By Laura Mueller, EMC News
Just months after approving a new plan for Old Ottawa East, community members are worried the city is forsaking its commitment to constructing the Rideau River nature trail in order to find a new home for the sports dome that has to move out of Lansdowne Park.
The city and the University of Ottawa have partnered in a plan to move to dome to the university's Lees Avenue campus, and plans for the project were presented at a public open house at the campus on Jan. 17.
But while a few people in attendance said they were excited about the prospect of a new sports facility in the neighbourhood, many more expressed concerns that the tight fit for the dome at 200 Lees Ave. would essentially make it impossible to construct the planned pathway.
One section of the pathway along the Rideau River at Springhurst Park has already been constructed, and the Old Ottawa East co mmunity design plan calls for pathway construction in the remaining sections that are currently informally used by residents in the area, including the University of Ottawa property, which is the "messiest" and most significant section, said pathway proponent Mary Trudeau.
Silvio Miron, the university's leader on the dome project, said the current dome plan doesn't make it impossible to eventually construct the pathway, but he acknowledged that it would make it much more challenging to construct the trail in the future.
Instead, the university has proposed filling the gap in a pathway that runs under the Transitway at the south end of the campus and along Lees Avenue and the Queensway at the front of the campus.
The path would be improved to make it passable by cyclists, and it would be lit.
John Dance, president of the Old Ottawa East Community Association, said he has received little response from the city and the university when he has brought up the community's concerns.
"I don't understand why the city isn't more concerned about this," Dance said. "Why is it that a year ago, it was seen as a critical missing link, and now it seems to have been forgotten."
That concern has now reached city hall, and a discussion with the university about the pathway plan is upcoming, said city spokesperson Jocelyne Turner.
"The city is aware of the importance of this pathway in the freshly approved Old Ottawa East CDP (community design plan) and just recently in receipt of the development application is meeting with the University of Ottawa on this issue and expects a mutually agreeable solution to be announced shortly," Turner wrote in an email.
Turner wouldn't comment further on the timing of that discussion, nor about whether the city would be pushing to see its pathway plan incorporated into the site's redevelopment.
But not everyone was concerned about the pathway. Lees Avenue resident Kevin Farrell, an avid University of Ottawa sports fan and season ticket-holder, was excited about the prospect of a new sports facility so close by.
"I think it's a wonderful idea," he said.
"I know the city was in a bind, and this worked out to be a great partnership."
University student Georges El-Hage just wanted to ensure the demolition of parts of the building at 200 Lees Ave. wouldn't effect the mechanical engineering lab he works in - and according to the plans, it won't.