Help Protect NL Crown Lands

Spurwink Island Path

Gord Follett

Apr 1, 2015

Help Protect NL Crown Lands

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Our Crown Lands are at Risk

Calling All Members to Attend Public Session: Lands Act Needs to Protect the Trail

The Provincial Government is undertaking a review of the Lands Act, a piece of legislation that sets out the rules about Crown land.
Because a substantial portion of the East Coast Trail runs over Crown land, members of the ECTA Board will be attending the public consultation session scheduled for April 7, 7 to 9:30 at the Capital Hotel, 208 Kenmount Rd, St. John’s.

It would send a powerful message to Government if our members were to join us.

Our Concerns and our Positions
The Association has identified three main areas of concern for the continued protection and sustainability of the East Coast Trail:

See this page discussion guide

Adverse possession of Crown lands (i.e. squatters rights); and
Shoreline reservation; and, Protection for Traditional Trails

Adverse Possession of Crown Land:

Right now a person claiming Crown land must show open, notorious, continuous and exclusive possession for a period including the 20 years between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1976. This can be done by submitting affidavits from the applicant and another person familiar with the use of the land. The Government is concerned that it is becoming increasingly difficult to prove that the conditions of possession have been met because fewer people can swear to use over 50 years ago. Our fear is that the Act will be amended to make proving adverse possession easier.
With the enhanced value of coastal real estate, we are finding more instances of persons claiming possession of Crown land. Many do not bother with the process now in place and the evidence of possession during the requisite 20 years is tenuous. If Crown Lands does not challenge the claims, the claimant can proceed. Making the process easier would lead to even more claims with potential impact on the trail.
The Association’s believes that any changes to the process to prove adverse possession should be based on policy. The Government holds Crown land as a public trust for provincial residents. It should never be easy for the Crown to be dispossessed of Crown lands. In Nova Scotia, to prove adverse possession of Crown lands, you must show you have been on the land for 40 years. In Ontario, possession for 60 years is required. It is our position that the rules for dispossessing the Crown should be more difficult, not less.

Shoreline Reservation

The current Lands Act establishes a 15 metre reservation of Crown land running from the high water mark along the shoreline. The policy behind this provision is to permit public access to the coast. The Association has two main concerns with the 15 metre provision:
The nature of the province’s coastline often means that the 15 metre strip does not reach walkable land. We want to see the definition amended to allow for the reservation to reach walkable land;
The current 15 metre buffer is insufficient to permit public access to the coast. With coastal erosion, a phenomenon that is getting worse as the climate changes, 15 metres can virtually disappear in a storm. The Association’s recommendation is that a 30-metre reservation should be adopted.

Traditional trails

The Avalon Peninsula is full of traditional trails linking neighbouring communities. They have been used by residents over the centuries. Much of the East Coast Trail follows these traditional paths; however, there is no statutory protection for them. If a private landowner blocks a traditional path, the only option is to challenge the landowner’s position in court. That is a very expensive exercise which the Association cannot afford. Our position is that traditional paths should be protected and accessible.

Registration for the public sessions

To participate in the public consultation session in St. John’s, register at the Government web site . Those who would like to participate are asked to register at least 48 hours in advance. You may also register by phone at 709-729-4398.

If you cannot attend a session, general written submissions may also be forwarded to Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs via email at or via postal mail to the following address:
Attention: Lands Act Review
Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs
1st Floor West Block Confederation Building
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6
The deadline for written submissions is April 10th, 2015.

Note: On April 8th, ECTA will be formally presenting our positions at a session for Stakeholders.

Photos by J Van Houwelingen: coastal ECT scenes on Flamber Head Path, Mickeleens Path, Spout Path, and Sugarloaf Path