One of Ottawa’s early greenspaces, Major’s Hill Park, provides views to the Capital’s prominent landmarks. Courtesy of the National Capital Commission
Ottawa is distinguished as a capital city by the abundance of parks, rivers, and woodlands that contribute to the high quality of life enjoyed by its residents. However, growth projections anticipate that by 2021, Ottawa’s population will increase by 50 per cent to almost 1.2 million people. Accommodating this growth poses significant challenges to conserving the city’s natural resources and maintaining its high standard of parkland. The contribution that greenspace makes to the overall quality of life will become even more important as the city grows.
Ottawa has never been better positioned to meet this challenge. With the amalgamation of 11 municipalities and one regional government in 2001, the new City of Ottawa has a unique opportunity to develop a view of greenspace that is comprehensive in its reach and that can be co-ordinated with other greenspace partners. It can build on the strong foundation of greenspace created in the past by the former municipalities and senior levels of government. Many of the former local municipalities extended their mandates for parks and recreation facilities to preserve woodlands and river features within their boundaries. The former Region of Ottawa-Carleton acquired environmental features, such as the Marlborough Forest and portions of the Carp Hills. Provincial parks were established around other natural features, such as Fitzroy Harbour, while provincial agencies such as the Conservation Authorities and provincial ministries managed other public lands. At the federal level, the National Capital Commission used greenspace as the fundamental, defining element of the National Capital Region, bounding the urban area of the 1950s with a 20,000 ha Greenbelt and introducing green parkways along the city’s canals and riverfronts.
With so many levels of government involved in greenspace, however, there was no common strategy for providing greenspace in the city. Each party had its own mandate, priorities and ability to contribute to greenspace. With amalgamation, there is now one municipality to take the lead in delivering greenspace to Ottawa communities and to partner with other levels of government, the private sector, and the community to provide greenspace for the future. But with this opportunity for leadership comes responsibility: the onus for building on the legacy of the past and maintaining high standards into the future rests with the City of Ottawa.
The purpose of the Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces is to express Council’s policy on greenspace in the urban area of the city. The Plan describes the lands that can be considered as greenspace and sets strategic directions for managing and extending this supply in order to achieve the community’s vision for greenspace. This vision is expressed in terms of five objectives that guide this plan: adequacy of supply, accessibility to all communities, quality in design and character, connectivity among greenspaces, and sustainability through management plans. The City has a range of tools to achieve these objectives; many are associated with the City’s land use planning responsibilities but others are available through the City’s own public works and projects undertaken with other partners. Adoption of the Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces is timely, as the new City evaluates the remaining natural features within the urban area and contemplates new capital projects for parks and leisure areas.
This is a master plan for the greenspaces in the urban area of Ottawa, a small portion of the city’s overall land mass defined in the Ottawa Official Plan as the greenbelt and the adjacent lands where urban development is permitted. Throughout the plan, however, reference is made to greenspaces that extend beyond the urban boundary or exist outside it, since natural areas do not respect planning boundaries. A work program for natural lands and open space and leisure lands in the rural area will be prepared in 2007, coordinating with other studies in the rural area.