Re-Visioning the Greenbelt - A Jubilee Proposal

Throughout the month of June 2012, while people have been celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the National Capital Commission (NCC) has been accepting proposals from individuals interested in managing and maintaining several long-term agricultural leases in Ottawa’s Greenbelt. The NCC’s goal is to have the leaseholders practice “sustainable agriculture, integrating environmental stewardship, economic profitability and social responsibility”.

During this time the Ottawa chapter of CPAWS (CPAWS-OV) has been actively promoting a renewed vision for the Greenbelt as part of its review of the NCC’s 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan.

John McDonnell, CPAWS-OV Executive Director and CPAWS-OV Greenbelt Committee Chair stated recently that, “In particular, we would like to see forest cover restored along creeks and ditches, a move away from growing corn to staples that can be consumed locally … and that new farm leases be required to be as organic as possible” without necessarily demanding full organic certification, which might impose undue financial burdens on individual leaseholders.

Some of the current farm leases are located in the sector of the Greenbelt that adjoins Mer Bleue: an ecologically sensitive, internationally significant peat bog and wetlands, which was once a back channel of the early Ottawa River. Some of these lowland fields up for lease are tile-drained, and therefore can be tilled successfully. Others have standing water after a heavy rain and are maintained as rough pasture. These plots of land would be of benefit to the surrounding habitat and wildlife, if allowed to revert back to their natural state. 

Three of the leases are in the Mer Bleue vicinity, which has been owned by the Ramsay family for nearly 130 years now. One of the plots of land up for lease includes the Ramsay family’s lovely red brick farmhouse, with its traditional front porch and outstanding view of the actively-working, tile-drained fields below ~ this home is considered by many to be a local treasured landmark.

Given that a jubilee year is traditionally a time of celebration AND restoration, we can only hope that the future use of, and vision for the Greenbelt continues to reflect the aspirations of the NCC, CPAWS, environmentalists and naturalists alike. All Canadians deserve a National Capital that preserves and protects our valuable natural resources and cultural heritage.