GREENSPACE ALLIANCE OF CANADA’S CAPITAL
ANNUAL REPORT 2006
The Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital is the leading advocate of greenspace preservation and expansion in the National Capital region. This report on the activities of the Alliance will follow a format similar to what was used in the past, covering what we have done, our accomplishments and thoughts about what we might do in the next year.
First, some highlights:
This year we undertook a number of activities to help preserve significant greenspace in the capital, including initiating several OMB appeals, an appeal against a rezoning to permit further development in the Leitrim Wetlands and continuation of an appeal against the Country Lot Estates provisions of the Official Plan. We also wound up several appeals: one to preserve an important natural area in Kanata north and another against the City Official Plan’s provisions on adverse environmental impacts. Finally, we submitted a Part II Order Request under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act to prevent development on the Carp River floodplain.
The Alliance was one of three environmental groups that put together the very successful “environmental report card” in the lead-up to our municipal election. Also this month, members of the Alliance made presentations to the NCC Mandate Review Panel on how it could better protect greenspace in the National Capital.
In September of this year, the Poets’ Pathway Committee held an inauguration ceremony for Poet’s Hill, the eastern anchor of the Poets’ Pathway.
We have seen an increase in the number of groups who have joined the Alliance. As for electronic correspondence, a new interactive website is in the final stages of development and will hopefully take some of the pressure off our very active list serve.
Alliance initiatives such as the Poets’ Pathway provide new opportunities for volunteers with interests in both the natural and cultural spheres. There are still many opportunities for people to get involved in this area.
We deeply regret the lack of resources which forced us to abandon efforts to protect the 5309 Bank Street site from destruction by quarrying activity.
WHAT WE HAVE DONE
Development and Planning:
The Alliance has continued to be an active member of “The Friends of Leitrim Wetland”, a group working to prevent the destruction of this provincially-significant wetland. We recently appealed to the OMB the rezoning of a large part of the wetland for residential development (Phase 2 of Tartan’s development). The area to be rezoned includes a section which was previously identified as Area #106 in the Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation study; it was not evaluated because access was denied by the owner.
Members of the Alliance were active in the “Carp River Coalition” which was formed to fight against the filling and developing of the Carp River floodplain. The Coalition submitted a Part II Order Request following the release of the environmental assessments for the development, which were felt to be unsatisfactory by the Coalition. A reply to our request by the Minister of the Environment is expected by year-end.
5309 Bank – this site has been one of the most important sites for biodiversity in Ottawa. In spite of this, the previous Council had sold this land to a quarry operator with multiple contracts with the city, bypassing the city’s own environmental protocol to declare the land surplus. While the value of this greenspace was recognized by the Alliance, an unfortunate lack of people and resources resulted in our having to withdraw our challenge to the city’s rezoning of this site to permit quarrying.
The Ottawa Official Plan did not have a definition of “adverse” environmental impact of development within Rural Natural Features. As a result of a 2-day OMB hearing, we succeeded in seeing a solid definition included in the Glossary of Ottawa’s Official Plan and ambiguity in the Policy removed. This was agreed to by the City and the Ottawa-Carleton Homebuilders Association. A decision on our main contention during this hearing, that development adjacent to Rural Natural Features should also require an Environmental Impact statement, has yet to be issued. (For an update, please click here.)
The Alliance has registered an appeal against the Official Plan’s provisions for Country Lot Subdivisions, and we expect this appeal to go forward early in 2007. The Alliance has consistently opposed the Country Lot Estate provisions in the Official Plan, which allow developers to subdivide rural areas into large estate lots, often in Rural Natural Features.
The Alliance supported residents of Kanata in appealing the conversion of large natural areas to residential development in the South March Highlands. The South March Highlands is a bit of Canadian shield land which comes right into Kanata. This land is very rocky, has a very diverse type of forest and interesting flora and fauna. While the appeal resulted in the preservation of Trillium woods we were disappointed that a larger portion of the wooded land was not preserved and that the decision did not allow for better natural connections to another area owned by the city. Two naturalists suggested that the larger area we advocated would be necessary for the preservation of Trillium woods. We had many donations from Kanata residents to support this appeal, although these donations were not sufficient to cover our costs. The appeal team was led by Kanata resident Mik Svilans and included Marianne Wilkinson, a former mayor of Kanata and a candidate for Councillor.
Poets’ Pathway and Poet’s Hill are initiatives of the Alliance and the Ottawa Literary Heritage Society which bring together the cultural and the natural worlds. In September, Poet’s Hill (located within Beechwood Cemetery — the eastern anchor of the Poets’ Pathway) was inaugurated by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. Several successful events have already been held at Beechwood, under the catchy banner “Dead Poets Live”.
The Poets’ Pathway Committee of the Alliance is also working to get part of the Southern Corridor dedicated as a “Canadian Poets’ Park”. These lands have long been declared surplus by the NCC but development has been opposed by the community.
Another important greenspace preservation undertaking by the Alliance is participation in a <<review of the NCC Mandate>>. Members of the Alliance have contributed to position papers which were prepared by the Coalition for NCC Mandate Review Panel. The discussion papers cover NCC governance and lands owned by the NCC (the Greenbelt, Gatineau Park and other landholdings outside the Greenbelt and Gatineau Park). In addition, the Poets’ Pathway Committee has made a submission regarding the lack of positive response to proposals for a pathway. The NCC Review Panel held hearings on November 9 and 15.
The Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital participated in the preparation of a municipal environmental report card, which assigned incumbent Mayor and Councillors scores based on their voting records on environmental issues and then followed up with scores on an environmental questionnaire which was distributed to all candidates in the municipal election. Members of the Alliance worked in cooperation with members of the Coalition for a Healthy Ottawa and the Ottawa Group of the Sierra Club of Canada to put together this report, which was widely covered in the press.
We held twelve well-attended monthly meetings, which at times included guests bringing new greenspace issues for discussion or offering support to ongoing initiatives.
Our main fundraising activity this year was participation in a “rare and unusual” plant sale which was held at the Central Experimental Farm in May. We raised over $800 at this event, with many individuals providing donations of plants to support this effort. We also received a number of generous donations from individuals, which helped cover costs of our advocacy work.
A new web site is currently being finalized for the Alliance. It includes some new interactive features to support on-line discussions on greenspace and other environmental issues. One hoped-for result of this “interactive” feature of the new web site is the development of links between various local communities and their greenspaces, for stewardship. Plans are to include an ecological inventory, based on information from Urban Natural Areas and other reports.
Our list serve remains as popular as ever, with well over 100 subscribers. We often receive comments on how useful people find the information that is distributed through this e-mail service. In addition to postings related to the work of the Alliance, our email list serve conveyed postings by a number of other environmental agencies and organizations, including conservation authorities, reports of members’ submissions, poetry or other exquisite writing, and discussions on various topics. Plans continue towards the development of a newsletter.
The Alliance participated in the yearly Wildlife Festival held at Billings Bridge Plaza and in the Imagine Ottawa Forum, hosting a table at both events. Members of the Alliance were also interviewed in September and October by CKCU Radio, and in October by Ottawa’s SRC/CBC television. The October interviews focused on the Report Card and Questionnaire for the municipal election.
On the membership front, the number of group members has grown quite a bit since last year, while our individual memberships have remained fairly stable since last year.
With the inauguration of Poet’s Hill, the Alliance has made significant progress on the Poets’ Pathway and Poet’s Hill initiative, which has been a long-term priority for the Alliance. In addition, one of our challenges to the Ottawa’s Official Plan was brought to a successful resolution. On the communications front, our listserve continues to very effectively keep the lines of communication open on issues touching greenspace. Our new website will also be a big help on the communications front.
DIRECTIONS FOR NEXT YEAR
Members of the Alliance will continue work on certain commitments from last year that will continue into the next year, including an appeal related to the development in Leitrim Wetlands and an appeal of Country Lot Estates. Work will also continue on the Poets’ Pathway, as we attempt to get land set aside for this initiative. Populating our new web site and getting it up and running will be another project for this year that will help us get the word out and facilitate discussions on issues related to greenspace. As we continue this work, we will also be having a conversation about how best we can channel our efforts to achieve our goals.
Submitted by Carol Gudz, Interim Chair
November 16, 2006.