The City of Ottawa spans over 2778km2 and contains many beloved greenspaces. Ottawa is currently Canada’s sixth most populous city, however, it covers a land area greater than that of the five most populous cities combined. As a result of urban sprawl, the city’s valuable greenspaces (forests, wetlands and fields) are increasingly at risk from urban construction projects.

Natural lands are cherished by the communities that live around them, and Ottawa’s greenspaces are fundamental to the health and happiness of its human residents.  Ottawa’s natural lands are also critical for a wide range of animal and plant species. Almost 60 species native to the Capital region have been classified as at risk by the provincial and/or federal government. Although legislation exists to protect threatened species, new development projects often threaten vulnerable species and their specialized habitats. Blanding’s turtles are classified as a threatened species, yet development in the South March Highlands Conservation Forest in Kanata has destroyed prime habitat and many young and mature turtles have been killed by traffic collisions on newly constructed roadways that cross the forest.

A Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species that inhabits wetlands in the South March Highlands (photo: J. McNeil)

Many Ottawa residents incorrectly assume that natural spaces are protected, however, poorly-planned development and inadequate protection measures continue to pose a threat to our local greenspaces. Too much of Ottawa’s new development relies on problematic development patterns including sprawling, single use, low-density and car-centric planning. Development projects routinely use large plots of land at the expense of vulnerable species and ecosystems. Ecology Ottawa is launching a new campaign to protect vulnerable greenspaces around the city and it’s up to all of us to protect these treasured greenspaces for the generations to come!

Our new campaign called “Keep Nature in our Neighbourhoods” aims to mobilize Ottawans to protect vulnerable greenspaces in the city and demand more sustainable patterns of development across the city.

This initiative supports:

  • Less incursion of new development into vulnerable areas and maintaining clearly defined greenspaces
  • More protection for species at risk
  • Better community design and planning practices
  • Stronger enforcement of tools to protect local greenspaces and the species that rely on them for survival

Through community action and engagement, we intend to address the root causes of this unsustainable urban sprawl and fuel long-term changes in patterns of urban development. The negative impacts of current development patterns must be addressed to preserve vulnerable and ecologically significant areas. Unsustainable development practices are common in cities across the world, and it is our hope that Ottawa can serve as an example of a city that adopts sustainable development practices to minimize harm on living organisms and reap the health benefits of green and sustainable urban development.

The South March Highlands forest has ecological (biodiversity), geological (Canadian Shield) and cultural (numerous artifacts) importance.

The problem can feel daunting and systemic, however, viable solutions are within reach. A well-designed city that protects its vulnerable areas is a healthier city. One goal of sustainable development is the reduction of urban sprawl and associated consequences which include expensive and inaccessible transit, high greenhouse gas emissions due to car-dependency, budgets skewed in favour of road development and incomplete communities that contribute to social isolation, obesity and other health issues. Acting to protect natural greenspaces can help address many of the root causes of the environmental crisis and related problems that plague cities across the globe.

As communities are often passionately protective of their local greenspaces, there exists tremendous potential to leverage concern about nearby greenspaces into grassroots momentum for sustainable development and better protection of vulnerable areas. We are embarking on an action-oriented plan to rally public involvement and civic engagement. We hope to raise public awareness about the consequences of the sprawling urban landscape and how it is affecting our environment, and hold policy-makers accountable.

Natural greenspaces are cherished by local communities, offering beautiful landscapes for recreational activities and therapeutic retreats. (photo: S. Charles)Natural greenspaces are cherished by local communities, offering beautiful landscapes for recreational activities and therapeutic retreats. (photo: S. Charles)

As a first step in the “Keep Nature in our Neighbourhoods” greenspace protection campaign, we have begun to target two Ottawa neighbourhoods located near vulnerable greenspaces at risk for development.  We are collecting signatures for a petition that asks City Councillors to protect vulnerable local greenspaces from destructive development. In this process, we are establishing a coalition of concerned residents and community groups to cooperatively resist damaging development projects and practices.

Save Our Kanata Greenspace is one local grassroots community organizing group working to protect greenspace in Kanata North. Another local group, the Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital has a very informative mailing list addressing greenspace issues in our city.

We are also organizing “Keep Nature in our Neighbourhoods” community workshops in our targeted neighbourhoods to engage community members around possible solutions to protect their local vulnerable greenspaces.

Some of these solutions include:

  • Stronger by-laws to protect trees and greenspace
  • New standard for community design including minimum density and transit connectivity requirements
  • Enforced standards for the protection of species at risk
  • Enforced standards for development in sensitive areas
  • Prevention of new roads and road widening projects in sensitive areas
  • Greater transparency in the city’s development process

We will provide more information about these workshops in the coming weeks.

We look forward to working with you to protect Ottawa greenspaces for the health of our communities and local wildlife! Please spread the word about our greenspace protection campaign and sign the petition to Keep Nature in our Neighbourhoods!

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UPDATE (Aug, 2019):

We are hosting two Keep Nature in Our Neighbourhoods workshops in Kanata North this September. At both workshops there will be a targeted panel discussion, breakout groups, family activities, snacks and a tree giveaway!

The first workshop will be held in Morgan’s Grant on September 22nd, 2019 at the Kanata Highlands Public School.  For more information and to RSVP, click here.

The second workshop will be held in Beaverbrook on September 28th, 2019 at the Earl of March Secondary School. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

We are very excited to work with you to help preserve Kanata’s beautiful greenspaces for the health and wellbeing of local communities and wildlife!