Halifax Council approved the transfer of a one acre parcel of land on Gerard Island to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust at yesterday's Council meeting.  The property will be sold for one dollar through the Municipality’s community interest surplus lands program.  While the property is small, its protection brings an 800 acre coastal island gem one step closer to being protected, forever, as part of the Nature Trust’s 100 Wild Islands coastal wilderness.

The parcel is located on Gerard Island, just over an hour east of Halifax.  The island is nestled between the Nature Trust’s Shelter Cove Wilderness Sanctuary and Taylors Head Provincial Park, a kilometer offshore from Popes Harbour. 

The parcel is located on Gerard Island, just over an hour east of Halifax.  The island is nestled between the Nature Trust’s Shelter Cove Wilderness Sanctuary and Taylors Head Provincial Park, a kilometer offshore from Popes Harbour. 

The Gerrard's with Gerard Island in the background. (From the Gerrard Family online archives)

The Gerrard's with Gerard Island in the background. (From the Gerrard Family online archives)

Gerard Island has important cultural, historic as well as ecological value. Years ago, fishers sometimes lived year round or seasonally on islands to be closer to their fishing grounds. Gerard Island was first settled by William and Ann Gerrard in the late 1700's, and at its peak was home to over 60 residents who lived off the land and the sea.  The children attended a one-room schoolhouse located on this parcel of land, in the centre of the island. The school had ten seats and was heated by an old barrel fashioned into a stove. The children walked to school by a path through the woods. Most families abandoned the island when motorized vessels made fishing from the mainland feasible. The island in unoccupied today, but remnants of the school house foundation, a number of homesteads and an old road can still be found.

Site of the old schoolhouse found by Nature Trust volunteers Dave Young and Dusan Soudek.

Site of the old schoolhouse found by Nature Trust volunteers Dave Young and Dusan Soudek.

 

More history and stories about the island and schoolhouse can be found at the Gerrard Family Website. and the Jack Family website and memories from the school teacher can be found here.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on Gerard Island

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on Gerard Island

 

 

 

Gerard is one of the largest islands in Nova Scotia at 800 acres.  Ecologically rich and diverse, it includes large areas of undisturbed coastal forests, bogs, barrens, cobble beaches, wetlands and saltmarsh, and over nine kilometers of undeveloped shoreline.  Gerard and surrounding islands have been found to support well over 100 species of nesting and migratory birds as well as a diversity of plants and animals. 

The unique shallow, rock-strewn bay known as “the bawleen,” between Gerard, Phoenix and Stoney Island, shelters a rich diversity of birds and marine life including terns, eiders, eagles, osprey, endangered harlequin ducks, porpoises and seals. 

By becoming part of our conservation lands, the ecological, historic, as well as educational, scientific, research and ecotourism values of the lands will be protected and preserved, for future generations.

Location of Schoolhouse on Gerard Island from a 1947 aerial photo.

Location of Schoolhouse on Gerard Island from a 1947 aerial photo.

The schoolhouse lot is an ‘inholding’ within a large property which we already own and protect. In fact, almost 85% of the island is now protected or slated for conservation. Securing such ‘inholdings’ is critical for effective conservation, as their development could negatively impact the surrounding wildlife, habitats and ecosystems, as well as the wilderness value of this remote and beautiful island archipelago. 

Location of the schoolhouse on Gerard Island from a 2003 aerial photo.

Location of the schoolhouse on Gerard Island from a 2003 aerial photo.

We are delighted with Council’s decision to entrust the old school house lot to the Nature Trust’s care and that Halifax Council recognizes the tremendous ecological value of the 100 Wild Islands, along with the Nature Trust’s important role in protecting and stewarding the unique natural legacy of Halifax and the Province.

The Council voted last year to approve a $300,000 grant towards the Nature Trust’s ambitious 100 Wild Islands Campaign, which aims to protect over 280 wild and spectacular coastal islands between Clam Harbour Beach and Taylor Head Provincial Park.  Stretching 30 kilometres along the coast and encompassing over 250 kilometres of shoreline, the 100 Wild Islands are a true natural wonder on a global scale, right here in our own backyard, in the City of Halifax. 

Shoreline on Gerard Island during a routine monitoring visit.

Shoreline on Gerard Island during a routine monitoring visit.

The Nature Trust has already protected over 85% of the 100 Wild Islands to date.   We are now working with the Province, the local community and ecotourism, cultural/heritage and recreation partners to develop a management strategy for the vast island wilderness. The plan will help ensure that future generations will be able to continue to enjoy, explore and appreciate the islands, while protecting their important ecological values other unique assets.  The management strategy is part of a larger initiative in partnership with the Wild Islands Tourism Advancement Partnership (WITAP), Nova Scotia Environment and the local community looking at ecotourism and community development opportunities that could be leveraged on the Eastern Shore as a result of the 100 Wild Islands legacy campaign.

The old school house lot will become part of the growing network of over 90 conservation lands under the Nature Trust’s care. Volunteer “property guardians” will be recruited to help in monitoring, safeguarding and stewarding the land to ensure it and the surrounding islands remain protected, forever. 

While not all Nova Scotians have islands to donate, many have stepped up to show their support for protecting the islands, by supporting the 100 Wild Islands campaign.

At this time of year it is important for those who care about wild places to take action to protect them, and every Nova Scotian has an opportunity to do so by considering land conservation in their charitable giving. Making a year-end donation would help save this and other wild places in Nova Scotia.

Symbolically adopt an island, and give the gift that leaves a lasting legacy!

Symbolically adopt an island, and give the gift that leaves a lasting legacy!

In addition, we also offer unique gift giving ideas including the opportunity to “adopt an island” for a friend, loved one or colleague. The recipient receives a beautiful island adoption certificate, a letter explaining the important conservation work the gift makes possible, and a set of scenic 100 Wild Islands notecards.  These gifts leave a lasting legacy and provide a tax deduction for the donor.

Information about making a charitable donation to support land conservation, adopting an island as a holiday gift, and other unique Gifts of Nature can be found at www.nsnt.ca or by calling the Nature Trust at (902) 425-5263.

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