2021 Greener Greenspace Profile
Located in Ottawa, ON, the greenspace features demonstration gardens and forests that are a result of a depaving initiative that extended a city park onto a former street and parking area. The goals of this community project are to beautify and connect the boundary between the residential neighbourhood and the Ottawa River.
Design and Process
With the aim of supporting local biodiversity, the site includes four kinds of greenspaces: a Miyawaki or “tiny forest” of 130 trees planted densely on a former gravel parking space; a native pollinator garden in a space previously occupied by buckthorn; a “Carolinian" forest of Eastern North America tree species (near-natives). They represent a possible "future native forest" under the pressures of climate change; and a food forest, with a mix of fruit and nut bearing plants for animals and people.
The community group made up of volunteers from the local community association worked closely with city staff and government officials to prepare the site by depaving a street adjacent to the park and the greenspace bordering the Ottawa River. Depaving involved the use of machinery to cut the pavement into small squares that were carried away by hand to a truck to be recycled by the City of Ottawa during a community work-bee. Once the site was cleared, the community volunteers removed invasive species, fences and stumps and added soil, mulch (chipped wood) and a rock border.
To create the native pollinator gardens, the community volunteers chose different plants that flower at different times to support pollinators throughout the growing season. The plants were obtained from the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, a demonstration garden run by the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club, and others were grown indoors from wild, local seed. For the demonstration forests, the community sourced bare root saplings of native species from a nearby native tree nursery. Other tree stock was grown in backyard nurseries with the help of dedicated student volunteers.
Water is carried to individual plants or applied through gravity feed from multiple donated and repurposed rain barrels filled with municipal water. Mycorrhiza were added to condition some soils affected by having been covered for decades by pavement. No synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are used in caring for the greenspace.
Increases in native insect numbers and native biodiversity are evident. In all, more than 50 natives species of plants have been introduced, providing an active seed source for neighbouring areas to be populated naturally. By depaving a street, the soil has been freed to receive water, soil biota and the benefits of plant life where previously the soil was dead.
Approximately forty neighbours surrounding the park participated in the original depaving activity. Since then, members of the community routinely assist with tree planting and tree care, including watering. Volunteers include a University of Ottawa botanist and a Carleton University agricultural anthropologist, plus individuals associated with the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.
The community project has attracted ten students in a single year to complete their school’s required “volunteer hours.” Reports on activities are routinely circulated through the community association and a city-wide network of community associations for environmental sustainability. The project is supported by the local city councillor as well as by local environmental groups and the City’s environmental fund that have supplied small grants for tree and plant purchases.
The project aligns with the City of Ottawa’s Urban Forest Management Plan calling for the protection and planting of trees in the urban environment, including on repurposed public right of ways such as former streets. The Climate Change Master Plan of the City of Ottawa recognizes the value of permeable surfaces to climate change adaptation.
For more information, visit the Champlain Oaks Website.
Greener Greenspaces is a recognition program for sites from across Canada that exemplify greener greenspace stewardship. The aim of the program is to showcase examples of ecologically-focused land care as a means to inspire others and to further the movement across Canada.