a wastewater account were found). Council in this year’s budget, despite it being a very challenging year, has also approved the return of the lake water monitoring program.
Besides HRM’s work, we have also had some successful community action too. I have to thank one resident who lives on Banook for putting his border collies to work in driving off the Canada Geese, something that border collies are uniquely suited for (check out Geese Police!). We can’t blame Canada Geese for our lake’s ills, but each goose produces a lot of fertilizer, and anything we can do to diminish that right now is a good thing. Thank you Paul Lewis!
The report on the Stantec study will becoming to Council in September so expect to hear more about how HRM plans to reduce our collective impact on our lakes soon.
Work is also coming to Brownlow Park this season. HRM has a tender out to rebuild the soccer field and paths. The envisioned project involves installing an irrigation system in the field, new bleachers, regrading, improved drainage, and replacement of a large section of paths in the Park. I have received a few complaints about the condition of the aging asphalt paths over the last few years so I’m pleased to see this coming together. The only downside is the whole pathway system is unlikely to be rebuilt this year. How extensive the pathway work will be is a bit of an unknown right now as it’s somewhat dependent on what money is left over once tender prices for all the field work is known. Whatever is possible will be a welcome improvement. I’ll circle back with Parks and Rec for whatever remains in future budget years.
Public Washrooms (Dartmouth Common/Oven):
When you have to go, you have to go, but that’s not always easy to do in HRM’s various parks. The municipality hasn’t done a good job over the years of providing public bathrooms. Only the busiest parks tend to have them and many of the ones that exist, such as Point Pleasant and Grahams Grove, are old and in need of refurbishment. The cost of building a public bathroom is significant. They consistently average about $500,000 each, which seems like a lot, but that’s been the experience year over year. Parks and Rec has a draft washroom strategy to prioritize future work, but it will take many years of investment to get to a point where there is a reasonable distribution of bathrooms in HRM’s busier parks and public spaces.
One of the locations that I frequently get bathroom requests for is the Dartmouth Common, specifically the Park Avenue Oven. The Oven is an amazing community run facility where people come together over food and drink. Unfortunately, food and drink come with other needs and it limits the Oven’s use to have to tell people that they have to walk to Alderney to find a bathroom. Given the cost of new washrooms, the need to replace ones we already have, and the backlog of requests, it’ll likely be a while before we get an actual washroom on the Common. I’m pleased to report that, as an interim measure, the Oven now has its own portable washroom. Not a long-term solution, but a good interim measure. Given the scenic location, Parks and Rec put some extra screening in place to hide it. COVID has disrupted the Oven’s operation, but if they end up with some open days this year, there is now a place to go. Sometimes it’s the little things that really make a difference.
It’ seem to be a deeply rooted image in our culture: the young lovers carving their names into a tree. That scenario isn’t harmless romantic love for the tree though. I’m sorry to report that one of the large cherry trees next to the Skateboard Park on the Common was recently damaged. Several sections of bark were completely removed and some of the trunk was carved up. A tree’s vascular system is in its bark and when the bark is removed, it damages that system. It also opens a tree up to fungus and disease. I suspect the kids who damaged the mature cherry tree had no idea of exactly how much damage they were doing, but the likely result is that limbs with no bark will now die. HRM will assess the tree to preemptively remove any branches that are beyond saving. I wanted to take the opportunity created by this incident to share that trees seem mighty, solid, and immovable, but in reality they’re living things and can be quite fragile. Don’t carve or strip trees and if you see someone doing it, call 311 or police non-emergency.
St. Paul’s Cemetery Mystery (solved):
In last month’s e-news, I posted a picture of a mysterious gravestone in St. Paul’s cemetery that had been sent to me by a resident. The resident was asking if anyone knew what the strange combination of letters meant and who was buried there. HRM doesn’t have a plot plan for St. Paul’s so attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery via official channels came up empty. So I crowd sourced the mystery to all of you and you didn’t disappoint.
I received several replies that revealed that the strange grave is actually a toppled headstone. The other side that was laying on the ground reveals that the grave belongs to Aquila Freeman. Aquila died in 1986 and her family evidently meant a lot to her. Her gravestone includes an inscription about the importance of family, and it turns out that the mysterious letters on it are actually a family tree. She had four children, John, Gordon, Robert, and Sylvia, who then had 14 children of their own and, at the time of Aquila’s death, she had four great-grandchildren.
Many thanks to the several people who wrote me offering the answer. HRM has since remounted the gravestone so that both sides are again visible. Rest in peace Aquila.
COVID-19 has disrupted the public engagement that was supposed to be happening right now as part of Centre Plan Package B. Package B is the second part of the Centre Plan that will replace all of the existing residential zoning in Dartmouth inside the Circumferential, and Peninsula Halifax, update the Downtown Halifax Plan, and create new zoning for industrial (North Woodside Industrial Park) and institutional areas. Check out this video produced by HRM and Planifax for a good overview of where we are now with Package B.
Public engagement in its traditional form isn’t possible, but the Centre Plan team isn’t sitting idle. They’ve been refining the draft and have released a series of surveys on the Centre Plan website. You can take the surveys and provide feedback here.
To keep you informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why.
Harbour East, June 30
Approval for a proposed development on Portland Street that backs onto Rodney Road. Details here.
Given our current COVID shutdown, there are a lot fewer events to report.
July 16 – 26
Like everything else that normally involves large crowds, Pride this year looks very different. Pride is still happening, but most of the events have gone online. Check out the extensive listing of streamed content that will be available over the next week and a half along with a few in-person with physical distancing events on Pride’s website here.
HRM Rec Van
Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:30 am, July – August
COVID has disrupted formal programming for HRM’s Parks and Rec department, but unstructured play is still a go. HRM’s Rec Van is coming to District 5. The van is full of equipment for different activities. One regular summer locations in District 5: Friday mornings in Brownlow Park and another nearby at the Dartmouth North Community Centre on Wednesday afternoons. The van will visit both locations all summer long. Please note that the van had originally been scheduled to visit Northbrook Park on Wednesdays but due to construction nearby and potentially in the park, that location was cancelled.
Wednesday, 3:00 – 5:00 pm, July – October
With the Woodside Ferry running with many fewer passengers and a fraction of its normal hours, the Common Roots Urban Farm stand is moving locations this year. Rather than setting up right outside the ferry terminal doors, you can find your fresh produce that’s grown right on the Nova Scotia Hospital grounds at 296 Pleasant Street every Wednesday. You can visit the stand or shop online on their website here.
Wednesdays, July – August
Halifax Cycling Coalition
Do you want to get around the city by bike? The Urban Cycling 101 Course will help you build your confidence to cycle on urban streets. The course will help you to feel safe riding in mixed traffic. Take the course and find a sense of freedom that comes with the simple act of riding a bike.
The Urban Cycling 101 course is intended for adults (18 years of age and older) who know how to ride a bike but want to deepen their skills for riding with traffic in an urban setting. The course is also helpful if you have been riding in the city for a while, but you still have a few questions about the rules of the road. You do need to have your own bike or access to a bike to use for the course. If you don’t have a bike or access to a bike, you can rent one from Halifax Cycles.
Due to COVID-19, Making Tracks this year has gone virtual. The course is free and is being offered at several different times over July and August. Check out the Cycling Coalition’s website to learn more here.