In 2001, more than 850 parks and thousands of hectares of municipal forests, wetlands or other natural lands were consolidated under one administration. Each of the former municipalities treated these lands differently in local zoning by-laws and for the most part, pursued different plans for greenspace within their boundaries. In addition to the municipal lands, federal lands in Ottawa include more than 20,000 ha of land within the National Capital Greenbelt, plus parks, parkways and recreational trails. National monuments and other high-profile buildings provide spaces for public gatherings and other greenspaces. The federal government and the Conservation Authorities own and maintain woodlands and other environment lands that bring nature into the city.
The Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces sets the table for planning all of these greenspaces in the urban area by:
- Identifying all natural greenspaces and open space and leisure lands in Ottawa and mapping them as natural lands and as open space and leisure lands, or in some cases, as both types of land; some spaces are shown on both maps
- Categorizing these lands based on their contribution to either natural features and functions, or to open space and leisure opportunities
- Identifying an Urban Greenspace Network that combines both kinds of greenspaces into a single system
In order to plan for such a diverse landmass, a computer-based mapping and information system was used to analyse data on various types of greenspaces in the city. This system can be updated and used for a variety of purposes, including monitoring of greenspace targets and achievement of other objectives.
In the process of identifying all of Ottawa’s urban greenspaces, the Official Plan designation and the zoning were reviewed. It was found that natural lands, and open space and leisure lands are not always designated in the Official Plan or zoned consistently. Appropriate designation of greenspaces is a basic implementation strategy outlined in Section 4.0 of this Plan.
This section describes strategies for securing natural lands, and open space and leisure lands, and proposes to build the Urban Greenspace Network through multi-use pathways and Greens Streets. While the Urban Greenspace Network is a central, organizing element in the city’s greenspace system, land that is located off the network is also valued. In particular, natural lands occur where they occur and several of the most significant natural areas remaining in the urban area are not connected to the network. Strategies for securing these lands and other natural land will be proposed through the Urban Natural Features Strategy. The role of the Urban Natural Features Strategy is to identify specific natural lands that Council intends to secure for their environmental value through acquisition and other means over the next five to 10 years. The strategy builds on the Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study, which established the environmental values of woodlands, wetlands and ravines in the urban area.
The inventories of land shown in this section on Map 1 [PDF 3.82 MB] Natural Land and Map 2 [PDF 3.82 MB] Open Space and Leisure Land reflect the present use of the land. Both maps include lands where the zoning and Official Plan designations permit development for urban purposes. The use of these lands for greenspace will be subject to further studies, development applications and planning decisions in the future, with the maps updated periodically. Map 3 [PDF 1.74 MB] shows how these lands could be linked in a network, and includes potential linkages that do not reflect the current use. The network and the inventories will not have a direct effect on the Official Plan designation or zoning of the lands shown on the maps. Rather, the network and the inventories will be used to guide future land acquisitions, to plan future parks and leisure facilities, and to inform review of development applications and proposals for public works.
2.1.1 Data Sources and Assigned Values
Greenspaces were identified using a variety of sources, including former municipal plans and zoning by-laws, land use inventories, scientific studies, ongoing planning studies, and the provincial property database. Several studies described below were particularly critical in assembling the inventory. These studies were prepared at different times and for different purposes; where they addressed the same landscapes, the study undertaken with the most scientific rigour was given preference. Further, where the studies yielded a ranking of the value or importance of certain lands, such as natural greenspaces, these rankings were carried forward into the inventory. In some cases, the studies required updating to reflect changes in land use and commitments for development.
These sources include:
- The Natural Environment System Strategy, NESS (1997). The former Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton undertook this comprehensive analysis for the 1997 Regional Official Plan. NESS combined existing regional vegetation and landform mapping with fieldwork to assess the relative significance of natural areas in the rural area and the Greenbelt. It evaluated forested and wetland areas, using standardised criteria to rank the natural landscapes as high, medium and low in significance. NESS also suggested a network of core natural areas and terrestrial and aquatic linkages among them. The NESS evaluation informed the environmental designations for the rural area in the 2003 Ottawa Official Plan.
- Ministry of Natural Resources information. The Ministry is responsible for the identification and evaluation of wetlands in Ontario. It also maps the location of Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs), comprising earth science ANSIs such as rare landforms, and life science ANSIs such as habitats of rare or unique species. This information is continually being updated. Life science ANSIs and Provincially Significant Wetlands are included in environmental designations in the 2003 Ottawa Official Plan; earth science ANSIs are identified as landform features in the Plan.
- Greenbelt Master Plan. In 1995, the National Capital Commission undertook this plan to identify greenbelt lands as rural landscapes, areas for future development (such as the Ottawa International Airport and federal employment areas) and natural landscapes with environmental value. The natural landscapes included forested lands, wetlands such as Mer Bleue, and linkages such as river and stream corridors. A network of outdoor destinations and recreational pathways was also proposed. Many of the natural landscapes were confirmed as having a high level of environmental significance in the Natural Environment System Strategy (NESS). The Greenbelt Master Plan is reflected in the designations in the 2003 Ottawa Official Plan.
- Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study (UNAEES) 2005-2006. The City of Ottawa undertook this study to identify and to assess the relative environmental value of natural areas in the urban area. This study established a consistent environmental rating system and made recommendations regarding the management of these lands. Nine criteria were used to rank municipal, NCC, and private lands as high, moderate and low in environmental value. Some of these sites were already identified in an environmental and open space designation in the Official Plan and others were not. The study, which also yielded more accurate mapping than previously available, will provide a basis for setting priorities for acquisition or other means of securing these lands as natural areas.
- Watershed and Subwatershed Studies. The Conservation Authorities and the City undertake watershed and subwatershed studies and continue to refine information on natural environment systems, river and stream corridors, and surface and ground water connections. These studies have been used to update earlier studies, such as NESS, where appropriate.
- Cycling and Pathway Studies. The NCC is updating the 1994 study, The Integrated Network of Recreational Pathways for the National Capital Region, in partnership with the Cities of Ottawa and Gatineau. The current study, the Pathway Network for Canada’s Capital Region: 2006 Strategic Plan, identifies pathway corridors throughout the National Capital Region that embraces Gatineau and Ottawa. These pathways are the primary off-road connections among open spaces in the National Capital Region. The City is also undertaking a Cycling Plan to identify an on-road and off-road system for cyclists. Both studies were in progress in 2006 and information from this master plan contributed to their development.
- Municipal Park Inventories. The City has prepared a database of all the City-owned and managed parks, identifying all park facilities of the former municipalities. The database is updated regularly and is linked to the City’s Geographic Information System (GIS).
In addition to these studies, the parks and recreation plans of the former municipalities classified parks and identified future park locations; community design plans and secondary plans have also identified lands intended for future parks and other greenspace. These have been included where sufficient information exists to do so. The 1999 Plan for Canada’s Capital and the Official Plan also provided context. In addition, land assessment data, topographic mapping, and mapping from the City’s land use surveys in 2001 and 2005 were consulted.
Altogether, these studies and evaluations have been used to identify greenspaces and assign greenspace values in this Plan. Information on natural lands included evaluation and ranking of the relative environmental value of individual sites, and these rankings have been carried forward into this Plan. Such rankings may need to be updated as additional information becomes available. Information on open space and leisure land was primarily descriptive and the ranking in this plan represents the level of public access and use.
The Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces recognizes that not all environmental lands or all open space and leisure lands have the same intrinsic value or value to the public, based on their function, either within a natural environment system or within a system of open space and leisure lands. This Plan ranks both types of land generally in terms of their role or function, as described in three broad categories:
- Primary lands include the natural landscapes and major rivers that are recognised as having high environmental quality or rarity, as well as the public parks and open spaces specifically designed to provide sport and leisure functions.
- Supporting lands refine, complement and expand the primary lands. They include tributaries to rivers, isolated natural features, and habitats that link the primary areas. In the open space and leisure system, they are public lands that potentially contribute to leisure opportunities because they permit public access.
- Contributing lands enhance or augment the primary or supporting lands. They include steep slopes, low-value natural areas or treed areas, as well as institutional, commercial recreational and other lands that permit varying levels of public access and use.
As discussed in Section 1.0, many parcels of land contribute to both natural and recreation functions and where this occurs; these lands have been included in both inventories.