Top News

Letter: Creating the Freshwater Bay urban nature reserve

Living in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are used to having world-class natural wonders at our doorstep. We are blessed with a dramatic coastline, abundant forests, clear rivers, a variety of wildlife, including globally important bird colonies and, as an extra seasonal bonus, spectacular icebergs floating by.
Unlike most parts of our increasingly urbanized world, we don’t have to drive for hours to experience and enjoy nature. As the award-winning East Coast Trail demonstrates, hiking our coast is not just a popular local pastime, it’s a growing attraction for visitors from around the world.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) wants to make sure that people are always able to connect with nature close to home. Since 1996, NCC has helped conserve more than 13,000 acres of wilderness over nine sites across the island, including a section of East Coast Trail in Maddox Cove. Now, thanks to a generous offer of land by Crosbie Group Ltd., NCC has an extraordinary opportunity to conserve a new property on the East Coast Trail in Freshwater Bay, one of the most stunning and accessible nature destinations on the eastern Avalon coastline. Minutes from St. John’s, this 243-acre privately owned property is already a popular place to hike and watch whales, and NCC wants to ensure it remains that way.
Freshwater Bay has long been cherished by locals and tourists. Now uninhabited, the area was once home to a handful of full-time residents making their living in the fishing industry. The houses were dismantled in the early 1900s, and the area is now a popular spot for picnics and outings. Along the rocky shore of Freshwater Bay are remnants of the SS Thetis, the famous Arctic explorer and sealing ship that was towed there decades ago as a final resting place. For determined hikers, Freshwater Bay is a highlight on the way to Cape Spear.
An important part of our cultural history and a valuable recreation area, Freshwater Bay is also an ecological treasure. The property is mostly forest, and is home to a variety of native Newfoundland species, including balsam fir, black spruce, tamarack, white spruce, foxes and snowshoe hares. The property also serves as an important land buffer for nearby seabird colonies of black-legged kittiwakes, black guillemots, herring gulls and great black-backed gulls nesting along the cliffs between the Freshwater Bay barachois and Sprigg’s Point.
In NCC’s experience across the country, it’s rare that such a valuable piece of land, so close to a capital city, is available, let alone donated for public use. The donors, the Crosbie family, through their holding company Crosbie Group, are faithful supporters of both their community and Newfoundland and Labrador’s wild places. Although Crosbie Group has generously offered the Freshwater Bay property to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, it cannot be conserved until NCC raises significant funds. As a not-for-profit land trust, our organization must secure $500,000 before we take ownership to ensure we can provide for the long-term care and management of this land.
With community support, NCC can protect this popular outdoor destination for public use and enjoyment, in perpetuity. Our goal is to raise the funds to conserve the Freshwater Bay property by late 2018. We invite the citizens of St. John’s and nature lovers from across the province to support this exciting project and safeguard a spectacular coastal wilderness for future generations.  


Megan Lafferty
Newfoundland and Labrador program director
Nature Conservancy of Canada

Recent Stories