Table discussion interpreted by Daniel Buckles.

Priority: Reclaim and protect a wide range of lands within the city limits that have existing or potential uses as green space. This would empower the City to set and meet both city-wide and neighbourhood-level targets for fair and sensible access to green space. It would also make it more feasible to connect green space across different scales (micro-macro/rural-urban) and protect every citizen from the worst climate-related flood risks and heat island effects.

Policy Actions:

  • Manage an “evergreen” inventory and mapping of City-owned lands with existing and potential green space, including Right of Way lands, hydro corridors, and land fragments in and around existing neighbourhoods and commercial areas. The City of Ottawa is the largest landowner within the city limits, and must make effective use of every bit of public space to evaluate, reclaim and protect land for green space. Community organizations have knowledge to contribute to this process, as does the NCC.
  • Establish a primary green space land use designation for a wide range of lands with existing or potential use as green spaces needed for ecosystem services. The primary designation must be inclusive of public, semi-public and private lands as well as residential and institutional spaces.
  • Developnew models for land trusts and financing for the acquisition and stewardship of land for green space, adapted to different types of partnerships (farmland trusts, rural land trusts, community land trusts, cooperative land trusts, public-private corporate partnerships, federal-provincial-municipal partnerships, etc.). Include an option on property tax bills for voluntary contributions to targeted land trusts.
  • Create a dedicated land acquisition fund, with an appropriate governance structure and supported in part by taxes on vacant land. Base allocations to the fund on the proven health costs of green space inaction (e.g. heat island effects) and known financial benefits from ecosystem services (according to a 2016 study, the economic value of all natural and cultivated NCC green space averages $332 million per year, which over a 20-year period is roughly $5 billion).
  • Initiate small and larger-scale depaving initiatives involving redundant streets, deadends, active transportation corridors, street-narrowing and car-free zones.
  • Create a storm water management levy for large paved surfaces under private and public ownership, to encourage owners to uncover the soil and bring green space into dense urban areas. Establisha storm water management rebate for rural, residential and institutional landscaping that creates permeable surfaces (storm water management ponds, permeable driveways and walkways, and soft landscaping).
  • Create enabling policies for large and small scale green space programs such as tree planting, green rooftops, greening of bridges and transit corridors, etc. Tree planting is the most cost effective means to capture and sequester carbon, if it pays attention to public education and guidelines for planting in appropriate places, with the right species and preventing conflicts with utilities and known future land uses.
  • Encourage interim use of vacant urban lands for green space and/or urban food production, taking into account health and safety constraints due to soil conditions and other factors.

Immediate Steps: 

Start with setting both city-wide and neighbourhood-level targets for equitable and inclusive access to green space, building on current policies[1]and Ottawa Neighbourhood Study data. Use these targets to guide the development of an “evergreen” inventory and mapping of City-owned lands with existing and potential green space. 

Plan to progressively integrate into the inventory data on other public, semi-public and private lands. Include, when possible, site specific information on the value of current and potential contributions to specific ecological services (storm water management, mitigation of heat island effects, etc.) and any known constraints on uses of the land as green space. 

Cooperate on these immediate steps with the City of Ottawa Planning Department, environmental groups, the NCC, the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study and community associations and their representative organizations.

Linkages with other priorities: 

Reclaiming and protecting green space would contribute directly to priority actions on biodiversity conservation and the development of “15 minute urban and village neighbourhoods”. By reclaiming and protecting both urban and rural green space, potential habitat is retained or enhanced for native and beneficial naturalized species of plants, animals (including birds) and insects, as well as the ecosystem functions needed for maintaining a healthy and safe environment. Similarly, reclaimed and protected green space helps create the conditions needed to foster cleaner, safer and healthier neighbourhoods. This has become particularly important in relatively dense parts of the city where even tiny fragments of public and public land along roadways and in front and back yards brings collective benefits beyond the immediate boundary of the land (clean air, shade, habitat, stress reduction, etc.).