We Must Change our Greenbelt!
Why Change The Ottawa Greenbelt
I firmly believe that the Ottawa Greenbelt was a very flawed and short-sighted vision. In its current form it is doing much greater harm to our environment than it is being of any help. It was created to provide a buffer zone of natural landscape between the city of Ottawa and the surrounding countryside. Just as all urban greenbelts around the world are intended to do. But it was much too small to surround a growing metropolis. Compare this greenbelt to the Ontario Greenbelt and you will see a massive difference in their respective scope and vision.
Kanata was already starting to be developed in the west end while our greenbelt was being assembled. It was doomed from the start. And now that our suburbs outside of the greenbelt are continuing to grow farther and farther away from the city core, it has created unnecessary vast urban sprawl. This sprawl should have been contained by the greenbelt, but it has done just the opposite.
I am glad that it has helped preserve many wonderful natural areas inside the greenbelt, such as Mer Bleu in the east end and Stony Swamp in the west end, as well as the many recreational paths through forested areas that I have enjoyed biking and hiking on. These areas will always be protected from any development. It is the large-scale farming operations that I object to. This is not their natural state. These farms were mostly pristine forests and meadows only two hundred years ago. And if they were still pristine forests, I would be thrilled to have them always protected. But I think that it is ludicrous that we are growing large quantities of corn inside this greenbelt that obviously is mostly sent out to the countryside to feed cattle.
The National Capital Commission, or NCC, that is the federal agency that controls this land, has made various weak excuses to justify these large farms. They once claimed their main purpose was "to remind us where food comes from". I expressed my outrage over this pathetic excuse at one of their public consultations during their last master plan review. They actually paid some attention to me as they quickly changed it on their website at the time to say the reason was to provide us with a good example of "urban agriculture". They were wrong again since it is obviously an example of rural agriculture within an urban setting. They have now adjusted that dumb excuse on their website with, it is an "example of how to practise viable and diverse agriculture in a near-urban setting". Change "practise" to "unnecessarily force" and I will finally agree with them.
Ottawa is already a world leader in having a rural type of farm in an urban setting with our Central Experimental Farm. This farm has nothing to do with the greenbelt and I am in favour of maintaining it, though some changes could be had. But the thought that 600 trees must be cut down inside of it soon to make space for the new Civic Hospital is outrageous.
How to Change The Ottawa Greenbelt
First- Plant Trees!
We should start making The Ottawa Greenbelt much more green by simply planting more trees inside of it. And the obvious place to start is alongside Greenbank Road. This stretch of road through the massive cornfields is often treacherous to drive on during the winter when the wind is blowing the snow off the barren fields. This past winter they only had one length of snow fence to try to curtail this. They have had as many as seven rows put up. I pay close attention to this because my good friend Phil Beaudry died in a 22-car-pile-up on this stretch of road many years ago during white-out conditions. He was the son of the former popular CBC sportscaster Hub Beaudry.
There are stretches of Fallowfield, Woodroffe, and Merivale Roads that can be almost as dangerous and should also be the target of large scale tree planting. When they are finally lined with many trees it will be much more pleasant and tranquil to drive through them at all times of the year. They will probably never get rid of the chain linked fences along them so we should be also planting vines to cover them with more green and create a partly natural permanent snow fence.
I certainly don't want our government to hand out large contracts to accomplish this tree planting. We can make the use of community groups such as the Kiwanis Club, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and other various willing volunteers to plant seedlings. I will gladly do my part donating my time and money to help make this happen.
Second- Create More Community Farms
I think it is ludicrous that we are growing massive amounts of corn inside our city to predominantly feed cattle that are all residing out in the countryside, where farms belong. I am in favour of creating more community based smaller farms however, such as the 150-acre farm that the non-profit Just Food is currently operating in the east end of the greenbelt. We should also be converting some of these large commercial farms to create more community gardens for use by the general public. This large 50,000-acre greenbelt is owned by all of us Canadians and we should be making more of it available to be able to be enjoyed by more of the general public, instead of much of it only being there to benefit a select few farmers and many hungry cattle. Therefore, I am fine with keeping the two horse farms, one huge, and one small, as well as the pick-your-own strawberry patch. These are very much user friendly.
Third- Build Eco-Cities
I realize it will never be politically acceptable to build any traditional housing inside any of this protected space. But we should be making use of these vast open spaces to build very specific kinds of communities. I am talking about creating eco-cities and towns.
Whether you agree with climate change science or not, the world is slowly, and painfully, turning to more renewable energy sources. We are inevitably fazing out our oil industry and replacing it with clean renewable energy sources. Besides for developing more wind and solar power, I am much in favour of building new kinds of nuclear reactors that Bill Gates has already conceived of for all of us, as profiled in a fascinating mini-series on NetFlix.
Surprisingly, China is leading the way in building new eco-cities, as well as a few other forward-thinking countries. Canada should also be involved in helping to start creating our new reality. I am proposing that we use some of these large corn fields to build state-of-the-art, self-contained, high-tech communities built to the highest possible environmental standards. And to accomplish this the NCC should hold competitions open to the world, to come up with amazing cutting-edge projects that will make us the envy of the planet.
Most Ottawans will remember the great excitement generated a few short years ago when the NCC held one of these types of competition to try to develop a small part of the empty Lebreton Flats. Being a sports fan, I was intrigued by the idea of having this new community based around a new home for the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately, the winning bid was destroyed by a battle in court between the two "winning" partners.
Thankfully the hockey arena has been approved again for the area. Imagine the excitement that would be generated by holding one or more of these competitions to fill up some of these large areas. And that excitement will spread across our great country, and not just inside my hometown of Ottawa. Many people would be excited and anxious to spend over a million dollars to purchase a modest sized condo inside one of these new-age communities. So they can park their Tesla beside a few dozen others. And it would change the landscape of our city in a very positive and exciting way.
Or we can just keep growing food there for those hungry cows.
My Greenbelt Video
I made this video five years ago. It clearly shows my objections to our greenbelt. It is out of date in only two ways. First, Anita Anand is our current representative in the Trudeau Cabinet for the NCC. Since she is also our Defense Minister I doubt her office spends much time on caring about our greenbelt. And secondly there has been much more housing development being built much farther from the city core than necessary, and much of it decimating many other farms in the process.