McKinnon’s Point: Protecting undeveloped shoreline in the Bras d’Or watershed

29 Apr 2022

The Nature Trust is proud to announce the addition of McKinnon’s Point Conservation Lands to our growing network of over 155 protected lands. The property consists of two separate parcels of land: a 39-acre undeveloped parcel extending into McKinnon’s Harbour on the Bras d’Or Lake, and another 2.4 acres extending south from a nearby highway to the lake shoreline. Together, the area encompasses mature coniferous forests and nearly two kilometres of undeveloped shoreline on Cape Breton Island.

McKinnon’s Point was transferred to the Nature Trust from the Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust (BPNT), so although this is not newly protected land, it is new to the Nature Trust and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to care for this place forever.

Located on Cape Breton Island, the BPNT was the first land trust in Nova Scotia when it formed in 1991 to protect environmentally significant private land in the Bras d’Or watershed and educate nearby communities about the unique ecological and cultural heritage of the Bras d’Or Lakes. Founding board members include Grosvenor Blair, Clair Rankin, Rollie Thornhill, Jack Stevens, J.D.  Burchell, Aynsley MacFarlane and John Langley.

“After nearly three decades of successfully preserving the natural environment of the Bras d’Or Lake coastline, and considering we now have an aging board with members approaching retirement, we wanted to make sure BPNT lands remained protected forever,” says Henry Muggah, current Board Chair, BPNT. “We recognized the success of the Nature Trust in conserving at-risk land in the Bras d’Or area and throughout the province, and we’re thankful to be able to leave these lands in their care.”

The property was initially purchased in the 1970s by Howard French, an American artist well known for his nautical oil paintings. The land was known to the French family as Willie’s Point, as Howard had purchased the land from Willie MacKinnon. Bought with the intention of placing a seasonal cottage on the property, Howard purchased a right-of-way parcel coming down from the highway (an old cattle path at the time) with the intention of having a driveway down to the water, where a boat could be used to access the point. However, none of these intentions were ever realized and Howard bequeathed the property to his daughter Serena, a textile artist in Virginia. Serena hadn’t visited the property since she was a child, but she wanted to see the point remain in a natural condition, so she contacted the Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust in 2011.

Located within the Bras d’Or Lake Plain Natural Landscape, McKinnon’s Point’s lowland landscape is dominated by undulating terrain and hills filled with Acadian mixed forests, and contains large bays and many islands along the Bras d’Or Lake.

Bald Eagles have maintained a nesting site on the property between a small barachois pond and sheltered cove, where they are relatively free of human disturbance. Barachois ponds are a significant ecological feature of the Bras d’Or Lake, as they offer shoreline protection from erosion, wetland habitat for waterfowl, and aquatic habitat for juvenile fish and amphibians. Also located at the property’s eastern end is a small coastal pond and riparian wetlands.

The coastline’s protected inland nature is distinct from other Atlantic coastal areas, as it creates a reduced tide, as well as salinity, resulting in a unique assemblage of aquatic life. The waterfront property also provides valuable upland habitat that is used by raptors, songbirds, waterfowl, deer, otter, and beaver.

Multiple priority species identified under Environment Canada’s Bird Conservation Strategy for Nova Scotia have been identified on the property, including American Redstart, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Black-and-White Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Boreal Chickadee, Canada Goose, Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, and White-throated Sparrow.

“Although transfer of land can be a stressful process, Ross Firth from the Nature Trust has been extremely helpful in effecting the transfer of these lands and we hope that several more BPNT properties will be transferred this year,” says Henry. “We look forward to the continuing collaboration between both land trusts to ensure the protection of these environmentally significant lands in the Bras d’Or watershed.”

We’re thankful to the Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust for entrusting us to continue the legacy of protecting McKinnon’s Point.

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