Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues.
One of the great things about Ottawa – cited by visitors and residents alike – is our green space.
The National Capital Greenbelt provides about 20,000 hectares of this green space, encompassing rural lands, forests and wetlands that circle Ottawa’s west, south and east.
The National Capital Commission (NCC) is revising the Greenbelt Master Plan. The new Plan will determine what happens with the Greenbelt over the next 50 years, so it’s important. The NCC’s Board of Directors approved a Vision for the Greenbelt last November and the NCC is now asking for the public’s input in developing land use concepts.
The non-profit Greenbelt Coalition of Canada’s Capital Region, made up of over a dozen community and environmental organizations, has offered its reaction. The Coalition raises concerns about the three proposed concept plans that the NCC is putting forward as options.
The Greenbelt Coalition says that the proposed options aren’t in keeping with the Vision’s emphasis on environmental protection, and are insufficient to protect against pressures due to urban growth. It says there’s a lack of detail about lands to be added or removed from the Greenbelt. The Coalition is also concerned that none of the three options incorporates the South March Highlands into the Greenbelt, something that was discussed last year. According to the Coalition, the first proposed concept would maintain the status quo, while the other two make only minor adjustments. “For the most part, the concepts merely tinker with the margins of the existing Greenbelt,” said Sol Shuster, chair of the Greenbelt Coalition, in a press release last week. “The suggested action is good for, at best, the next 5 to 10 years. Where is the 50-year vision?”
The Coalition encourages the creation of an “emerald necklace” for the national capital region – a network incorporating the Greenbelt and other green spaces including Shirley’s Bay, South March Highlands, Stony Swamp, Marlborough Forest, Mer Bleue, the Ottawa River Islands, Leamy Lake and Gatineau Park. The Coalition’s view is that protected areas need to be expanded if the existing Greenbelt is to survive. “The current Greenbelt was not created in annual one-acre chunks over 50 years. It resulted from a vision for the Nation’s Capital and that is what we need to see again today – a broad ecological vision of eco-connectivity to put meaning into the 50-year Vision for the Greenbelt.”
For background documents and more information about the NCC’s public consultation process, you can refer to the NCC’s website. The last of its 3 public sessions (following sessions on May 24 and 26) will be Wednesday June 1, 6:00-9:30 pm at the Chimo Hotel, Mackenzie Room, 1199 Joseph Cyr Rd. You can also complete a questionnaire online, or send comments to the NCC before June 24, 2011 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 613-239-5000 or 613-239-5090 (TTY), or fax 613-239-5274.