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Greenspace

Conservation Areas, Forests and Parks

Take a hike! Ottawa has many natural areas – from urban paved pathways to rugged untamed terrain. There are scenic paths and trails to satisfy the beginner to the expert hiker! Go out and explore our city and fall in love with its natural, beautiful features.

Examples of natural areas showing marsh, woodland, creek, raccoon, butterfly

Natural Areas Map 

Inside the Greenbelt

Britannia Conservation Area

Britannia Conservation Area

What you'll see:

A 79 hectare patch of wilderness in the middle of an urban setting, Britannia Conservation Area is an amazing area of forest and wetlands. It is home to a pond called Mud Lake and hundreds of species of wildlife, with raccoons, frogs, turtles and foxes. This is prime birding territory, with thousands of birdwatchers coming each year to observe hundreds of different species. A walk through this easy-to-access natural area provides an exciting escape from city life.

What you'll experience:

• Distance: 3-5 km of trails
• Location: Along the Ottawa River in Britannia Village
Map [ PDF 919 KB ]

What's in the area:

• An easy network of trails surrounding Mud Lake providing several trail branches, boardwalks, and views of the lake and the Ottawa River
• Pleasant forest experience with very old tall pines
• Britannia Conservation Area is one of the best places in Ottawa to photograph birds, including the spectacular wood duck
• Parking and washrooms in Britannia Park
• Accessible by bicycle and OC Transpo Route 16

Getting There:

Exit at Pinecrest Road (exit 129) off the Highway 417. Go north on Pinecrest, then turn right (east) onto Richmond Road. After Richmond crosses Carling Avenue, turn left (north) onto Poulin Avenue. Poulin intersects with Britannia Road. Turning right onto Britannia will take you to Cassels Street. Parking is available on Cassels Street.

Caldwell-Carver Conservation Area

Caldwell-Carver Conservation Area

What you'll see:

The Caldwell-Carver Conservation area has pathways around the eastern shore of McKay Lake and a smaller pond with a sandy beach. The rich woodland retains an abundance of bird species.

What you'll experience:

• Distance: 2-4 km of pathways
• Location: Rockcliffe Park
Map [ PDF 815 KB ]

What's in the area:

• Attractions include hiking and nature appreciation
• Public swimming is permitted in the Pond (an old quarry adjacent to McKay Lake) between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.. Public swimming is not permitted in McKay Lake.
• Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, chipmunk, squirrels
• Accessible by bicycle and OC Transpo Route 5

Getting There:

From Highway 417, take the Vanier Parkway exit, go north to Beechwood Avenue. Turn right onto Beechwood Avenue. Beechwood Avenue will turn into Hemlock Street. Take a left onto Pond Street and keep right, on-street parking available.

Richelieu Park

Richelieu Park

What you'll see:

The Richelieu Park is a 17 hectare rich maple forest that is home to many species of birds and small woodland animals. Picnic tables, playgrounds, park benches, flower beds and the 2.5 km of hiking and cycling trails make this a popular spot.

What you'll experience:

• Distance: 2.5 km of pathways
• Location: Vanier
Map [ PDF 708 KB ]

What's in the area:

• Attractions include walking, cycling, picnics, playgrounds and an annual maple syrup festival
• The site offers a variety of services including petanque and croquet courts and soccer field, the Muséoparc Vanier, the Action-Vanier Sugar Shack as well as the Vanier Branch of the Ottawa Public Library.
• Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, chipmunk, squirrels
• Accessible by bicycle, bus (OC Transpo route 5) or car

Getting There:

From Hwy 417, take exit for Promenade Riverside / Vanier Parkway. Turn north onto Vanier Parkway. Turn right onto Montreal Road. Turn left onto Marier Ave. Turn right onto Longpre Street. Turn right onto Des Pères-Blancs. Building is at the end of the road. Parking is available at the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre at 300 Des Pères-Blancs.

West

Carp Hills Forest

Carp Hills Forest

What you'll see:

The Carp Hills are an extension of the same Canadian Shield ecosystem as Gatineau and Algonquin Parks, with rock outcrops and woodlands. The City owns 1000 hectares of this natural area that includes many shallow beaver ponds connected by small streams. Thinly soiled uplands support young forests of red maple, sugar maple, white spruce, trembling aspen, white birch, bur oak and red oak. Several great blue heron colonies are known to use the ponds.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 1-2 km pathway at Hidden Lake Park in the Village of Carp, longer more rugged trails elsewhere
  • Location: The Carp Hills run roughly northwest from the South March Highlands at March Road to the Kinburn Side Road
  • Map [ PDF 773 KB ]
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include great views of the agricultural landscape of the Carp River valley, and outcroppings of granite bedrock that In the spring explodes with wildflowers and green mosses, sedges, and lichens
  • Pathways at Hidden Lake Park in the Village of Carp
  • The rock barrens adjacent to Thomas Dolan Parkway are very sensitive to foot traffic. Please keep to bare rock wherever possible and avoid disturbing areas of moss and lichen cover.
  • Wildlife include deer, black bear, beaver, porcupine, Blanding's turtle, songbirds, herons, chipmunk and squirrels
Getting There:

There are several points of entry to the Carp Hills. In the Village of Carp, Hidden Lake Park, 149 Hidden Lake Crescent, there is parking and a 1-2km pathway. There is limited roadside parking and a rugged trailhead on Thomas Dolan Parkway, about 2.1 km from the Carp Road intersection (heading northeast) and 1.6 km from the Stonecrest intersection (heading south).

Island Conservation Area

Morris Island Conservation Area

What you'll see:

The 47 hectare site offers a diverse natural environment of wetland and upland areas with beautiful sheltered bays, small off-shore islands and spectacular scenic views of the Ottawa River. Picnic areas and canoe launches are available. Fishing for pickerel, perch, and pike is a common activity at the site. A diverse bird population makes it a popular birding location.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 6 km of trails
  • Location: Along the Ottawa River near Fitzroy Harbour
  • Map [ PDF 656 KB ]
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include two main hiking trails, and a 0.5km wheelchair accessible loop. Fishing platforms, canoe launches and picnic areas are available
  • The area is open to the public year round and offers recreational activities such as hiking, picnicking, canoeing, fishing and nature areas. Morris Island provides an ideal location for photographing autumn foliage, which is often reflected in the calm waters of the Conservation Area.
  • Wildlife includes birds, deer, beavers, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons and porcupine
  • Modern wheelchair accessible washrooms located off the parking lot and outhouse style washrooms are located throughout the site
Getting There:

From Highway 417, take the Antrim exit and drive northeast 0.8 km to Antrim and Highway 17. Turn left or northwest on Highway 17 and go 6.2 km to the Galetta Side Road. Turn right and proceed 4.2 km to Logger's Way. Turn right onto it and go 0.8 km to the bridge onto Morris Island.

Kemp Woodland

Kemp Woodland

What you'll see:

The Kemp Woodlot is a 9 hectare mature cedar forest in Stittsville that is well over 100 years old. The natural area is along the Trans-Canada Trail and there are informal trails in the natural area.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: informal trails
  • Location: Stittsville
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include hiking and nature appreciation
  • The trail systems is being improved with a partnership with the Ottawa Stewardship Council and Sacred Heart High School
  • Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, chipmunk, squirrels
  • Washrooms are available at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex
  • Accessible by bicycle and OC Transpo Route 96
Getting There:

From Highway 417, take the Terry Fox exit south to Hazeldean Road. Turn right on Hazeldean Road, left on Iber Road, and right on Abbott Street. There is parking available at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex at the intersection of Shea Road and Abbott Street beside Sacred Heart High School. The address is 1500 Shea Road.

Wetland

Kizell Wetland

What you'll see:

The provincially significant Kizell wetland, which includes the area known as the beaver pond, has been integrated into the community of Kanata Lakes. Pathways have been developed on both sides of the wetland.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 3 km of trails
  • Location: Kanata North
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include hiking, dog walking, jogging, skiing, snowshoeing
  • Wildlife include deer, beaver, Blanding's turtle, songbirds, frogs, chipmunks and squirrels
Getting There:

Located a short distance north of the intersection of Terry Fox Drive and Kanata Avenue. The trails can be accessed from Goulbourn Forced Road or from the east end of Walden Drive. There is a parking lot at the Walden Drive trailhead.

Sheila McKee Park

Sheila McKee Park

What you'll see:

The escarpment along the Ottawa River's shore allows visitors to experience the peacefulness and beauty of the area. The rocky shore's special qualities include waterfalls in summer, ice formations in winter; miniature evergreen trees and some very old evergreens growing out of the steep cliffs.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 2 km of trails
  • Location: Along the Ottawa River east of Dunrobin
  • Map [ PDF 683 KB ]
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include walking and pedestrian access to the Ottawa River
  • The City, through purchase of service arrangements with the Kanata Nordic Ski Club, also supports the grooming of cross country ski trails at the park
  • Wildlife include salamanders, squirrels, porcupines and songbirds
Getting There:

Sheila McKee Park is at 1730 Sixth Line Road, north of Riddell Drive. Take the March Road exit off of Highway 417. Drive north on March Road and when the road curves to the left, turn right onto Dunrobin Road. Turn right again almost immediately onto Riddell Drive. Follow Riddell Drive east; when it curves sharply to the left, it becomes Sixth Line Road. Continue past the Y camp entrance. A short distance later, turn right into the park driveway – you will see a Sheila McKee Park sign.

South March Highlands Conservation Forest

South March Highlands Conservation Forest

What you'll see:

Visit 450 hectares of beautiful and diverse habitats ranging from woodlands and wetlands to rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield. It includes a mature sugar maple forest, scenic outlooks, numerous small ponds, a large central wetland, ponds, rugged terrain and steep slopes.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 15.2 km of trails are maintained by the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association and open to everyone
  • Location: Kanata North
  • Map: Ottawa Mountain Bike Association 
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include hiking, dog-walking, jogging, skiing, snowshoeing, and mountain biking
  • Wildlife include deer, black bears, beavers, porcupine, Blanding's turtle, songbirds, herons, chipmunks and squirrels
Getting There:

The South March Highlands are located in Kanata North. One of the main points of entry and parking can be found at the junction of Klondike and Second Line Road along the shoulder of Second Line Road. Parking lot at the Richcraft Recreation Complex can be used to access the South March Highlands (via pathways).

Trillium Woods

Trillium Woods

What you'll see:

This natural area of 134 hectares of woods is rich for its biodiversity, recreational trails, frog pond, and great opportunities to spot white trilliums and other wildflowers in springtime. It is known for its mature upland forest, which includes sugar maples, beech, white pine and red oak trees.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 5 km of trails 
  • Location: Kanata North
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include walking with accessible pathways, hiking, dog-walking, jogging, skiing, snowshoeing, and mountain biking
  • Wildlife include deer, porcupine, beavers, Blanding's turtle, songbirds, wood frog, chipmunks and squirrels
  • Trail connection to the South March Highlands trails north of Terry Fox Road
  • Washrooms at the Richcraft Recreation Complex
Getting There:

Trillium Woods trailhead is located at the Richcraft Recreation Complex located at 4101 Innovation Drive. Lots of parking located at the recreation complex, (distinct trailhead parking lot located to the south of the sports field), located in Kanata North, near the Terry Fox Drive and March Road Intersection.

Torbolton Forest

What you'll see:

The Torbolton Forest is 260 hectares of tall red, white and jack pine and red oak in the centre of the Village of Constance Bay. After a walk in the forest, enjoy the nearby beach on the Ottawa River! The natural area is within the Constance Bay Sand Hills, which is a provincially significant dune forest complex. As the areas is known for poison ivy, take care to take precautions.

Torbolton Forest

What you'll experience:
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include walking, horseback riding, cycling, skiing and snowmobiling
  • Torbolton Nordic Ski Club maintains approximately 30 km of ski trails through-out the Torbolton Forest and around the peninsula
  • The snowmobile trail, which runs down the centre of the forest, is marked and groomed and requires the use of a West Carleton Snowmobile Trails Association trail pass
  • Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, black bear, white-tailed deer, red fox
  • Vegetation on the sand dunes is very sensitive. Please avoid disturbing the dunes as much as possible.
  • Washrooms are available at the Constance Bay Community Centre
Getting There:

From Highway 417, take March Road exit to Dunrobin Road. Follow Dunrobin Road for 17 km and turn right onto Constance Bay Road. Turn at first left onto Allbirch Road. Follow Allbirch Road to the end (1 km), turn left onto Bishop Davis Drive. Bishop Davis Drive curves to the right and becomes Bayview Drive. Follow Bayview Drive for 1 km, turn at first right onto Len Purcell Drive.

Parking is available at the Constance Bay Community Centre, 262 Len Purcell Drive.

East

Cumberland Forest

Cumberland Forest

What you'll see:

The Cumberland Forest is 600 hectares in size, split into three parcels of land surrounding the Village of Vars. The forest is dominated by red maple, poplar, birch trees, red and white pine. The properties in the central block form part of the provincially significant Limoges Wetland Complex and serve as an important wildlife corridor.

What you'll experience:
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. There are a number of trails in each of the forest parcels; those near Sand Road are actively used and maintained by the Carleton Regional Snowmobile Club
  • Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, black bear, white-tailed deer, red fox, coyote
Getting There:

From Highway 417, take Anderson Road exit, turn right and follow Anderson Road to the 1st cross street. Turn onto Leitrim Rd/Ottawa Regional Rd 14. Continue onto Russell Rd/Ottawa Regional Rd 26 E and turn right onto Sand Road.

Petrie Island

Petrie Island

What you'll see:

Petrie Island is a 291 hectare conservation and recreation area located along the Ottawa River in the east end of the City. It is primarily known for its beach but also offers hiking, canoeing, kayaking and it is considered a favorite destination for naturalists and hikers. Petrie Island consists of wetlands, forests and a series of islands on the Ottawa River with a total shoreline length, including all channels and bays, of about 12 km. It includes a provincially significant wetland. The Friends of Petrie Island operate a nature centre in an old cottage near the picnic area. The centre is open weekends in May, June and September and daily in July and August

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 5 km of trails
  • Location: Accessible from the Trim Road exit on Regional Road 174
  • Map [ PDF 704 KB ]
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include hiking, jogging, picnics, swimming at the beach and watching wildlife
  • Bicycles are not permitted on trails
  • Dogs are not permitted
  • Friends of Petrie Island offer summer programs for children. 
  • The Rideau Canoe Club runs a 1/2-day summer program for children to learn about kayaking. 
  • Common Petrie sightings include turtles and birds including the painted turtle, map turtle, frogs, herons and ducks
  • Easily accessible by bicycle, bus or car
Getting There:

Take Highway 417 and Regional Road 174 to Trim Road. Head north on Trim Road past North Service Road down towards the island. Paid Parking is available, $2 for 5 hours, 07:00-18:00, 7 days a week.

The nearest bus stops are the Trim Road park-and-ride lot and the North Service Road local bus stop. The 95 route runs every 15 minutes during the week and the local bus runs every hour. Some of these buses will have bicycle racks. From the bus stop it is an enjoyable 15 to 20 minute walk or a 5 to 7 minute bike ride to Petrie Island, down the hill and along the causeway with many views of the water and optional trails to take off the main road.
OC Transpo route 198 is a summer weekend and holiday route that offers frequent trips from Place D'Orleans station to the beach at Petrie Island.

South

Marlborough Forest

Marlborough Forest

What you'll see:

The Marlborough Forest is one of the most significant areas in the City of Ottawa for maintaining diversity and ecological functions. The City owns 8,149 hectares of this large natural area. It includes several different types of wetlands and a wide variety of forests, thickets and open fields. In addition to being part of the Rideau Trail System, a hiking trail that runs from Ottawa to Kingston, the Marlborough Forest features the Cedar Grove trail (with parking lot on Roger Stevens Drive), and a number of snowmobile trails maintained by the Rideau Snowmobile Association.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: The Cedar Grove Nature Trail that is 2 km in length. It is maintained The Rideau Trail Association.
  • Location: Roger Stevens Drive
  • Map [ PDF 946 KB ]
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include hiking, skiing, and snowmobile trails
  • Wildlife include deer, grouse, moose, beaver, herons, turtles and frogs
  • Hunting is permitted in the Marlborough Forest. Visitors are encouraged to stay on forestry roads and established trails during the autumn hunting season, and to wear bright clothing.
  • Washroom facilities at Cedar Nature Grove Trail parking lot
Getting There:

There are several points of entry to the Marlborough Forest. There are three parking lots on Roger Stevens Drive between Malakoff Road and Dwyer Hill Road and one on Paden Road. To reach the parking area for the Cedar Grove Nature Trail, take the Roger Stevens Drive exit from Highway 416. Follow Roger Stevens Drive southwest 14.5 km to the parking area.

Richmond Conservation Area

Richmond Conservation Area

What you'll see:

The Richmond Conservation Area is 56 hectares and borders the Jock River. The area is characterized by three large built ponds or lagoon cells, meadows planted with young conifers and small patches of regenerating forest. There are a number of pathways which weave through the forest areas and around the lagoons. The lagoons are known as a stopover point for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. Portions of the pathway may be closed intermittently in 2015 and 2016 for work associated with the Richmond Forcemain Project.

What you'll experience:
  • Distance: 2-4 km of pathways
  • Location: Village of Richmond
What's in the area:
  • Attractions include hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling
  • Part of the pathway is maintained by the Rideau Trail Association
  • Wildlife includes area-sensitive songbirds, ducks, herons, turtles and beaver
Getting There:

The Village of Richmond is easily accessible from Highways 416, exit and Brophy Drive and Highway 417 via Eagleson Road South. There is a parking lot for the Conservation Area on the west side of Eagleson Road just north of the intersection with Barnsdale Road.

Development in harmony with the environment

Our objectives:

  • Take an ecosystem approach that considers and protects natural cycles such as water, carbon and nutrients as well as natural habitat before and during development
  • Use developed spaces wisely, making best use of existing infrastructure, minimizing disturbance of existing greenspaces and sub-watersheds
  • Develop lands within the current urban boundary and avoid outward sprawl

Our targets:

  • Require a sub-watershed plan or environmental management plan prior to consideration of new development/redevelopment areas or community design plans
  • Meet a minimum target of 40 per cent of new dwelling units in the urban area to be achieved through intensification between 2006 and 2031

Watershed and Sub-watershed Planning

Watersheds are the land areas that feed rivers. Sub-watersheds are smaller areas that feed streams and creeks. The ecosystem approach to land-use planning looks at how development affects the whole watershed. By doing this, we hope to balance environmental protection, conservation and restoration against development and other land-use practices. The goal is long-term, ecological sustainability of the watershed and its significant natural resources. To date, eight sub-watershed plans (representing about 25 per cent of Ottawa) have been approved or are in progress in areas undergoing development pressures. Sub-watershed plans currently underway include Greater Cardinal Creek (between Orléans and Cumberland Village) and Mud Creek (between North Gower and Manotick). The City has also developed an integrated environmental characterisation of its watersheds and subwatersheds as the basis for existing conditions reports in all future watershed and subwatershed studies.

Stormwater Management Strategy

By replacing fields and forested areas with roads and houses, development results in greater runoff when it rains. This can lead to increased flooding, erosion, destruction of aquatic habitat and degraded water quality.

The City is currently developing a Stormwater Management Strategy (SWM) that will provide a long-term plan to guide the safe and effective management of stormwater run-off while sustaining the health of urban streams and rivers. The SWM Strategy will include: i) SWM Policies and Planning Guidelines to direct stormwater management efforts in newly developing areas; and ii) a SWM Master Plan that will identify opportunities for SWM retrofit and stream rehabilitation in older areas of the City that developed before stormwater management was required. The strategy will place greater emphasis on source controls which keeps rainwater where it falls by maintaining pervious surfaces, installing green roofs, using rain barrels or cisterns and planting trees and shrubs.

Stream restoration projects

As a result of watershed/sub-watershed studies, stream restoration projects are being implemented for sections of the Carp River and Feedmill Creek, Poole Creek, Shields Creek and Sawmill Creek. They will reduce erosion, improve water quality, enhance fish habitat and restore stream corridors for the enjoyment of residents.

Design Guidelines for Development

Ottawa's Official Plan includes the requirement that design and development "understand and respect natural processes and features, and promote environmental sustainability in development."

The Ottawa by Design Program supports that objective by specifying design guidelines for greenfield neighborhoods, arterial main streets, large-format retail, drive-through facilities and collector roads. The guidelines encourage green roofs, enhanced landscaping and rainwater recycling, and other measures all of which help to minimize the impact of development.

The City also requires tree conservation reports, and landscaping plans for all subdivision and site plan proposals. The City’s goal is to retain as much natural vegetation as is feasible and to encourage tree planting in new developments.

Environmental Impact Statements

Where development is proposed in or adjacent to the City’s natural heritage system, developers must demonstrate that it will have no negative impact on significant natural features and their ecological functions. Environmental impact statements (EIS) assess how animals, plants and functions such as groundwater recharge will be affected by development. Based on the results of the EIS, development may be restricted in certain areas or other measures may be required to minimize impacts.

Brownfields Redevelopment

Environmental Assessments

Intensification of the Urban Area

By "intensifying" development within the urban core and established villages instead of sprawling into rural areas, we preserve greenspace and reduce the cost of servicing development.

Ottawa's Official Plan directs us to "grow in, not out" by concentrating growth within the existing designated urban area. This means that Ottawa will focus development within the urban area already served with water, sewer and transit. It also means that transit will be further developed to serve these areas. This approach is known as intensification, which means that the density of urban development increases. The Official Plan targets for at least 40 per cent of new urban dwellings between 2006 and 2031 to be built through intensification in the urban area, and for 50% of all rural growth to occur in the existing villages. In 2006, 23.8 per cent were built inside the Greenbelt (12 per cent short of the target). Urban intensification (i.e. not greenfield sites) accounted for 35.8 per cent of development in 2006 (up from 28.2 per cent in 2005).

Environmental Management Plans

Environmental assessments

Environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact assessment is a process that is used to identify the potential negative effects and/or benefits of a project or activity on the environment. EAs allow environmental factors to be incorporated into decision-making to minimize or avoid adverse environmental effects. An EA may be required for certain types of projects at the federal, provincial and/or municipal level, depending on the scope and proponent of the project and the applicable federal and/or provincial laws. When an EA is triggered at more than one level, a harmonised process may be used to ensure that all relevant requirements are satisfied by a single study.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

When the federal government proposes a project, or provides the necessary land, approval, or funding to allow a project to proceed, that project may be subject to the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEA Act).

Ontario Environmental Assessment Act

Provincial and municipal agencies are subject to the Ontario EA Act. While particularly large or complex projects may require an individual EA, most municipal infrastructure projects (i.e., roads, water and wastewater) are assessed using a streamlined Class EA process, which provides a decision-making framework that satisfies the provincial EA Act in an effective manner. Transit projects are assessed using a similarly streamlined process. Public notification and consultation is required for every provincial EA, regardless of the process used. Information on EAs currently in progress within the City of Ottawa may be found under Public Consultation.

Environmental Impact Statement

The City of Ottawa’s Official Plan establishes requirements for an environmental impact statement (EIS) when a development is proposed in or adjacent to part of the City’s natural heritage system. The EIS provides a description of the existing environment, the proposed project, and the mitigation measures that will be used to ensure the development will not negatively impact significant natural heritage features or functions. Ottawa City Council approved the EIS Guidelines in 2010 to assist applicants in meeting the City’s requirements. EIS reports associated with applications subject to public consultation can be accessed via the City’s development application search portal.

Greenspace

A Green City

Ottawa is well known for its sweeping expanses of federally owned lands, but our city’s greenspaces are not limited to the Greenbelt and Capital parklands. Ottawa’s public greenspaces assume many forms, including landscaped parks and pathways, sports fields and playgrounds, sensitive wetlands and forests, tree-lined boulevards, and the casually tended grass around stormwater management ponds. Privately owned greenspaces, while not open for public access, do contribute significantly to the city’s overall ecological integrity and aesthetic appeal. Ottawa residents value their greenspaces and recognize the contribution that these areas make to the high quality of living here. As the population grows, the challenge will be to maintain these areas as new communities are added and existing neighbourhoods evolve.

The City works to preserve and enhance its greenspaces in a variety of ways.

Plans, Policies and By-laws

The City’s Official Plan contains numerous policies for the identification and protection of natural features, public open spaces and linkage corridors. Key sections of the Official Plan include Section 2.4.2 (Natural Heritage System) and Section 2.4.5 (Greenspaces), along with the various environmental and open space land use designations in Section 3, requirements for development review in Section 4, and policies on acquisition in Section 5.2.1. The Official Plan also includes references to other plans and strategies related to greenspaces, such as the  Greenspace Master Plan(2006) and the Urban Natural Features Strategy (2007).

Ottawa protects its trees and forests through policies in the Official Plan and through by-laws enacted under the Municipal Act. Trees and natural areas owned by the City are protected under By-law 2006-279. The Urban Tree Conservation By-law regulates the cutting of trees on private property in the urban area.

Acquisition

Ottawa's Official Plan contains policies for the acquisition of natural areas and other greenspaces, particularly for lands that are designated as Urban Natural Features, Natural Environment Areas or Major Open Space. The City already owns many Urban Natural Features, as well as over 10,000 hectares of rural land in such environmentally significant areas as the South March Highlands, the Carp Hills, Constance Bay, Cumberland Forest and Marlborough Forest. These areas are managed by the City for conservation and passive recreational purposes, and provide local residents with valuable opportunities to experience and appreciate the natural environment.

Community Partnerships

The City encourages residents to get involved in local stewardship activities that help make Ottawa an even better place to live, by providing funding for a variety of cooperative community improvement projects. Examples include:

  • Spring/Fall Cleaning the Capital – This biannual program, funded in partnership with local corporate sponsors, brings home the importance of maintaining our greenspaces and preventing pollution from contaminating our streams and rivers. Cleaning the Capital energizes and supports community groups and events to complete spring and fall clean-up projects.
  • Community Environmental Projects Grants Program (CEPGP) – This annual program funds small-scale, community-based initiatives managed by non-profit organizations interested in the improvement and preservation of our environment. Past projects have included initiatives to encourage increased use of bicycles, moving to a zero-waste special event, anti-idling campaigns and river shoreline clean-ups.
  • Community Partnership Minor Capital Program – This annual program is intended to help community groups build play structures and make other improvements to parks.
  • Tree Planting – In order to support the growth of our forest, the City has sponsored several tree planting programs in partnership with the local Conservation Authorities and other stakeholders. The Green Acres Program is a rural reforestation program delivered by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and funded by the City, which advises and assists landowners with planting plans and quality planting stock at moderate prices. The Tree, Reforestation and Environmental Enhancement (TREE) Program planted over 100,000 trees in the city between 2007 and 2010. Our Forestry Services staff continue to work with residents and community groups to identify additional tree planting opportunities.

Natural heritage system

Natural areas recharge our aquifers, filter rainfall and clean our air. They provide wildlife habitat, support the diversity of our environment and restore us physically and mentally. The City seeks to protect significant natural areas as part of our natural heritage system.

Natural heritage system: means a system made up of natural heritage features and areas, linked by natural corridors which are necessary to maintain biological and geological diversity, natural functions, viable populations of indigenous species and ecosystems. These systems can include lands that have been restored and areas with the potential to be restored to a natural state (Provincial Policy Statement, 2005)

Ottawa’s natural heritage system is comprised of a variety of significant natural features, associated contributing features and connecting linkages. This system was defined as part of the comprehensive Official Plan Review process culminating in Official Plan Amendment 76, approved in 2009. The definition includes new local criteria for the determination of “significance” for natural heritage features such as woodlands and valleylands. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is still responsible for determining the significance of wetlands, habitat of endangered and threatened species, and areas of natural and scientific interest.

Most of the significant features included in Ottawa’s natural heritage system had already been identified and designated for protection in previous versions of the Official Plan, based on earlier studies such as the Natural Environment Systems Strategy by the former Region of Ottawa-Carleton. Others have not been designated as environmental lands, but are now subject to the requirement for an environmental impact statement to support any proposed development or site alteration.

The City and other local public agencies (e.g., Conservation Authorities, National Capital Commission) collectively own many of the natural features and areas within the natural heritage system. The majority of the system, however, is and will remain under private ownership. Good stewardship by both public and private landowners is essential to the continued preservation and enhancement of our natural heritage system.

Information on the nature and significance of natural areas in Ottawa is available from City staff. E-mail us your questions related to natural areas in the City of Ottawa and related policy initiatives.

Additional sites:

For more information on natural areas stewardship, please refer to the following web sites:

Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study (UNAEES)

Urban natural areas are an important element of the urban landscape. They contribute significantly to public health, community enjoyment, property values, and many areas sustain regionally and even provincially important natural features and values. The Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study (UNAEES) was commissioned in 2002 to fulfill the Official Plan direction and provide an important contribution to the Greenspace Master Plan.

The study included an extensive process for defining and assessing the environmental value of urban natural areas. The main study steps were:

  • Identification and selection of candidate urban natural areas;
  • Assessment and description of each candidate site based on field investigations;
  • Evaluation of the site to assign a high, moderate or low ecological value; and,
  • Development of management recommendations (ecological, stewardship and recreational) for each evaluated site.

The UNAEES identified natural features in the urban area regardless of planning status, ownership or landowner intentions. A total of 192 natural areas, including woodlands, wetlands and valleylands, were identified in the urban area for study. Field investigations were carried out in 2003 and 2005 at 177 of these natural areas. Four other identified natural areas were significantly altered during the course of the study by previously approved development activities, and were dropped from the study as a result. The study team was not able to access the remaining 11 identified natural areas during the 2003 and 2005 field seasons.

The environmental evaluation of the 177 urban natural areas examined in the field was conducted by applying nine criteria developed through the study. The application of these criteria resulted in an overall high, moderate or low rating being assigned to each natural area. Of the 177 evaluated sites, 41 rated high, 67 rated moderate and 69 rated low. The 11 unevaluated sites continued to be identified as urban natural areas in the study, but were rated as “evaluation outstanding.”

The 2006 UNAEES Addendum Report, a final overall summary, is available here:

  • Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study, Addendum – 2005 Fieldwork Results (Muncaster & Brunton, March 2006)

The following additional reports from this Council approved study can be viewed at City of Ottawa libraries and Client Service Centres:

  • Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study, Final Report (Muncaster & Brunton, March 2005)
  • March 2005 Final Report, Appendix A – Vascular Plants of the City of Ottawa, with Identification of Significant Species
  • March 2005 Final Report, Appendix B – Public Consultation Details

Following the completion of the UNAEES, City staff developed a strategy for the acquisition of specific urban natural areas not already committed to development. Ottawa City Council approved the Urban Natural Features Strategy in May 2007 with an initial budget of $4.7 million. In June 2007, the City made its first acquisition under this program with the purchase of Innes Park Woods in the east end. Other acquisitions have followed.

For more information contact:

Nicholas Stow
Planner III
Planning and Growth Management
Infrastructure Services and Community Sustainability
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West, 4th Floor
Ottawa ON K1P 1J1
Tel: 613-580-2424, ext. 13000
Fax: 613-580-2459
E-mail: nick.stow@ottawa.ca