(PHOTO: Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Shad Qadri joined local residents on Tuesday to announce plans to protect the Shea Woods. Photos by Frank Cianciullo.)
The City of Ottawa hosted a media event today to announce a $1.5-million agreement to conserve part of the Shea Woods, a cedar forest located southeast of Holy Spirit Church and a popular spot for dog walkers.
The forest is currently owned by CRT Developments, who are planning a housing development in the area. A City of Ottawa press release (included below) outlines how the City intends to protected the forested area.
The total area of greenspace to be protected is about 5 hectares, less than the 7 hectares that was previously identified by city staff as worthy of protection. The final boundaries of the protected area is still “to be determined”. (Dog walkers may wish to note that the back part of the woods including the “treat tree” will likely not be part of the protected area.)
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The City press release says the City will pay $1,577,573 for 1.72 hectares of land, although a report to be tabled at next week’s Planning Committee meeting pegs the amount at $1,647,573. (This will eat up most of the City’s total Environmental Resource Area Acquisition Reserve Fund of $1,766,366.)
(UPDATE: Nick Stow from the City’s Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development clarifies the pricing. The estimated acquisition price is $1,577,573, subject to a final legal survey. The figure of $1,647,573 includes taxes and legal fees, as well as the cost of the studies related to the location of park facilities within the Hydro One easement.)
This isn’t a done deal yet. It still needs approval from Planning Committee and City Council (which is likely to go through). Perhaps slightly more challenging will be getting permission from Hydro One to allow an adjacent park within their power line corridor, along with associated engineering studies.
Still, the agreement between the City and CRT, along with the additional funding, is great news for our community. Way better than bulldozing all those trees for low density housing.
Here’s today’s press release from the City of Ottawa:
Stittsville residents are a step closer to celebrating as the City moves to acquire and protect a five-hectare portion of Shea Road Woods, a popular local greenspace. The City has reached a purchase agreement with property owner CRT Developments, subject to approval by Planning Committee and City Council.
The woods, situated near the Goulbourn Recreation Complex, are already frequented by local residents for dog walking and nature hiking. City Council had committed to acquire this important natural area in 2009 and again in 2013. The privately owned lands could otherwise legally be developed.
On Tuesday, October 24, Planning Committee will consider the agreement, which would see the City pay cash for about one third of the property. The remaining two thirds would be transferred in exchange for another parcel of land that was to be developed as a City park.
Ottawa generally requires each developer to design and build parks on behalf of the City as part of their subdivision agreements. As part of a subdivision adjacent to the Shea Road Woods, CRT Developments had already planned a 3.28-hectare park. In exchange for the Shea Road Woods property, the City will allow that land to instead be developed with low-density housing.
The City would pay cash for the remaining 1.72 hectares, at an estimated cost of $1,577,573. Funding for that purchase would come from the Environmental Resource Area Acquisition Reserve Fund, which Council established to help acquire and protect features like Shea Road Woods.
A final purchase agreement is conditional on the City obtaining permission from Hydro One to relocate the planned park to a nearby transmission line corridor, so that the community can still enjoy a full range of recreational, health and fitness opportunities. Moving the park facilities will also require engineering studies and possible design measures to ensure that community health and safety will never be compromised.
The agreement will provide continued access to high quality outdoor recreational space and accessible greenspace. Protecting the woods will also increase Ottawa’s urban tree canopy cover and improve land use efficiency, consistent with the Building Better and Smarter Suburbs initiative.
Ottawa’s Official Plan contains policies for the acquisition of natural areas and other greenspaces. The City already owns many Urban Natural Features, as well as over 10,000 hectares of rural land in such environmentally significant areas as the South March Highlands, the Carp Hills, Constance Bay, Cumberland Forest and Marlborough Forest. These areas are managed by the City for conservation and passive recreational purposes, and provide local residents with valuable opportunities to experience and appreciate the natural environment.
The City’s guide to conservation areas in Ottawa includes more information about ongoing efforts to protect greenspace.
“It’s important that we continue to work to preserve and enhance greenspace throughout Ottawa. Urban natural areas like Shea Road Woods contribute significantly to public health, community enjoyment and property values, while keeping the City’s overall ecological integrity and aesthetic enjoyment open to all.”
Mayor Jim Watson, City of Ottawa
“Protecting greenspaces like the Shea Road Woods is not only an ecological priority, it is also a commitment to quality of life for our residents who value having places where they can enjoy nature within the city. As the population grows and neighbourhoods evolve, we will continue to work to maintain these valuable urban natural areas.”
Councillor Shad Qadri, Stittsville Ward