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Protecting Greenspace

Wed Jun 21, 2006 Miss Vicky 

I enjoyed Monday night's flash thunderstorm from the relative comfort of the Churchill Seniors Centre, where our MP had gathered representatives from community associations and other groups to discuss the issue of protecting greenspace in the riding. It was an interesting and useful meeting, for a lot of reasons. It brought together representatives from community associations across Ottawa Centre, the Greenspace Alliance, the city's Advisory Committee on Greenspace and Forests, a new NCC Watchdog group, one city councillor and a rep from another's office, and the NCC. It just may have been the first time in a long time that community representatives were able to be exchange information with folks from the NCC, so that's a real coup. A lot of our greenspace is on NCC land, and some of that is viewed as "surplus" by the NCC, thus at risk of being sold for development.

As you can imagine, the issue of development was first and foremost on the minds of folks in the room. In the McKellar Park, Westboro and Hampton-Iona, concern was raised about the city's Richmond Road/Westboro Community Design Plan and any implications it might have on existing greenspace. Rochester Field was a popular topic, as some communities would like to see it used more effectively (i.e. as a sports field) but find themselves bumping up against NCC bureaucracy (the NCC has to charge market rates for leasing the field, apparently, which makes creative, community-driven usage difficult). Westboro Beach expressed concern about the Altantis/Selby lands and advocated for its concept paper. In West Wellington and Hintonburg (as well as Dalhousie and others), the talk was more about the lack of useable greenspace and how we may be able to leverage more through the upcoming CDP and other processes. Or how to reclaim public spaces that are carved in concrete for greener uses.

I attended on Creative Neighbourhood's behalf, and talked about what we're trying to do with the various organizations involved in Wellington Street Works. I floated an idea we have advocated here and there - the "no net loss" approach to greenspace and development. The idea is where development proposes to replace greenspace, trees, parks or whatnot, that it has to be replaced with equivalent (or better) space elsewhere in the community. The approach has worked well in other communities (the NCC guy even perked up when I referred to it, which seemed promising to me).

Another interesting tool the city doesn't seem to be using effectively is the cash-in-lieu-of-parkland it collects from developers. It's unclear whether it gets spent at all, but of interest to those in the room is the notion that it should be spent in the community where the cash is raised. Seems like such an obvious policy to have, doesn't it?

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