Community volunteers promoting community, events, history & sustainability.

2017 Ottawa Park Summit

On April 22, 2017, Justyna Lawrence of the RVA attended a summit on Ottawa Parks. There were other community representatives and some individuals as the event was open to everyone.

Topics and presenters spoke on:

  • Inspiring profiles of parks (what can be done with unused spaces or creating unique usage areas, or allowing access to resources with pictures of parks from around the world)
  • Ottawa governing of parks, who does what and why?
  • Successful individuals or groups in Ottawa describing what they were able to accomplish and with what kind of funding. Many were willing to guide others through the paperwork they had to go through.

There was opportunity for networking, discussing our concerns and what we want Park Summits to address, and communication of what steps are needed to make things happen for individuals and associations for our community parks. Overall it was quite exciting to be part of and raised a lot of questions for the RVA about how we should be advocating for our parks, the role of volunteers vs. liability, and what our ward councillor’s role is in park planning and maintenance.

  1. “When Communities Get Involved, Parks Get Better”

  2. Keynote speaker Dave Harvey, Executive Director of Park People. Park People is a charitable organization that has helped Toronto parks, working with TD bank, to animate their parks, make them more accessible and encourage community use especially for the multi cultural communities. It has included tours of local lands so residents know how to safely access them, use of school property for community gardens and bazaars where people sell food and crafts, community ovens where people meet and make food together. They turn unfriendly land into parks that can be enjoyed with an emphasis on green space in the city. Park People is expanding across Canada and has grants available for park initiatives and is focusing on networking for the summit. They have kits to help people have “movies in the park”, “campfires in parks”, “how to connect with nature in parks”. park festivals etc. to support people using the parks they have. They have already invested in more than 450 Parks and Community spaces. It is about park transformation. He is the senior advisor to the Premier of Ontario for natural resources and the media commentator on park issues. Their attitude is “just do it”. They want parks to be community hubs. Encourage Arts in the Park.

    There are reasons for parks and the key is not to fight but support each other.
    – Parks are good for the environment. They offset pollution, heat, storm water, and encourage biodiversity.
    – Parks are good for economics – property values go up, they are tourist attractions, they are social networking places.
    – Parks are good for societies – isolation is a health problem and being together supports good health and awareness of how we all are doing, social responsibility.
    – Parks are good for personal physical and emotional health, for exercise and meditation and decreasing stress.

  3. Park Initiatives

  4. Tables were set up around the room where people talked about what they had done in their park areas. There was only time to attend a few. Councillor Jeff Leber of Kitchissippi ward (Westboro) talked about using cash in lieu of funding money (paid by developers for being allowed to develop land) Their focus has been on wildlife, natural forests and pathways, pocket urban parks which focus on kids, trails such as the John A. MacDonald winter trail from Westboro to the War Museum. They have focused on those and now are looking at urban spaced, usually unitarian parks so using the campus off a church or retirement home to create meditation areas or community garden areas.

    • Poet’s Pathway 2017 14 plaques and one bench – Bike trail from Britannia Park through Centerpoint and Nepean across Hunt Club bridge, through Alta Vista and Pleasant Park down to Vanier following the Rideau River through New Edinburgh to Rockcliffe Park ending at the Beechwood Cemetery. It is about a group of famous Canadian poets and their poetry from the 1880’s and 1890’s. “they were rock stars in their day”, ending in the cemetery where they are all buried. They got grants to do this and have more grants to try and add an app for listening to the poetry as you go.
    • Monarch Butterfly Waystation Garden in Barrhaven – Destruction of Wild Parsnip means the destruction of milk weed and flowers necessary for butterflies to survive. David Suzuki has a program to support getting butterfly gardens set up with the goal of making homes and parks with similar gardens so butterflies can survive and travel. Includes milkweed and other flower seeds. In this case they are using part of school property (NCC owned land that is rented by school board so permission for garden through NCC). Working with the city to build a proposed waystation in local parks.
    • Synapcity (sponsored by the United Way) – On June 2, 2017 there will be a national challenge to do It is a festival celebrating active communities. Anyone planning an activity in a local park can register it online and then people can look and see what activities they might like to attend. It can a beautification project, something fun to bring people together, or some other project or presentation.
    • Bayshore Park Community Oven – A place to have your foods baked while meeting with family, neighbours and friends. Trained volunteers run this outdoor oven (free to use) which is heated to 370C for baking flat bread and pizzas in minutes, then as it cools it can be used for casseroles and other breads, and finally in the cooler stages (40C) it can be used for vegetables, herbs, roasts and fruits/pies etc. Community groups can book the oven for special requests based on availability. Membership is $20 yearly to be part of their non profit community-based organization open to all those who live in Bayshore. Contests, events, in conjunction with their community garden (piggy backed on their insurance, free from the city of Ottawa)
    • Tree Fest Ottawa – Connects people with trees. Hopes to inspire people to protect and preserve the city’s trees and get involved with tree planting and other initiatives to expand our urban forest.
    • Dundonald Park Revitalization – Redeveloping the park exploring the principles of equity and inclusion, making it a safe green space for everyone.
    • Friends of the Farm – Charitable organization of committed volunteers to educate and promote the Farm.
    • Brewer’s Park Community Garden and Biodome – Growing organic produce for the community with the biodome that extends the growing season to year-round. Food is donated to food banks, meal programs and other food security programs.

  5. Kevin Wheery – Manager of Parks and Facilities Use
  6. Kevin explained the levels of government and “which department does what”

    • Recreation, culture and facility services (RCFS)
      New Parks, Park Redevelopment, Minor and Major improvements, Life Cycle Replacements (about 3 years behind), recreation, cultural and facility construction. ĞArenas would be under the same umbrella. Gazebos, toilets, bleachers.
    • Public Works and Environmental Services (PWES)
      Maintenance, eg. grass cutting, stormwater management, sports turfs, rinks. It is a small team divided into 2 sectors (South and West which would include Richmond; North and East)
    • Planning infrastructure and Economic Development (PIED)
      Using funding from development charges, tax supports, rental use of buildings, capital partnerships, cash-in-lieu of Parkland (CILP), sale of banners etc. at arenas. The Ward Councilors report on their ward’s priorities and then decisions are made for where funds are allocated. When it comes to public consultation that usually does not mean deciding a park is needed or what kind of park but instead is about asking the public which direction they want swings to face for example.

    There is a planning act density provision (S37) which determines the amount of park space necessary for the area. Then how park use is determined is by “zone” which is usually by approximate size.
    COMMUNITY PARK: around 3.25 ha.
    NEIGHBOURHOOD PARK: .8 ha and is within 10 minutes walk to your house.
    Minimum 400 square meters for an urban parkette.
    WOODLOT – varies in size

    NCC owns land and leases it to the city for $1 and then the city is responsible for the development of buildings and maintenance. The NCC is good at the original aesthetics but then they don’t come back. They do the bike paths, big rocks, trails. Set up only. School property is often leased from the NCC so it is possible school property can be multi use. The greenspace masterplan is a park of PARK DOCUMENTS, with a PARK AND PATHWAY MANUAL.

    The newest government is recognizing the value of instead of using CIPL funds to build structures, actually buy land for future parks. Once the land is used for development it can’t be taken back as a park (except for parking made into park land). More emphasis on the builders actually giving park land rather than just money. Value of green space no matter how small.

    A neighbourhood park will never get a toilet. You should be able to walk home from there. Toilets are based on usage of the park but only go to community parks. Kevin was rather vague when asked what percentage of parks have toilets and what the threshold might be to determine toilet need for bathroom or that the % of seniors might increase if there were bathrooms. If there are congregations of people the city might bring in a Go Hut. (Go huts can be rented for $5 a day or $500 for a summer and include 2x/week maintenance and are insured. “Gotta Go” was giving out leaflets. )

    There are “orders of operations” that happen. So for example at this time “community gardens” have gotten a big “yes” in the city. NO ONE WHO HAS APPLIED FOR A COMMUNITY GARDEN TO DATE HAS BEEN DENIED YET. Insurance is provided for free, compost is provided for free. There is a precedent set and there are existing protocols and paperwork now.

    However if someone were to ask for something that does not yet have a protocol the answer entering the first level of bureaucracy would probably be “NO”. It takes time and patience for things to change in government and create policy but that does not mean that higher up what you want is not what they want. It just means it is hard to get through all the middle work.

    Eg. Volunteers. There are existing uses of volunteers with Adopt A Park, Clean the Capitol, Tree Planting, and Graffiti management. Government knows that they must rely on volunteers to beautify the parks, to maintain esthetics… however outside those programs it is hard to let volunteers do their thing because they also have a level of responsibility to do things at a certain standard. They must protect the land and protect the people. Sometimes it is hard at their end as well because they can’t do it all.

    What to do? Off the record: “Just do it”. Apologize after. Guerilla Gardening. When possible piggy back off something that has already been approved or exists. When something exists it is easier to support. Pioneering vs. supporting – you want to find common ground. Find things that the city wants eg. things for seniors. Seniors make up 50% of the population yet only 5% use our parks. Things for youth at risk. Things to make things inclusive or accessible. Those are words that (the government) can support. You want to include culture and tourism, the environment and look for partners not opponents. These are things that you must consider in your design elements to get noticed. Replicate rather than do something new.

    *Note that some of the ideas above presented by Kevin conflict with those of Park People who aim to support different things, create diversity, be original. Embrace what you have and make it fantastic. “Use the newspapers to mess with people’s’ minds”. $5,000 grants. They are park solution experts and help bring new ideas to make the most of limited park spaces. When communities are involved parks get better. More volunteers, more business, more park development. ¾ of children spend less time outside than prison inmates. 80% of the population live in cities. People no longer have back yards. Boys vs. girls activities. Those with smaller incomes tend not to use parks. People should feel a trust for public land so bring that feeling of ownership to people. Provide teaching for teachers, bring classrooms to parks.

Implications for Richmond:

  1. Given that Richmond has a million dollars that is supposed to be going to two of our parks this year, and that there will be development happening in Richmond which will provide more money (CILP), it would be prudent to be in the loop of where that money is supposed to be going and looking at our role as advocates for the land and the community needs. The easiest thing our government reps can do is check off the boxes of for what a developer is willing to do for park development, yet that may not be in the best interest of our village, residents, or the environment. The checklist means that the developer has control of what parks to provide and just has to make sure their ideas “conform” to the rules. It means that the “long term plan” for Richmond is not consulted or used. This is the job of our councillor to push for representing our needs and perhaps the RVA’s job to be an advocate to let our councilor know what our needs are.
  2. There is a sewer pipeline currently being installed across the village which has ripped up the lagoon trails and markers so on one hand we need to make sure that this is repaired and brought back to the condition it was in (at a minimum) but also take advantage of the land being crossed to reconfirm it is public land or expropriate lands that could be used as trails to unite the sides of Richmond for trails in future.
  3. Embrace what you have – we don’t want to be a replica of Kanata or Stittsville. Our uniqueness includes the Jock River running through town, the Rideau Trail going through town, our history as the first settlement. We have existing trails and woodlands and waterways that we need to advocate for. We need to educate the teachers so that the children can feel like stewards of the parks. We need to provide opportunities for families to learn to use the parks to their fullest.

Examples of good use of land:
Create a “baxter conservation area” for schools to use here in the village.
Have activities/events by the river and on the river, celebrating the river.
Information sessions, expert speakers, regular outdoor activities.
Consider having a community garden – monarchs and butterflies.
Consider renting a “Go Hut” by the river and record usage
Consider guerilla gardening eg. have pylons for safety from traffic and have plants on the bridge or upkeep the “monuments” at each end of town… put up banners on them.
Consider having a canoe or paddle boat party or regatta.

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