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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 pétanque 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 and the environment

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. This approach is known as intensification, which means that the density of urban development increases. By "intensifying" development within the urban core instead of sprawling into rural areas, we preserve natural greenspace and reduce the cost of servicing development. However, intensification can contribute to added pressures on urban greenspace and tree canopy that must also be considered in the planning process.

The Official Plan also includes the requirement that design and development "understand and respect natural processes and features, and promote environmental sustainability in development." A variety of design guidelines have been developed to support those objectives, including guidelines for greenfield neighbourhoods, complete streets, certain housing and retail formats, road corridors, and parks. These guidelines encourage green roofs, enhanced landscaping and rainwater recycling, and other measures to help minimize the impact of development.

In order to inform planning decisions, environmental studies may be required to identify the potential environmental effects of a proposed project and consider how negative impacts can be avoided or mitigated. The type of study required depends on the type of project. The following studies are typically required for public infrastructure projects, urban expansion areas, and private development projects in or adjacent to the natural heritage system, or that could impact trees in the urban area. For specific information about the City’s study requirements for development applications, please refer to our Guide to Preparing Studies and Plans.

Environmental Assessments

Projects undertaken by provincial and municipal agencies are subject to the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act. While particularly large or complex projects may require an individual environmental assessment (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.

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. 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.

Environmental Management Plans

When new urban expansion areas are identified, area planning studies are typically required to guide their future development and servicing. These studies include community design plans or secondary plans, master servicing studies, and environmental management plans (EMPs). The purpose of the EMP is to assess the existing natural features and functions of the study area, identify any development constraints or opportunities, and provide recommendations to avoid or reduce negative impacts where possible. In areas where a subwatershed study has already been completed, the EMP may be used to refine or update the subwatershed plan with respect to the new development area. The EMP does not replace site-specific environmental studies that may still be required during later stages of planning, but it can be used to inform or scope those studies.

Environmental Impact Statements and Tree Conservation Reports

The City of Ottawa’s Official Plan establishes requirements for an environmental impact statement (EIS) when development or site alteration 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 has approved EIS Guidelines 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.

The City also requires tree conservation reports (TCRs) and landscaping plans for all plans of 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. In cases where both an EIS and a TCR are required, the two studies can be combined.

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 2015 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

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, tree-lined boulevards, meadows around stormwater management ponds, wooded ravines, and sensitive wetlands and forests. Privately owned greenspaces, while not open for public access, do contribute significantly to the city’s overall ecological integrity and resilience. 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), Section 2.4.3 (Watershed and Subwatershed Plans) 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). Other key documents include the Urban Forest Management Plan (2017) and the Park Development Manual (2017).

Watersheds are the land areas that feed rivers. Subwatersheds are smaller areas that feed streams and creeks. The City conducts watershed and subwatershed planning studies in cooperation with our local Conservation Authorities, to examine existing conditions, identify any opportunities or concerns, and inform future planning decisions and stewardship activities in those areas. For more information on watershed and subwatershed planning studies, please see Subwatershed Studies.

Public and private development projects that could affect the City’s natural areas or other greenspaces are required to complete studies to ensure that potential negative impacts are identified and addressed. For an overview of the various types of studies required, see Development and the Environment. If you need more detailed information about our requirements for developing a property, refer to the Development Application Review Process.

Ottawa also protects its trees, forests and natural areas 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. The Site Alteration By-law establishes basic rules to avoid or reduce potential negative impacts of activities such as topsoil removal and the clearing, grading and filling of land.

Securement

Ottawa's Official Plan contains policies for the securement of natural areas and other greenspaces, particularly for lands that are designated as Urban Natural Features, Natural Environment Areas or Major Open Space. Parkland is generally secured through the development review process, in accordance with the Planning Act. Natural lands may be secured through this process as well, or by various other means including donations under the federal Ecological Gifts Program. The City also works with local land trusts and conservation partners to secure natural lands on occasion.

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. For more information on seasonal clean-ups, adopting a park or road, or accessing environmental grants, please refer to Community Environmental Programs. The following local groups also offer opportunities to get involved in stewardship:

 

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, and linkages intended to provide connectivity (at the regional or site level) and support natural processes which are necessary to maintain biological and geological diversity, natural functions, viable populations of indigenous species, and ecosystems. These systems can include natural heritage features and areas, federal and provincial parks and conservation reserves, other natural heritage features, lands that have been restored or have the potential to be restored to a natural state, areas that support hydrologic functions, and working landscapes that enable ecological functions to continue. Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 

Ottawa’s natural heritage system is defined in Section 2.4.2 of the Official Plan, and is comprised of a variety of significant natural features, associated contributing features and connecting linkages.

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: