The National Capital Greenbelt is a 20,000-hectare rural landscape that is a distinguishing feature of Ottawa, providing a separation between the urban area within the city’s core and the urban communities that have been established just beyond the Greenbelt’s boundaries.
The Greenbelt contains Natural Environment Areas (including two nationally important ecosystems: Mer Bleue and the Medeola Woods) and is one of the world’s largest urban parks, enjoyed by many hikers, cyclists and cross-country skiers annually. This critical stretch of green space, which provides essential habitat and migration corridors for the National Capital Region’s wildlife, is managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC), which means that – like Gatineau Park – the area does not benefit from any legal protection.
The City of Ottawa has created a plan that proposes using up to 25% of the Greenbelt for urban development; meanwhile, the NCC is conducting a review of its 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan, for which the public, an the NCC’s federal, provincial, and municipal partners are able to provide their comments and suggestions about the Greenbelt’s future.
Residential development into a region that should instead be considered a prime site for Greenbelt expansion poses a serious threat to engangered turtle species. Read more in this artice: Development in South March Highlands puts threatened turtle at risk: Study
We were disappointed to hear the National Capital Commission (NCC) intends to abandon its plans to expand the National Capital Greenbelt in Ottawa in February of 2013. The Greenbelt provides important wildlife habitat, opportunities for recreation and local agriculture, all while providing an important connection for species through the city. We are urging the NCC to reconsider while offering our support and expertise.
The latest threat against the Greenbelt comes in the form of a new tradeshow centre planned for 29-hectare wooded site on Uplands Drive, which is leased to the Macdonald-Cartier International Airport by the federal government. On September 2, 2010, the Airport Authority asked the City to amend the zoning bylaw for this parcel of land to allow for the construction of a space of assembly that is unrelated to airport operations. The Airport Authority says it intends to lease the land to a private developer who would construct a new exhibition hall, convention centre, and 2,000 car parking lot to replace the tradeshow space that will be lost at Lansdowne Park. Local residents say they are concerned about increased traffic in the area which could lead to Airport Parkway expansion, further fragmenting the Greenbelt.
The area in question contains a mixture of forests and wetlands that form the headwaters of many local streams, and provide habitat to a range of wildlife. Recent news also cited the discovery of a shocking number of crushed turtle shells in the area, believed to be the endangered Blandings turtle species, presumably from the movement of heavy equipment. Development of this area will put these turtles (and other wildlife) at even greater risk. Moreover, the land is located within the boundaries of the Greenbelt – an area purposely set aside in order to maintain the rural landscape of Ottawa
The NCC concluded that it would not approve any new development projects inside the boundaries of the Greenbelt until its new Greenbelt Master Plan is completed in 2012. During public consultations held in the fall of 2009, the majority of residents in attendance favoured management options affirming no new developments would take place inside the Greenbelt.
CPAWS-OV is concerned that the Airport Authority’s proposal could cause serious harm to the local ecosystem and lead to a loss of connectivity within the Greenbelt. CPAWS-OV is urging the NCC to maintain its stance that no new development should take place inside the Greenbelt and, we urge the NCC to work with the promoter to identify a more suitable site that is closer to downtown and that is readily accessible by existing transit, pedestrian and cycling routes. We feel that there exists sufficient unused land within the urban area for such a project. To date, the NCC has not commented on the proposal.
Please take a few moments to contact your City Councillor, the Mayor of Ottawa and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Capital Commission to inform them of your views on the use of prime Greenbelt habitat for a large parking lot and convention centre:
We would very much appreciate receiving a copy of your correspondence with these officials. Please send a copy to John McDonnell, CPAWS-OV Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us on Facebook to receive updates on this campaign and to find out about our upcoming events, including hikes through parts of this incredible green space.
CPAWS Ottawa Valley is a member of the Greenbelt Coalition since 2008. To learn more about the Coalition and issues facing the National Capital Greenbelt, including our position paper related to the ongoing review of the Greenbelt Master Plan (1996), visit the Greenbelt Coalition website.