It is the season when provincial parks across Nova Scotia celebrate their opening dates. As seasonal parks, most are open to the public from early June until early October. During that time families have the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities in our parks. We also welcome hundreds of tourists who come to our province and to also enjoy what our parks have to offer.

In particular, we celebrate the opening of the Five Islands Provincial Park. The Park offers over 80 open and wooded campsites, 300’ cliffs overlooking the Minas Basin and great opportunities for hiking, beachcombing, rock collecting, clam digging and other outdoor activities. A view from many points within the Park has been described as “a million dollar view”.

The Five Islands Park was officially opened on July 17, 1965. It is a treasure along the shore and includes Moose Island as part of the provincial park lands. The original lands that now are park lands, were settled in the 1800’s and the civic address of the provincial park (Bentley Branch Road) recognizes some of the first landowners.

In fact, an oak tree planted by Mrs. Noah Bentley in 1865, still stands near the administration office in the Park. Since the Park’s opening in 1965, the capacity of the Park has expanded and includes the re-opening of Red Head Trail in 2012. The Park is governed by Nova Scotia Provincial Parks, which is a branch of Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and is promoted through Tourism Nova Scotia.

Having grown up along the shore, I have watched the expansion of the Park and I have also heard concerns, in particular, about the condition of the Bentley Branch Road. I have travelled the road and understand that those concerns were very real. As the MLA for Colchester North, I was able to work successfully with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and the Minister of Natural Resources to have the condition of the road improved. These improvements have taken place with a complete new surface, along with ditching, culverts and guardrail to provide an entrance to the Park that is second to none.

I am very proud that our Government recognized the importance of these road improvements as part of our provincial park’s maintenance. Visitors to the Park are encouraged and excited to travel on the newly improved road. I want to thank the maintenance and administrative staff at the Park for their sense of pride in providing a safe camping experience and a beautiful environment for the many visitors who will visit the Park and one to which they will return.

Safety of property within the Park, as well as lands adjacent to the Park, is of utmost importance. Lands within the Park are under the authorization of the Provincial Parks Act. As always, consideration of fire has been and will continue to be part of the decision making process within the authority of the Act. We are fortunate in our province to have a track record of no fires in provincial campground parks and that indicates these practices are effective. These practices are reflective of the diligence of both staff and users recognizing that safety continues to be a number one priority.

In order to encourage families to visit any one of the twenty camping parks within Nova Scotia’s provincial parks system, our Government if offering two free nights of camping through the Grade 4s Outdoors Program, which is supported by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. As the provincial parks celebrate their opening, let us wish everyone a safe and happy camping season.

Karen Casey, MLA

Colchester North