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Section 3: Achieving the Vision

3.1 Introduction

Ottawa’s 20/20 objectives for managing growth lend themselves to five objectives for managing and expanding greenspace in the urban area.

Adequacy is the objective that sparks the most public interest and controversy. Is there enough greenspace? How can we get more? But achieving an adequate amount of greenspace, as measured by hectares per thousand population, does not necessarily mean that the community’s needs for greenspace are satisfied. The amount of greenspace provided does not reflect whether that greenspace meets the recreational needs of the community or whether the most important environmental lands have been secured. The quality of the greenspace, its sustainability, and the access to it that the community enjoys are all important. This section explores the meaning of each objective, the issues associated with achieving it, and the actions the City can take to pursue it.

The Five Greenspace Objectives

  1. Adequacy - The City will provide enough greenspace to meet the needs of a growing and diverse community and to maintain natural systems, biodiversity and habitat.
  2. Accessibility - Ottawa residents will have ready access to greenspace in close proximity to their homes and communities.
  3. Connectivity - Ottawa’s greenspaces will be linked to provide for variety and improved access to recreational facilities, and to improve biodiversity and the movement of species.
  4. Quality - Greenspaces will be attractive, safe and well-designed, serving the multiple needs of users while defining the unique identity of communities. Where greenspaces are primarily natural areas, they will be preserved in manner that maintains or improves natural features and functions.
  5. Sustainability - Greenspaces will be planned and managed in a way that minimizes human intervention and public spending over time, through reliance on natural processes as well as innovative methods for protecting greenspace.

3.2 Adequate Greenspace

3.2.1 Current Provisions - Targets and Challenges

The City’s Official Plan sets a target of 4.0 ha of total greenspace (i.e., natural land and open space and leisure land) for every 1000 residents and this target has been achieved throughout most of the urban area. In new communities, the target for total greenspace includes a target of at least 2 ha of park and leisure land for every 1000 residents. This target, which reflects the amount of park space in established communities, is ambitious in that the parkland dedication provided under the Planning Act yields about 1.2 ha per thousand population, and the balance must be created through land acquisition and negotiation. These targets have guided the development of recently approved community design plans for the expanding suburban areas.

Figure 4 shows the population of large districts of the city and the amount of park and total greenspace within each district. Figure 4 also shows the amount of park and total greenspace per thousand population. In this table, park space comprises city-owned parks and federal land recognized by the NCC as a park. These lands comprise the primary lands shown on Map 2 in Section 2. Total greenspace, for this analysis, includes all park space plus active and passive open space in public ownership identified in the 2005 Land Use Survey. These lands are generally shown as the supporting lands on Map 2 in Section 2. School property and land in the Greenbelt is not included in this analysis.

Figure 4  Distribution of parks and other greenspace in sub-areas of urban Ottawa.

Figure 4 Distribution of parks and other greenspace in sub-areas of urban Ottawa.

In general, most communities achieve the targets of the Official Plan. While some of the older neighbourhoods have less park land than newer suburban areas, they meet or exceed the target for total greenspace because communities inside the Greenbelt on the whole have access to a considerable amount of federally owned greenspace. The exception is the densely populated Inner Area, which does not achieve the Official Plan target for total greenspace or park space.

The greenspace characteristics of each area are unique and reflect its natural features, location within the city, and past planning decisions. Overall greenspace may be higher in communities with an abundance of natural features or development constraint lands such as flood plains. Other areas may have more or less land used for infrastructure such as stormwater management facilities. Some former municipalities provided public parks in excess of the current Official Plan target through a combination of developer contributions, partnerships and land acquisition. Many of the former municipalities had capital funds to purchase parkland, leaving a generous supply in some areas. Some areas have access to nearby federally owned or municipally owned landscapes. In Leitrim, a large park has been purchased ahead of population growth, yielding a disproportionate amount of park per thousand population. The presence or absence of these various elements can significantly change the makeup of parks and greenspace in a community, and no two communities are alike in this regard. Further, it is more important to consider the quality of all greenspaces in a community than to pursue achievement of targets.

As neighbourhoods outside the Greenbelt continue to develop and older neighbourhoods inside the Greenbelt intensify, the ratio of park per thousand population is expected to decrease in some areas. In new communities, new subdivisions will be bringing on new parkland as they develop. However, where the larger parks have already been provided, the move towards build-out of the suburb will entail a decrease in the park-to-population ratio. In older neighbourhoods, parkland will not be lost to development; rather, the population it serves will increase. In these areas, it may be desirable to compensate for the increased use of parks by providing new facilities on other open spaces and city-owned land, in order to increase recreational opportunities. The City can also acquire additional lands inside the Greenbelt as parkland, although costs are high and opportunities are few.

While the City has set a target of 2.0 ha of park and leisure land per thousand population, there is no target for the amount of natural land in Ottawa, although natural land is counted towards the total greenspace target. As in other Canadian cities, environmental areas are preserved on an opportunity basis, where they still exist. Regardless of whether targets are achieved, the City will continue to pursue the acquisition of natural lands and additional park space.

In order to improve adequacy of Ottawa’s urban greenspaces, the City will:

  • Continue to pursue its overall targets for publicly owned and accessible greenspace, and expand the application of its overall park and leisure land targets across the urban area

3.2.2 Keeping Pace with Change

As Ottawa pushes past the million-population mark and approaches 2020, both suburban growth areas and the inner city will experience change and pressures on the greenspace supply. New communities will be challenged to provide a full range of natural lands and open space and leisure lands, while as the inner city intensifies and the population increases, the ratio of parkland to population will fall from current levels. Although these pressures are experienced locally within neighbourhoods, they also extend across communities and across the city. Many of the greenspace issues experienced now will only become more challenging in the future:

  • Inadequacy of the parkland dedication under the Planning Act to provide sufficient greenspace, particularly sports fields and pathways
  • Funding shortfall for the acquisition of natural lands and other greenspaces
  • Lack of clarity on what lands are greenspace and what lands are simply vacant
  • Redevelopment of privately owned open space and leisure land
  • The changing role of school grounds
  • The pinch on constraint land and other infrastructure land

Inadequacy of the parkland dedication

The parkland dedication required under the Planning Act cannot be relied upon to provide all future open space and leisure land needs in either new or established communities. The Planning Act provides for parkland dedication as part of the development review process, at no cost to the City. In certain circumstances, cash is paid in lieu of the land dedication. In established communities, infill development typically occurs on small sites and taking land through the parkland dedication is not feasible and may not provide land that is well located. The alternative, to accept cash-in-lieu of parkland, does not go far since the available land supply is in the form of expensive, serviced inner-urban land. In new communities, the dedication is the primary means of creating parks and is generally sufficient to meet neighbourhood demands for parks close to home. However, not all of the parkland identified in some community plans can be acquired in this manner. Also, the dedication is not sufficient to provide these parks as well as sports fields and natural lands identified for protection.

In particular, the popularity of organized field sports today is increasing and demand for time on large sports fields has outstripped the existing supply (Sports Field Strategy, IBI 2003). The City needs to address the existing under-supply of sports fields and prepare for the future demand created by a growing population. The current shortfall leads to the over-use of some sports fields, resulting in a deterioration of play surface quality and the inability to respond to the needs of sporting groups in a timely manner. Furthermore, neighbourhood parks are usually not large enough to have one or more sports fields, nor can they handle the impacts of sport league players and spectators from beyond a neighbourhood. The most efficient distribution of sports fields for organized league or tournament play is in large, multi-field parks that can meet the needs of players drawn from a community or from across the city, including new downtown communities.

Development Charges can finance a substantial portion of the construction of new sports field facilities to meet demand created by urban growth, but these charges cannot be used to acquire land, under the terms of the Development Charges Act. The City has initiated an enhanced sports field acquisition program by allocating $1 million in the 2006 budget for sports field acquisition and will consider additional funding in the 2007 long-range financial plan. It will also continue to pursue long-term land leases and partnerships with sports groups willing to create fields for their own and public use.

In order to pursue the objective of maintaining an adequate supply of greenspace throughout the urban area, the City will:

  • Continue to pursue the target, across the city, of 2 ha per 1000 population of park space or eight to ten per cent of developable land area
  • Use community design plans as a means to identify all greenspace opportunities in new and redeveloping neighbourhoods and propose strategies to meet the Official Plan targets and provide links to the Urban Greenspace Network
  • Implement the open space and urban forest provisions of The Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 2020 adopted by Ottawa Council and use the development review process, partnerships and public works to secure potential open spaces identified in the plans for the various precincts within the downtown
  • Not consider any land surplus to its needs until it has been evaluated in the context of its contribution to the Urban Greenspace Network, its protection or enhancement of the natural environment, or its contribution to the City's recreational open space, prior to divesting of the property. When considering the disposal of City-owned land, the City will ensure that any network function is retained

Funding shortfall

Before amalgamation, several local municipalities had innovative programs and parkland acquisition funds that identified and secured new parks well in advance of urban growth. The former Region of Ottawa-Carleton also had a fund to acquire environmental lands in the rural area and along major waterways. This fund has been carried into the budget of the City of Ottawa. Ottawa has also expanded its greenspace acquisition strategies beyond reliance on the parkland dedication; for example, by leveraging tax credits for donated lands as part of acquisition strategy for natural environment areas.

The City already has a land acquisition policy to aid in the protection of lands currently designated in the City’s Official Plan. This policy is included in Appendix B. Notwithstanding this, as the City moves towards 2020, it needs to consider its greenspace priorities and develop a strategy for meeting funding shortfalls. Funding for the acquisition of large district parks as well as natural lands can come from a variety of sources, including cash-in-lieu of parkland dedication, capital budgets (the tax base), and partnerships with city-wide sports leagues. Establishment of a fund for new acquisitions would enhance opportunities for the City to buy land earlier in the development process at a lower cost rather than at a later date when servicing is available and the land is ready to develop. Relying on cash-in-lieu for major purchases does not provide sufficient funds in greenfields in a timely manner, before the property achieves its full urban value.

Council’s next decision in the urban area will be whether to fund the acquisition of the remaining privately owned environmental areas identified through the Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study and the proposed Urban Natural Features Strategy. While some of the priority sites may be secured through partnerships and other mechanisms, many will need to be acquired by the City if they are to be protected.

In order to create a more comprehensive view of the adequacy of greenspace funding, the City will:

  • Review all sources of funding for the acquisition of natural and open space and leisure lands, including the Environmental Land Acquisition Fund, the cash-in-lieu of parkland fund, and other capital programs approved or proposed in the long-range financial plan
  • Propose a consistent and coordinated approach to managing the funds and reporting to Council and communities on how they are used

Lack of clarity on what lands are greenspace and what lands are simply vacant

Throughout the city, there are large parcels of publicly owned land that are used as open space by the community for dog-walking and other leisure activities, yet these lands are not planned as parks and their future use is uncertain. Some of these lands are corridors that were protected for infrastructure that is no longer needed or has been delayed. Other lands are near or adjacent to planned open spaces but are not planned as part of the open space. In some cases, the knowledge that the municipality or the federal government owns a parcel of vacant land is sufficient to cast it as “park” in the minds of residents, who are aware of the greenspace needs of their community. In many cases, the role of these lands only becomes apparent when the owner seeks to sell or redevelop the property for another purpose. People who use the space are concerned about the loss and any planning process may lead to an Ontario Municipal Board decision.

Studies of the future use of these sites may be the best vehicle for the NCC and other public landowners, the City, and the adjacent communities to determine the future use of these lands. Many of these undeveloped sites now are zoned to permit development, subject to completion of a study of future use in the area and consultation with the public. Smaller in scale than a community design plan, such a study could be initiated through a terms of reference approved by Council and supported by the landowner. It could also be co-ordinated with planning for additional pathways identified through the Pathway Network for Canada’s Capital Region:2006 Strategic Plan, since many of the sites are located within the proposed Urban Greenspace Network. Until such time as an agreement on the future use is secured through approval of the plan, the current zoning and Official Plan designations would remain in place.

The City will endeavour to clarify the greenspace role of undeveloped, publicly owned land by:

  • Initiating planning studies on the future use of undeveloped, publicly owned lands in partnership with the NCC and other public owners, and in consultation with the community and other stakeholders, in order to determine the future greenspace functions of these lands that are now used as open space but are not planned or managed by the owner for that purpose

The City will also protect land that is planned and developed for conservation and recreation or leisure purposes through the Official Plan and the Comprehensive Zoning By-law by:

  • Designating all major municipal parks and Urban Natural Features consistently in the Official Plan
  • Zoning all city-owned parks in an open space or equivalent zoning and ensure that there is public consultation where a municipal park is to be sold or changed to another use

Redevelopment of privately owned open space and leisure land

The public has an interest in maintaining the open space or leisure function of institutional sites and privately owned but accessible open spaces such as marinas, campgrounds and golf courses. As the City grows and land values rise, the economic feasibility of maintaining some privately owned leisure facilities is reduced to the point where redevelopment is a viable option. In such cases, the City needs to consider the open space function of the site to see whether a greenspace function can be retained even as the land redevelops.

When considering applications to amend the zoning by-law or to redevelop privately owned open space and leisure land, the City will:

  • Consider opportunities to maintain the continuity of the Urban Greenspace Network
  • Seek opportunities to maintain public access to a waterfront or otherwise provide additional greenspace to the community

The changing role of school grounds

School grounds have historically been the focus of neighbourhood activity. School grounds were among the few greenspaces provided in a grid pattern of streets and houses in older, inner-city communities. Since the 1950s, school grounds have continued to play a central role in the community as one of the key organising features in community planning. In many communities, school grounds have been co-located with parks to create large, community greenspaces with facilities for sport and leisure.

The City and school boards have been working together for many years in the planning, design and operation of shared outdoor recreation and leisure facilities. Fiscal pressures, changing demographics, and the high cost of land have challenged these traditional relationships. The inner city faces school closures and the potential loss of accessible greenspace in areas that are already sparsely or underserved with parks and sports fields. Older suburban areas also face school closures that have the potential to fragment established greenspaces created by coordinated park and school locations. The high costs of land in rapidly growing suburban areas has also resulted in some instances of school boards acquiring smaller school properties, which reduces their ability to meet their own recreation demands and their contribution to the community’s accessible greenspaces. Smaller school properties contribute to intensified use of nearby parks and increased maintenance and lifecycle costs for the City.

The closure of schools and the proposed sale of these properties are of keen interest to the communities that have grown up around these facilities. Schools in good condition usually get traded to another school board. Generally, those that are offered for sale require major capital investment to bring them up to today’s standards and additional cost to re-adapt to other uses. The challenge facing the City is whether to acquire the school to preserve the facility functions of the building, to acquire the land to preserve the greenspace functions of the school yard, or to acquire both or neither.

Council has asked staff to prepare a policy on the disposition of surplus school sites and such a policy will be brought forward in 2007. This master plan assists with that policy by proposing criteria for Council to use in assessing the merit of school sites and other land proposed for acquisition as greenspace, in Section 4. These criteria include the site’s location with respect to the Urban Greenspace Network, the amount of greenspace in the community, and future need as the community population increases.

In addition to planning for total parkland requirements through the community design process and other strategies to secure an adequate amount of greenspace, as described above, the City will:

  • Adopt clear criteria to guide decisions on the acquisition of natural lands, schoolyards, and other greenspaces, and make sure that the rationale for any recommendation on a proposed acquisition is clear

The pinch on constraint land and other infrastructure land

During the development review process, the City requests that stream valleys and corridors be dedicated to a public authority for environmental land management. Plans for some new communities have included trails within these lands, as well as along stormwater management facilities. These lands are not considered as parkland, although they contribute to greenspace. Although public use is permitted, these lands cannot be developed to support programmed recreation. At the same time as land costs rise, it has become increasingly difficult to secure constraint lands. Land developers are seeking engineering solutions to mitigate the development constraint around these lands and increase the developable land area, or are proposing to turn these lands into private property assets. Public safety issues complicate use of these lands for recreation purposes and human activity can impact on features such as plant communities, fish habitat and waterway function.

In order to make the best use of the greenspace role of constraint land and infrastructure land, the City will:

  • Design stormwater ponds and utility corridors in such a way that they can also function as greenspace in new communities and redevelopment areas, and hazard lands will be incorporated in the overall greenspace plan. These lands will not be considered as part of the public dedication required under the Planning Act, although adjacent, developable lands proposed for paths or parks may be purchased or included in the public dedication.

3.2.3 Summary - Strategies for Achieving an Adequate Amount of Greenspace

In order to pursue the objective of maintaining an adequate supply of greenspace throughout the urban area, the City will:

  • Use community design plans as a means to identify all greenspace opportunities in new and redeveloping neighbourhoods and propose strategies to meet the Official Plan targets and provide links to the Urban Greenspace Network
  • Implement the open space and urban forest provisions of The Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 2020 adopted by Ottawa Council and use the development review process, partnerships and public works to secure potential open spaces identified in the plans for the various precincts within the downtown
  • Not consider any land surplus to its needs until it has been evaluated in the context of its contribution to the Urban Greenspace Network, its protection or enhancement of the natural environment, or its contribution to the City's recreational open space, prior to divesting of the property. When considering the disposal of City-owned land, the City will ensure that any network function is retained
  • Review all sources of funding for the acquisition of natural and open space and leisure lands, including the Environmental Land Acquisition Fund, the cash-in-lieu of parkland fund, and other capital programs approved or proposed in the long-range financial plan
  • Propose a consistent and coordinated approach to managing the funds and reporting to Council and communities on how they are used
  • Endeavour to clarify the greenspace role of undeveloped, publicly owned land by initiating planning studies on the future use of undeveloped, publicly owned lands in partnership with the NCC and other public owners, and in consultation with the community and other stakeholders, in order to determine the future greenspace functions of these lands that are now used as open space but are not planned or managed by the owner for that purposes
  • The City will designate all major municipal parks and Urban Natural Features consistently in the Official Plan, by:
    • Designating as Major Open Space all municipal parks of 7 ha or more that contain a diversity of facilities, including those identified in community design plans
    • Designating all parkway corridors as Major Open Space
    • Updating the Major Recreational Pathways schedules in the Official Plan to reflect the Urban Greenspace Network and the recommendations of the Pathway Network for Canada’s Capital Region: 2006 Strategic Plan
  • Protect land that is planned and developed for conservation and recreation or leisure purposes through the Comprehensive Zoning By-law by zoning all city-owned parks in an open space or equivalent zone and ensure that there is public consultation where a municipal park is to be sold or changed to another use
  • When considering applications to amend the zoning by-law or to redevelop privately owned open space and leisure land, the City will:
    • Consider opportunities to maintain the continuity of the Urban Greenspace Network
    • Seek opportunities to maintain public access to a waterfront or otherwise provide additional greenspace to the community
  • Adopt clear criteria to guide decisions on the acquisition of natural lands, schoolyards, and other greenspaces, and make sure that the rationale for any recommendation on a proposed acquisition is clear
  • Design stormwater ponds and utility corridors in such a way that they can also function as greenspace in new communities and redevelopment areas, and incorporate hazard lands in the overall greenspace plan. Such land will not be considered as part of the public dedication required under the Planning Act, although adjacent, developable lands proposed for paths or parks will be purchased or included in the public dedication

3.3 Accessible Greenspace

Figure 6 Distribution of Public Open Space and Leisure Lands [PDF 1.56 MB]

The principle of accessibility speaks to issues of social equity and community design arising from the distribution of parks and greenspaces. Communities without ready access to nearby greenspace are as deficient as communities that fall short of an adequate supply. Physical constraints such as distance, intervening barriers such as major roads that are difficult to cross, and the user’s degree of mobility can hinder access. Barriers also arise from concerns about individual security in the space, cultural norms about how public open space can be used, and any costs involved in accessing the space or using its facilities. Access can be enhanced by good design that opens the space visually and physically to users and that co-locates it with complementary uses. Multiple uses within the space and linkages to other open spaces expand the experience.

In its narrowest sense, access is usually measured as walking distance or walking time. As a rule of thumb, a four- or five-minute walk is considered sufficient to travel between 250 m to 400 m (see Figure 5). The Official Plan sets as a target that in residential areas, all homes will be within 400 metres of a greenspace, or roughly within a five-minute walk. This target was tested using the 2005 Land Use Survey, by drawing a 400-metre buffer around active and passive recreation lands owned by a public body. The results illustrated in Figure 6 show that most of the City’s urban residential areas achieve this target.

Figure 5 A four or five-minute walk is considered sufficient to travel between 250 m to 400 m.

Figure 5 A four or five-minute walk is considered sufficient to travel between 250 m to 400 m.

While 400 metres is a good, basic target for accessibility, true walking distance may be greater, and more refined targets could be explored that reflect different types of activity and the needs of community residents. For younger and older populations, for example, a shorter distance to greenspace is a more appropriate measure of accessibility. A shorter distance may also be appropriate in areas of higher density, where there may be less private outdoor space and an increased need to access public greenspace. A more robust target of a 250 metres walking distance was also tested and is illustrated in Figure 6 [PDF 1.56 MB]. The city does remarkably well when measured against this higher standard, since most of the residential areas in urban Ottawa have some form of open space or leisure land within 250 metres. Other targets could be explored for specific community plans or for citywide analysis of park needs in the future.

Like all targets, though, targets for accessibility and total greenspace are only broad indicators and may not tell the whole story. They do not address the quality of parks and natural areas, and how well these greenspaces serve community needs or preserve natural features or functions, as discussed below.

Accessibility to natural lands raises several issues. Natural lands provide opportunities for unstructured recreational uses, such as walking, and can offer an alternative to urban parks and corridors. They add value to adjacent residential properties and provide an escape from the bustle and concrete of city living. However, public accessibility must be weighed against the need to sustain the natural features that make the area attractive and worthy of preservation as a natural area. Some sites are very popular and without proper facilities for public use, are being used informally in ways that may create impacts on fragile natural features or raise significant land management issues. As the urban area grows, potentially greater pressure will be placed on these lands.

The City now has management plans for such areas as the Marlborough Forest and Torbolton Forest that combine environmental protection with managed public access. The Forest Strategy, to be completed in 2007, will establish priorities for the preparation of management plans for the remaining municipal forests and management policies for city-owned natural lands in the urban area. These policies will be prepared in partnership with the City Forester and interested community groups to enhance environmental quality and define public access to the area.

3.3.1 Strategies for Achieving Accessible Greenspace

In order to improve accessibility to Ottawa’s urban greenspaces, the City will:

  • Continue to ensure that residential areas are within 400 metres of publicly owned greenspace that is generally accessible to the public
  • Explore alternate targets for accessibility to greenspace within the context of plans for specific communities or locations, including targets for areas with higher population densities or targets for access to different types of facilities
  • Manage City-owned lands in a manner consistent with the long-term maintenance of greenspace values identified in the Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study by preparing management plans and policies for City-owned natural areas that focus on the protection of environmental features and functions while accommodating public access and leisure uses where appropriate

3.4 Quality Greenspace

“Quality” refers to the features and characteristics of a greenspace that determine its ability to satisfy a given need or to perform a specified function well. Council’s objective is to enhance the quality of greenspaces to improve their carrying capacity and their role in the community, and to maintain or enhance the quality of natural lands to improve habitats and biodiversity.

The quality of natural lands is measured differently than the quality of open space and leisure lands that are intended for public recreation. The quality of a natural area, when evaluated from a purely intrinsic, natural environment perspective, includes an assessment of the size (bigger is better), shape (approaching a square or circle is better to minimize edge effects), connectivity, species composition (sites with a diversity of species that are relatively undisturbed are favoured) and function (hydrologic functions are the most important). These characteristics can be used to assess the quality of natural areas in both urban and rural settings. All other things being equal, the quality of natural features in the rural area, rated against these criteria, will far exceed the quality of urban natural features.

The relatively lower quality of urban natural features must, however, be balanced with an appreciation of the additional functions and values imparted by natural areas in an urban setting. What is rare is valued and natural features are unique within the urban landscape and thus highly valued. Natural land in the urban area also imparts individual and community health benefits, including development of strong neighbourhood ties, environmental awareness among urban residents, and a sense of tranquility and well-being. At the same time, natural land improves water quality, air quality and carbon absorption, and generally mitigates environmental degradation in the urban environment, doing so efficiently and at a low cost. Developing a sense of stewardship in the surrounding community or among community groups with a conservation interest is one of the best ways to protect natural land and its features and functions, and thus enhance its quality. A sense of stewardship and responsibility can be fostered through interpretive, on-site signage and information and education about the site, working in partnership with schools and interest groups.

The City supports several programs that foster stewardship by community groups. For example, the City’s Green Partnership Pilot Program creates opportunities for stewardship of natural areas. The program will be providing $1 million to fund innovative projects that further clean and green the city. Individuals, community organizations, service groups, business associations and non-profit organizations are encouraged to undertake projects that green communities, restore natural habitat, or create sustainable green spaces. An Environmental Achievement Award Program has been recommended that recognizes annually the exemplary contributions of private individuals and groups that sustain the environment.

Quality considerations for open space and leisure lands include its location, size, and relationship to other land uses or natural features. Done well, the design of open spaces increases their carrying capacity and can compensate for an overall shortfall in supply. Done well, park planning in coordination with overall community planning yields a network of accessible greenspaces that physically structures the community and contributes to a high quality of life. Community planning that coordinates many potential partners and projects can result in a system of greenspaces that work together and have a greater impact than each of the individual elements would have in isolation.

Well-designed park and leisure land exhibits the following qualities:

  • Character - a place with its own identity
  • Continuity and enclosure - a place where public and private spaces are clearly distinguished
  • Quality of the public realm – a place with attractive, well-constructed, well-maintained and successful outdoor spaces
  • Ease of movement - a place that is easy to get around and through
  • Legibility - a place that is easy to interpret and understand
  • Adaptability – a place that can handle change easily
  • Diversity – a place with variety and choice

3.4.1 Strategies for Achieving Quality Greenspace

In order to support the development of quality greenspaces in Ottawa, the City will:

  • Support community initiatives to take on stewardship roles for natural land in the urban area, through the Green Partnership Program Pilot and through the city’s management policies for these lands
  • Adopt plans and policies for natural lands that will:
    • Identify measures to preserve, enhance and manage natural lands in a manner consistent with the purpose for which the land is acquired
    • Inventory and update the City's information on the environmental assets of the land and identify potential issues and opportunities, both on and off-site, for the ongoing management of the land
    • Incorporate opportunities for public access and recreation
    • Identify the bodies responsible for the implementation of the management plans and the ongoing cost of doing so
    • Incorporate opportunities for community participation in the preparation of the management plan and identify opportunities for community partnerships in the ongoing implementation of the plan
  • Develop design guidelines for public parks in new communities and redeveloping areas, to be implemented through community design plans and through the development review process
  • Seek opportunities to enhance the quality of design and construction of parks and public places to improve the carrying capacity of these lands as a means to meet leisure needs of the community – in particular in areas where adequacy target may not be met

3.5 Connected Greenspace

The connectivity of greenspaces is as important as the connectivity of transportation systems and other systems that structure a well-designed city. Connectivity is the networking of greenspaces by connecting local parks with natural areas with recreational areas. As outlined in Section 2, creating networks of greenspace reduces the importance of the amount of open space at any specific location because it increases access to others nearby. Connecting open spaces improves accessibility, reduces the need for additional land where it is difficult to provide, and adds to the sustainability of greenspaces. Compared with individual greenspaces, connected greenspaces are more enjoyable to use and explore.

Multi-use pathways are a primary means of creating connectivity within Ottawa. These pathways have grown from a Capital tourist novelty and disjointed lengths of suburban paths to a truly region-wide network. These off-road, multi-use pathways in green corridors have also become part of an increasingly viable mode of transportation, creating a network for cyclists and pedestrians en route to work and educational and leisure destinations in their community and across communities. With more than 300 km of pathways in the National Capital Region embracing parts of Ottawa and Gatineau, the NCC has been the champion and by far the most significant planner and builder of pathways in Ottawa. It continues to implement an impressive program, including over 56 km though the Greenbelt. The NCC builds pathways only on federal lands, and has almost completed this portion of the network. The City will be responsible for creating the network of pathways on its own land and on land such as Hydro corridors where agreements have been reached to allow pathway construction.

In addition to pathways, other connections are provided by roadway, rapid transit and parkway corridors, hydro corridors, abandoned rail rights-of-way and unopened road allowances. These connections can provide the land base for pathway systems, and where they link natural areas, they may also support ecological functions. Roads and other infrastructure are the primary use in most corridors, but many also include greenspace elements such as multi-use pathways in landscaped boulevards. Where off-road connections between parks do not exist and are not feasible, reconstruction of roads as Green Streets can incorporate green pedestrian corridors focused on pedestrian use as well as cars.

Connectivity through natural linkages between natural areas maintains ecological functions such as biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Linkages provide passage for animals requiring a variety of habitats to complete their life cycle. Linkages provide for movement and reproductive interchange between populations of plant and animal species, and they buffer natural areas and processes from adjacent land uses.

Streams and creeks provide the best connections among natural areas, because they provide upland and riparian habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species. Streams that are vegetated add to the value of the connected core areas because vegetation protects migrating species from predation and improves the aquatic habitat. Connections that are shorter (less distance for an organism to travel from one area to another) and continuous (less risk of mortality and predation) are best.

Most urban natural areas are no longer connected, and naturalized corridors need to be created or maintained to support them. The same pathways and corridors that link parks and open spaces can also connect natural areas if appropriately landscaped and buffering is provided to reduce impacts on the natural areas. Map 3 in Section 2, showing the Urban Greenspace Network, includes examples of natural lands that are connected by open space and leisure land corridors or could be connected by such corridors.

3.5.1 Strategies for Achieving Connected Greenspaces

In order to foster connectivity among Ottawa’s urban greenspaces, the City will give priority to land that fills gaps in the Urban Greenspace Network or extends the network, with respect to:

  • Acquisition of natural land or new parkland
  • Situating new district and community parks
  • The location of new recreation facilities and land designated for public purposes in new and existing communities
  • Sites for new partnership projects such as stewardship projects and capital projects with community groups, sports clubs and other partners
  • Building the multi-use pathway
  • Managing City owned land and encouraging design of development to improve linkages between natural land and ecological functions

3.6 Sustainable Greenspace

Sustainability is a management issue for both open space and leisure lands and for natural land. Resources for managing parks and recreation facilities are decreasing, which, coupled with an increasing demand on these facilities, has resulted in a steady decline in the quality of urban parks and sports facilities. Given the generally high cost of maintaining property, there is a growing unwillingness to acquire land and take on the responsibility to maintain it. There is also a shift towards larger parks that can accommodate a variety of recreational activities and a move away from the provision of a range of open space opportunities in the community. The former is a more economic approach to providing recreation facilities but works against access and engagement at the local level.

Sustainable maintenance practices offer an alternative. The City has banned the use of pesticides on municipal property for cosmetic purposes, and along with the NCC, has adopted a naturalized approach to landscape maintenance where appropriate.

Sustainability of natural areas is directly linked to disturbance factors; the greater the disturbance, the greater the potential to jeopardize the sustainability of the natural area over the long term. Humans disturb natural areas by encouraging invasive species by dumping yard wastes or by tracking in seeds. People who create informal pathways or mountain bike trails within natural areas encourage soil compaction, thereby decreasing the ability for oxygen to reach tree roots. Some species habitat may be compromised by human disturbance and removal of plants. Since the public invariably uses urban natural areas in public ownership, management of these areas to minimize the disturbance is key to their sustainability. An adequate buffer should be created on adjacent lands and managed so that dumping and other human activities do not impact on the natural site.

3.6.1 Strategies for Achieving Sustainable Greenspace

In order to support sustainable greenspace in Ottawa, the City will:

  • Adopt plans and policies for natural lands owned by the City that:
    • Identify measures to preserve, enhance and manage natural lands in a manner consistent with the purpose for which the land is acquired
    • Inventory and update the City's information on the environmental assets of the land and identify potential issues and opportunities, both on and off-site, for the ongoing management of the land
    • Incorporate opportunities for public access and recreation
    • Identify the bodies responsible for the implementation of the management plans and the ongoing cost of doing so
    • Incorporate opportunities for community participation in the preparation of the management plan and identify opportunities for community partnerships in the ongoing implementation of the plan
  • Encourage public and private owners of natural lands to retain the land’s natural features and functions through stewardship and design with nature principles, where any development is planned so as to minimize impacts on the natural qualities of the land