Response to Ecology Ottawa’s Request for the Top Environmental Concerns of Old Ottawa East
The top environmental concerns of Old Ottawa East are primarily based on the universal concerns, i.e., climate change (adaptation and mitigation) and biodiversity decline. Canada has international commitments on both these fronts and, as SLOE member Mary Trudeau says, “We will need much more energy behind them if we are going to meet our targets.” OOE also has specific and related issues that warrant mention.
Parks/Greenspace/Protection of Nature
Parks offer an opportunity to increase habitat and protect species – birds, fish, reptiles, small mammals. As we’ve seen in Brantwood Park with the paved pathway, there can be trade-offs between alternative transportation (to reduce GHGs) and habitat. We are finally starting to pay attention to climate but we have an urgent need to also pay attention to species other than our own. Ecology Ottawa is probably aware of the Nature Needs Half initiative started by EO Wilson. Perhaps they can spearhead Ottawa becoming part of it (http://cpaws.org/blog/5-reasons-to-check-out-cpaws-talks-nature-needs-half).
Also, there are several local opportunities to permanently augment the city’s greenspace, notably by making the 160 Lees Alta Vista Transportation Corridor (AVTC) lands part of Springhurst Park and, secondly, by working with the NCC to make the lands on the east side of the Rideau River between Smyth and the LRT corridor a protected natural area. Both opportunities require that the city remove any future plans of extending or expanding the AVTC beyond what was just constructed at a cost of about $70M.
We should push for planting more trees, wherever possible, and trying to intensify what green spaces we have left (e.g. where there’s lawn, move to low ground cover, from ground cover to hedges, and from hedges to trees). Permeability is an issue in most residential neighbourhoods: new homes appear to be paving to all four lot lines (if not actually built to them), and public spaces are subject to increased pavement. The Children’s Garden now (post City reconstruction / remediation) looks to be about only about half permeable compared with before.
Construction that is allowing the removal of larger trees just occurred again on Riverdale. The City has rules to restrict their removal but that seems to go out the window when someone wants to build a new home or expand one. Trees provide diversity, health, canopy, heat incident mitigation, beauty, and household/building energy benefits. We need to do more to protect and extend.
Rideau River Health and Flooding
With less water staying put, the flood cycle of the Rideau is exacerbated (there has been a report that the under-construction Sewage Storage Tunnel is already undersized). Sewage is still going into our rivers. More regulations regarding grey water, green roofs, etc would help with that. OOECA has done some work vis a vis flooding through the Pauline Lynch-Stewart / Peter Croal “Brantwood Park 610 Action Plan.”
But a broader community resilience plan could be interesting. Of course, improved mechanisms to slow down and soak up precipitation would be great. Impervious surfaces are such a threat to biodiversity and they increase risk to human security with increased flood volumes exacerbated by climate trends. Overdevelopment of lots with poor or no mitigation measures mean precipitation overloads the river and the sewer system and reduces critical ground water.
Overconsumption in General
It still staggering how much plastic is in everyday purchases. This will become increasingly conspicuous with China no longer taking recyclable waste. Similarly, a number of OOE neighbourhoods (e.g., Canal area) have had small houses torn down to be replaced by huge homes that occupy most of the lot (removing trees along the way and increasing precipitation run-off) yet the new dwellings house the same number of people who lived in the smaller homes. Aside from tending to make housing less affordable in the community, the building of the huge homes does nothing to increase intensification.
Energy/Green House Gases (GHG)
Engaging residents and the community to learn and take action is needed. We did try some things in the early years of SLOE (e.g., 7th generation workshops; N2N electricity audits; exploring potential for community-owned solar electricity at SPU); but never got a lot of traction on this. Timing may be better now to create opportunities for investment within the community. Also, Ontario has new incentives for some energy efficiency measures, including high performance windows. Are there ways to get residents to take advantage?
Traffic / Transportation
We have a real-bottle neck at rush hours and much more of the Regional and Domicile developments is yet to come. We can foresee people getting really frustrated in the coming years with driving through our community but do not view building new roads or expanding existing roads as a means of addressing this frustration. Indeed, additional road expenditures will simply undermine the utility of the LRT system.
How can we encourage more cycling and walking within and through our community? Echo Drive is a major route for bikes and the winter maintenance on the stretch between Clegg and Herridge is horrible. Last year we had snow removal once or twice at most. Many cyclists have to dismount their bikes and ride along Colonel By, which is not safe at this time of year. While many cyclists opt not to bike in winter, we should be creating a few safe routes for those who do, especially along the major routes they take.
And, as noted above, the AVTC plan should be removed once and for all from the city’s transportation master plan. We must encourage alternate, greener forms of transit and for those having to use their cars, as many do, encourage and facilitate the working with shifted schedules to avoid rush hour.
Key to addressing congestion and traffic complaints (both from residents and commuters, there remains the need for increased transit. OC Transpo has still not replaced the regular # 16 bus service they eliminated in 2012. Creating a new bus route would help reduce our community’s need for cars, and would also transport many people from the southern communities who are currently causing congestion in our community.
With the 1000 units going into the Regional and Domicile developments, it would also be good to create another decent-sized community garden. We have unused green space in Ottawa where food could be grown. Building a permanent location for the Main Farmers’ Market on the Grande Allée will also contribute the residents’ ready access to fresh, healthy food.
As Jaime Gerard point out, much of the neighbourhood seems to have been built on old landfill. OOE has had a number of sites cleaned-up over the last decade and residents are concerned what other contaminants maybe present, including on private properties that were previously industrial or municipal lands. Who should pay for clean-ups? What health dangers exist with the remaining contaminants?
General / OOE Approach / Public Engagement
Rather than looking at “environmental concerns” per se, SLOE’s mission/mandate has been to create opportunities and assets that allow people to live more lightly (reduce their footprint). We can go beyond that to look at assets, infrastructure and plans to address threats. We also need greater community engagement to make our neighbourhoods, the OOE community and the City of Ottawa more liveable by treating our environment with greater respect.
SLOE’s broad priorities – food, greenspaces, energy/climate, transportation – remain key. They fit within a framework that can be tailored to any neighbourhood and globally – and that is a framework that is built around climate and biodiversity. These are the two themes we (at every scale of human civilization) now need to start taking much more seriously.
Specific Measures for Consideration during Election Discussions and Beyond
- Planning: The city’s evaluation of a proposed development’s acceptability should include as major factors, how much the development affects the environment and the local community and neighbourhoods’ well-being. These factors should be built into the revised Official Plan and should also be added to the four existing “tests” for minor variance approvals.
- Parks / Greenspace: The 160 Lees (AVTC lands) should become permanent parkland and added to Springhurst Park; and the City should take ownership of the Greystone / Regional 30m corridor along the Rideau River and create the Rideau River West Corridor running from Sandy Hill’s Strathcona Park to Old Ottawa South’s Linda Thom Park.
- Trees: All development lots should at minimum maintain the existing mature tree coverage of the lot pre-construction and, where the lot starts with no or few mature tree coverage, trees should be planted that will improve on the existing coverage. Also, construction excavations harming roots of mature trees on adjacent properties should not be permitted.
- Rideau River Health and Flooding: All new development should have no negative net impact on the precipitation permeability capacity of the land being developed.
- Traffic / Transportation: The further expansion of AVTC should be removed from all city plans. Improved bus service complementing LRT should be created. Further safe and convenient cycling / walking measures including a modest footbridge over the Rideau River at the eastern end of Clegg Street should be pursued.
Thanks to SLOE members and others for their inputs: Mary Trudeau, Rebecca Aird, Barry Davis, Margaret Vant Erve, Cynthia Dwyer, Ron Rose, Jaime Girard and Jamie Brougham.