Community Newspaper Columns

A Tale of Two Parks

July 2014

This term of City Council has been somewhat dominated by the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project. Though many residents still understandably resent how it came about, and how little true community consultation took place, it is happening. Meanwhile, planning for the new park in Old Ottawa South is proceeding with actual community consultation.

Lansdowne Park is re-opening in stages over the coming months, with a RedBlacks game (CFL) on July 18 and an Ottawa Fury FC game (North American Soccer League) on July 20. Construction is on schedule for the urban park opening in August, the return of the Ottawa 67's in October, retail stores and offices opening during fall and winter, and residential buildings next spring. The Ottawa Farmers' Market will return next spring.

Here's some additional information in question-and-answer form:

What is there to do at Lansdowne on July 18, besides watch the game?
The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) is planning activities for ticketholders. While none of the on-site retailers or restaurants will open until late fall, there will, as always, be lots of activities, food, drink and shopping in Old Ottawa South and the Glebe.

What's being done to improve cycling and pedestrian connections to Lansdowne?
A new traffic signal, expected to be operational by July 18, will allow people to cross Queen Elizabeth Driveway at Fifth Avenue more safely.

The speed limit was reduced from 50 km/h to 40 km/h on Bank St. from Billings Bridge to the Queensway, and new bike signage and pavement markings are being added to the Bank Street Bridge to make cycling a bit more comfortable. These minor improvements are the best we can do right now, as I have been unable to convince the City to remove a car lane in order to add bike lanes to the bridge.

The City is also continuing consultation on other cycling projects like the Glebe Bikeway. Tickets for RedBlacks and Ottawa Fury FC games include secure, on-site bike parking. And, by the time construction is completed, Lansdowne will have more than 600 bike parking spaces.

What options are available for people with disabilities going to major events?
A limited number of accessible parking spaces will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Para Transpo — included in ticket prices — will also make drop-offs and pick-ups during events. For people who live further away, OSEG will provide accessible shuttle service from Park & Ride and shuttle lots.

How are traffic and transportation being managed?
The City developed a plan for monitoring the traffic and parking during event and non-event days, and staff are already collecting data as part of the Traffic Monitoring Plan. Still, community associations and many local residents worry that too great an emphasis has been placed on monitoring, and not enough on pre-emptive measures.

Last year, I convened the Lansdowne Transportation Advisory Committee (LTAC) to examine in detail all aspects of the transportation challenges. This group, which includes local residents, businesses and other stakeholders, has met regularly to review details of the traffic operation plans and receive community feedback.

Meanwhile, OSEG hopes to alleviate congestion on game days by including in the price of RedBlacks tickets OC Transpo and STO service, secure bike parking, and shuttle bus service from Park & Rides and from lots at Carleton, the RA Centre, Canada Post and Vincent Massey Park. Tickets to Ottawa Fury FC games include OC Transpo service and secure bike parking.

Strong consensus on design, less interest in name for new park

Perhaps as an antidote to the Lansdowne saga, I wanted to involve local residents and City staff in a true consultation process for the park planned for the former Hydro Ottawa lot at Woodbine Pl. and Carlyle Ave. Though I set some parameters (safety, accessibility, noise, cost), I invited people to imagine what would serve community interests best, and ensured them this was not a done deal with a sham consultation.

Through online feedback and a live design workshop, we heard from residents of all ages. What emerged, quickly and amazingly, was a clear consensus. Almost everyone wants a "passive park": predominantly open space, flexible and suitable for all ages. If I could sum up the wish list, it would be: a few trees, a few benches, maybe a picnic or games table or two, some landscaping, a bit of art (sculpture, art wall) and, especially, a staircase connecting it all to Sunnyside Ave.

Now, with people's ideas in hand, I am working with City staff to come up with an initial design and cost estimate. We will likely touch base with those who prepared interesting concept designs in order to hear more from them. I'd like to give the go-ahead to put any construction work out to tender prior to the fall election, because this important project should not get bogged down by politics.
Oh, and about the name. There is no clear frontrunner. Send me your ideas, please. Today!