April 12, 2018: Big Tree Culling; Cut now, pay later?

April 12, 2018: Big Tree Culling;
Cut now, pay later?

By Chris Jones.

To anyone who strolls casually through the streets of Kitchissippi, it will be clear that there is a great deal of new house construction, additions and renovations going on. Developers and investors engaged in new builds and home-flipping are altering the character of the neighborhoods that have been so welcoming for so long.

As larger, boxier dwellings, condominiums and multi-residential units get built, consuming larger portions of their respective lots, a regrettable consequence is the demise of many large or distinctive trees that once adorned our neighborhoods.

These venerable trees make up the canopy of our community, furnishing much needed shade and shelter, absorbing low level ambient pollution and providing a cherished aesthetic enhancement to the streetscape. Their branches and leaves soften the harsh geometric shapes and straight lines that make up the typical urban street form.

Trees, once regarded as things of beauty, are increasingly seen as hindrances or “dangerous” obstacles that must be removed to maximize construction footprints and other amenities for the new owner/investor.

Larger dwellings provide additional property tax revenue for the City of Ottawa, which becomes a financial disincentive for the preservation of trees.

In 2015 in Kitchissippi ward, there were 100 requests made for the removal of “distinctive” trees—defined as a tree 50 cm in diameter or larger at breast height. It should be noted that each application may have included multiple trees at the same civic address. This means we have no way of knowing just how many distinctive trees were actually removed under the 59 permits granted that year. The city’s report on this topic didn’t provide this information.

I have noticed, too, that through neglect and lack of enforcement, insufficient protection is afforded to the root systems of distinctive trees when contractors are excavating a site. The result? The tree’s vital nutrient system is compromised leading to a failure to thrive. This of course, results in the developer or owner being able to later request a removal on the basis that the tree is dangerous, dead, diseased or severely injured.

These unfortunate trends have recently led a group of concerned residents — BIG TREES of Kitchissippi — to push for changes designed to arrest the steady cull of distinctive trees that is happening in the name of development.

Some of the sensible recommendations made by the group to amend the existing Urban Tree Conservation By-Law include;

  • Requiring the applicant to post a notice of application for removal of a distinctive tree for a period of 14 days in plain sight, in plain language, and readable from the street’s curbside so that neighbors do not need to enter the property to read it;
  • Change the definitions of distinctive tree so the diameter at breast height (DBH) for a deciduous tree is 30 cm and for a coniferous tree is 20 cm;
  • Revise the rules for impacted trees on neighboring properties in order to protect the critical root zones that span adjoining properties; and
  • Increase the minimum fine for conviction of injury to or removal of a distinctive tree without a permit from $500 to $10,000.

More can and must be done to protect this unique natural heritage wisely bequeathed us by earlier residents of this community. Learn more at: https://bigtreeskitch.wixsite.com/trees .

If you are concerned about the rapid loss of Kitchissippi’s forest canopy, contact Jeff Leiper at jeff@KitchissippiWard.ca or Mayor Jim Watson at Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca and make your views known. This is an election year.

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Photo Caption: Every tree lost diminishes a community in noticeable and measureable ways with a cost that will be borne by future generations. Exposed roots on this spruce have been dealt significant damage which threatens this tree’s survival. Carelessness during construction often damages root systems, necessitating, or providing excuses for, later tree removal.

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April 12, 2018: Rock, rock and more rock; Explosive construction ahead.

April 12, 2018: Rock, rock and more rock;
Explosive construction ahead.

By Cheryl Parrott.

At the moment there are 3 active sites – 2 are large, really deep excavations and 1 that is just a single small lot.

The communities of Hintonburg and Mechanicsville are built mostly on bedrock.

Traditionally most properties in the 2 neighbourhoods had no basements or at best a cave carved out of the rock. The odd property was on a small piece of ground that had enough depth for a basement but this was certainly the exception.

There are many new developments and redevelopments happening in both these communities. The coming LRT line is but one of the stimulants for this development. The proximity to downtown, walk-ability, and eclectic nature of the 2 communities have all stimulated the changes.

Blasting is felt throughout both communities on a daily basis as well as the incessant noise of the hoe-ram breaking up the rock and the dump trucks trucking it away. At the moment there are 3 active sites – 2 are large, really deep excavations and 1 that is just a single small lot. All 3 are within an area of about 3 blocks.

The small excavation site is on Carruthers just north of Scott St and right beside the Transitway pathway. This site shows how close to the surface the rock is, the depth of the soil at this location looks to be only a couple of feet deep before the solid rock begins.

The 2 larger sites are being excavated a long way down, especially the project at the corner of Parkdale and Burnside. It will have 7 floors of underground parking and looks to be near that level now. The tower above will be 32 storeys.

The building at the corner of Carruthers and Scott will be going down 3 storeys according to the plans on file at the City and will be an 18 storey apartment plus 12 stacked units that are 3 and ½ storeys in height.

Many other projects north of Wellington St. W. have been approved, are working through the approval process, or the properties have been purchased with the intent of redevelopment.

It will be a very noisy future for local residents as more and more holes are dug out of this rock.
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Photo Caption: Hintonburg and Mechanicsville share a foundation of solid bedrock, in many cases just a few inches below the surface. Construction in this area requires intense blasting. Noise levels are expected to increase as more and more projects get underway. Photo by L. Marlow.

April 12, 2018: Connecting to Nature; A personal journey for anyone….

April 12, 2018: Connecting to Nature;
A personal journey for anyone….

By Robert Alvo, M.Sc., Conservation Biologis.

Last time I promised to write about how birds connect us to nature and what we can do if we want to know more about birds than just how to identify them. Okay, let’s start from the beginning: nature. I like to distinguish between living nature (plants, animals, algae, fungi, lichens, and bacteria — virus are only quasi-alive) and non-living nature (e.g., rocks, sand, wind, sunlight.

You can connect with nature in various ways, for example chasing frogs as kids, fishing, hunting, or trapping, sitting still in a natural area and marvelling at the scenery, paddling along a river, or hiking a mountain. With all these methods, you are immersing yourself and taking in experiences. Other, more active, ways of connecting with nature include white-water rafting and zip-lining. A less active way would be to sit on the balcony of your cruise ship watching the ocean’s waves. How do you connect with nature?

I’ve always had a desire to “capture” species, and this practice has been transforming over the decades. As a young teenager in Greece, I was shooting things, including birds, but after awhile I came to feel badly and sold my pellet rifle.

I used the money to buy a pair of binoculars and a field guide to the birds of Europe, at which point I turned to identifying and photographing birds. Later, as a conservation biologist, I studied individual species, such as the Common Loon, Black Tern, and Canvasback. I went on to rank vertebrate species for their conservation concern in Quebec, then later for all of Canada, and I wrote some national species status reports. Finally I figured out the ultimate way of capturing species, and did so in a book called, Being a Bird in North America (BABINA). It’s a unique way of reaching the public regarding the importance of conservation.

BABINA combines science and humour to present the most interesting aspects of each species. It is only the second book I know that gives global distribution maps of many North American birds. Conservation status ranks are presented for each species at the global scale, and at the national scale for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. BABINA also features quotations from the days when people could write beautifully by taking full advantage of the rich English language without having to worry about limited space — the kind of writing that gave the reader memorable images. Each species page is a lesson on the species, and also a lesson on an issue. For example, the Common Loon account primarily discusses the effects of lake acidification from acid rain on loon breeding success. The book can appeal to anyone from 12 years old up to adults who wants to know how nature works, and how it has trouble working at times because of human activities — also, anyone interested in birds who wants to know more than simply how to identify species.

BABINA connects the reader to nature, and it can be purchased at Chapters and at a number of other Ottawa and other Ontario stores.

Next time we will discuss spring, which is already upon us, Ottawa’s annual cycle for birding, and my plans for future books.

April 12, 2018: Councillor’s Corner; News from City Hall.

April 12, 2018: Councillor’s Corner;
News from City Hall.

By Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward Councillor.

Welcome to April, Kitchissippi. It’s truly springtime now, and we are excited for all the events and activities that come with this new season. Here’s what’s been keeping our office busy this month:

On March 26th the Environment and Climate Protection Committee received recommendations for an updated contract between the City and Orgaworld, the company that processes our organic waste.

Proposed changes, intended to increase our green bin participation from the current rate of 51%, included the disposal of dog waste and single use plastic bags in the green bin.

Because we were unable to refine the contract language to allow only compostable bags in the green bin, I voted against the changes, but that is the only sticking point for me. Council voted 19-3 to approve these changes; I reiterated my dissent.

Ultimately, I hope residents will use only compostable bags in the green bin so we can minimize the amount of plastics in the landfill.

In transportation-related news, the Harmer Pedestrian Overpass Bridge is due to be replaced, starting in May 2018. The new bridge, which will be completed in 2020, will have improved accessibility features as well as an enclosed roof and lighting. The bridge will be constructed off-site and installed using a rapid bridge replacement technique. In the meantime, there will be a detour along Holland Ave including temporary segregated bike lanes; personally, I’m hoping the bike lanes will be widely used and may be made permanent when the construction is complete.

At its March 28th meeting, City Council voted unanimously in favour of the motion forwarded by Councillor Deans and seconded by Councillor McKenney to establish a Women’s Bureau and Women’s Issues Liaison at City Hall. We absolutely need to do everything possible to include women in the planning and building of our City, and I’m very pleased to see the municipality taking this step.

Coming up this month, we have Pop-Up Office Hours on Friday, April 20th and Thursday, April 26th. On the 20th I’ll be holding a table at the Bridgehead at Richmond Road and Golden from 9 – 12, and on the 26th I’ll be at Hintonburger from 5 – 8 pm; come by and chat all things Kitchissippi. Also upcoming is the Spring Ward Forum, which will feature John Manconi as our special guest speaker to give updates on transit in the City. The Forum will be held at Van Lang Field House from 6 – 8 pm on April 30th.

April 12, 2018: A West End Garden Legacy; Sherry Clarke’s enduring work.

April 12, 2018: A West End Garden Legacy;
Sherry Clarke’s enduring work.

By Deb Chapman.

When you have three kids under the age of ten and live close to a park, that park becomes like a second home. That was the case for Sherry Clarke who lived just half a block away from the Clare Gardens Park on Evered.

Back in 2008, Shane 3, Alicia 6, and Kayleigh 11, spent most of their free time meeting friends and burning off energy on the play structures, and running around the field. But after 20 years of kids and teens having fun, the play structures were showing their age. The park was in decline.

The wood in the play structures was decaying and pieces were falling off. The park’s pathways had potholes. They didn’t connect. Teens were using the play structures to explore all sorts of more ‘adult behaviours’. The nearby bench was being used after dark for dope deals. The beautiful tree-lined park was showing decay and needed something to make its users respect it again.

Sherry had a great idea to make the park sparkle again. Why not ask owners for permission to remove perennials and shrubs from proposed infill developments, and transplant the plants to Clare Gardens Park? Developers and owners alike whole-heartedly agreed to every donation.

Everyone likes to save plants that add a little beauty in our lives. And so neighbours began guerrilla gardening, giving the plants on death row a reprieve. Garden beds were created where grass refused to grow. Visitors took notice of the landscaping improvements and it seemed like the park was getting a second chance.

The guerrilla gardeners have since gone legit. Now known as the Volunteer Gardeners of Clare Park, the gardeners have adopted the park, and partner with the Westboro Community Association on park clean-ups and special events. Gardens now encircle the park and new, engaging play structures have been added. Ten years on, Clare Gardens Park attracts visitors from neighbourhoods as far away as Chinatown, Ottawa South, and Woodroffe to the west.

Thanks to the vision and creative thinking of Sherry Clark, Clare Gardens Park is a success story. Her approach to recycling plants has made news across the province and the gardeners are often asked for advice by other community groups in Ottawa.

Sherry died last fall after a valiant fight against breast cancer. This community-minded trailblazer never stopped giving back to the community. Two weeks before her death, Sherry helped organize a fundraiser for the Sherrypalooza Run for the Cure team. She believed in giving back. The gardens she imagined, and worked to build, in Clare Park, will continue to bring beauty and a healthier environment for everyone to enjoy.

The Volunteer Gardeners of Clare Park are committed to continuing Sherry’s legacy. If you would like to join the gardeners and spend some time in the park making it pretty, please contact us. If you’re a parent, it’s a great way to be near your kids but give them some independence while they play. For everyone else, it’s a nice way to spend some time in nature. All are welcome. Drop us a line at: volunteergardenersofclarepark@gmail.com .

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Photo Caption: Sherry Clarke is fondly remembered for her generosity of spirit and her energy in making many lasting contributions to the enhancement and growth of her neighbourhood and her community. Clare Park Gardens represent just one facet of her legacy. Photo courtesy the Clark/Rivet family.

April 12, 2018: Rosemount Library’s Future?; A book depot during renovations.

April 12, 2018: Rosemount Library’s Future?;
A book depot during renovations.

By Blaine Marchand, R.E.A.D. Group.

In the upcoming months, the Rosemount branch library will close while renovations take place.

Neither the date nor the length of time of the closure has been specified. The Rosemount Expansion and Development (READ) group contacted the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) for information on the closure and the services that will be available to users in the catchment area.

The OPL indicated that Rosemount will operate as a depot, a model used during other renovations, such as the Beaverbrook branch renovation and expansion, which saw it go from10,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet. READ was informed that there will be a small collection of books, including express material. The automated check-in and return system will be in use. And rather than having desktop computers available for use, Chromebooks will be available.

According to OPL officials, any programming would be off site. The OPL is exploring potential sites within the neighbourhood. Whether this means users will be directed to a community facility, such as the Hintonburg Community Centre or to another facility is not certain. READ hopes that programing will be available at a nearby site that is accessible to primary and secondary students, the physically challenged and the seniors who are regular users.

When READ pressed for information on the design process, the OPL responded that the Request for Proposals (RFP) to engage an architect will be done by the City. No input will be sought on the RFP.

READ was told the engaged architect will be fully aware of Rosemount’s spatial limitations and the limited budget for the project. The current building was built in 1918, expanded in 1933/4 and given a facelift (elevator, more washrooms) in 1982.

Even with these, the library with a square footage of just a shade over 6,000 square feet to serve an estimated catchment population of 40,000 simply does provide enough space. In READ’s view, this renovation, at best, will be a band aid.

In reply to READ asking whether the community will be allowed input, the OPL indicated there will be public engagement prior to the design phase but details of the time and structure of these consultations were not provided.

With regard to Rosemount, the community needs to be on the alert and follow the process attentively. For years, Rosemount was the priority for the OPL Board but somehow other branches across the municipality inexplicably superseded it.

Key questions remain. How long will Rosemount users rely on a temporary depot for their library services? How will the renovation re-configure a building with limited space? In the longer term, does the OPL Board and the City have a concrete plan for library services?

For a comparison of Rosemount library to other OPL branches, please visit http://www.READRosemount.ca .