Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces
Ottawa distinguishes itself from other large cities by virtue of its being ‘green’ with an abundance of parks, rivers, woodlands and rolling countryside that contribute in large measure to the high quality of life offered to all its citizens. These greenspaces are the legacy of actions taken by visionary community builders in the past. While Ottawa is proud of this green heritage, it cannot rest on past actions alone.
Ottawa City Council approved the Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces on August 23, 2006, to express its vision for greenspace in urban Ottawa and establish policies to achieve that vision in the future.
If you have any questions regarding the Greenspace Master Plan please contact:Bruce Finlay, Planner III
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development
Tel.: 613-580-2424, ext. 21850
Ottawa residents are passionate about their greenspaces because the city’s parks and forests are the source of a great deal of the pleasure that comes from living here. These greenspaces are the legacy of visionary community builders in the past: federal planners who constructed scenic parkways radiating outwards from Parliament Hill, homebuilders who built communities for returning veterans around central parks and playgrounds, local municipal councillors who assembled land along rivers and other waterways well before the first houses appeared.
While Ottawa can be proud of this green heritage, it cannot be complacent. With a population projected to increase by almost 50 per cent by 2021, the City will be hard-pressed to maintain the high standards of the past as new neighbourhoods are built and established ones redevelop. Fortunately, the City has never been better positioned to meet this challenge: with amalgamation of 11 local municipalities and a regional government in 2001, a single municipal government is now in place to provide leadership and pursue a greenspace vision in partnership with other levels of government, the private sector and the community.
The purpose of the Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces is to express Council’s vision for greenspace in the urban area and set policies for how this vision can be pursued over the next three years and beyond. That vision is firmly rooted in the principles residents expressed in 2001 when they developed the Ottawa 20/20 plans to manage the city’s future growth. As the city grows, there is to be an adequate supply of greenspace, accessible to all residents. It will be linked, to allow for movement through green corridors, and it will be high quality and sustainable, minimizing the need for human intervention and public spending.
Council’s vision for greenspace is broad and takes in a continuum of lands, ranging from waterways and remnant woodlands to manicured downtown pocket parks. It also includes lands that are not usually considered as greenspace, such as stormwater management ponds and other infrastructure lands, plus the landscaped lands around major institutions and business parks. One of the major accomplishments of the Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces is that it inventories all the greenspaces in the urban area and shows which spaces are the most valuable in terms of their contribution to natural lands or open space and leisure uses.
An Urban Greenspace Network is the focal point of Council’s greenspace vision. Building on the land inventory, the Urban Greenspace Network is a continuum of natural lands and open space and leisure lands that in time could connect every home in Ottawa to a larger network of greenspace that spans the urban area. Much of this network now exists but many key linkages and features are yet to be secured. The Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces proposes two strategies to advance this work:
- Implement key sections of the recreational pathway system identified in the Pathway Network for Canada’s Capital Region:2006 Strategic Plan and request staff to prepare a plan and budget estimate to do so.
- Prepare a Green Street Strategy to explore ways that Green Streets could be used to provide connections within the Urban Greenspace Network and contribute to the greening of municipal infrastructure.
Several ongoing initiatives will potentially help build the Urban Greenspace Network and add to the city’s greenspace lands. These include an evaluation of all natural areas remaining in the urban area completed in 2006 that will serve as a basis for a strategy to secure the priority sites through acquisition and other means. Also, a shortfall in large sports fields has been identified through past studies and a strategy has been developed to create more sites through partnerships.
In addition to these and other ongoing initiatives, the City can build the Urban Greenspace Network and pursue its greenspace objectives by adopting a “Greenspace Also” approach to municipal business. The Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces proposes that the City conduct many of its day-to-day municipal functions with a view to expanding the amount of greenspace in the city, increasing its quality, and enhancing residents’ access to it. For example, it proposes that in fulfilling its responsibilities for land use planning, the City pursue its greenspace objectives through official plan policies and the zoning bylaw, and by setting targets for greenspace and ensuring these are met through plans for new and redeveloping communities. Through the development review process, the City can pursue landscaping and open space features that support a high quality of urban design. As a builder of public works and infrastructure, the City can ensure that projects such as stormwater management ponds and other infrastructure contribute to greenspaces by incorporating pathways or providing natural habitat. It can manage its own natural land wisely and evaluate whether surplus land has a greenspace contribution before releasing it for sale. The City can partner with local communities to prepare management plans for natural areas and with the federal government and others to achieve common goals. It can commit to acquiring greenspace using established criteria and a public process, and it can explore alternatives to acquisition.
The City’s requirements for greenspace and opportunities to provide it will continue to evolve as the city grows and changes. While greenspace planning will need to keep pace with that change, as a set of strategies and as a way of doing city business, the Greenspace Master Plan - Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces provides a way forward for the City to achieve its greenspace vision.