What’s All the Fuss? Save ‘Hunt Club Forest’

Our Hunt Club community is enclosed on three sides by its own ‘greenbelt’.  At its western edge, residents in Quinterra-Woods enjoy the constructed storm water ponds, pathways and park along the Rideau River; at the north side, locals in Hunt Club Woods and Hunt Club Chase make constant use of, and vigilantly watch over the whole ‘southern corridor’ with its wooded lands; the inhabitants in Hunt Club Chase also enjoy the pathway around the Wendy Stewart Ponds, at the eastern border of our community.

What about the southern periphery of our community?  Well, for the past couple of generations, Hunt Club Estates (along with the Airbase, Windsor Park and more recently Wisteria Park) neighbours have been accessing the Red Pine wooded stand and its contiguous mixed, hardwood forest for recreational and nature activities.  It is their ‘little piece of paradise’, treasured by all.  This naturalizing forest used to extend all the way west to Billy Bishop Private until a big chunk of it was clearcut to put in the building occupied since 2005 by the Lowe-Martin Group.

One might argue that it is these urban green spaces, spread throughout the neighbourhoods mentioned above, that give Hunt Club its very flavour, its ‘brand’ – that which it is known for and continues to attract home buyers who choose it as their place to call home.  “Residents have a very strong preference for green spaces and nature in their community.” and “are concerned about the preservation of nature.” [1]

We know that the Red Pine stand was planted over sixty years ago as a monoculture ‘tree farm’.  Unfortunately, when this parcel of land was sold to the federal government, thus becoming crown land, it was totally neglected, never once thinned, as per good forestry practice.  Some would quickly point to this fact as a reason for it no longer having any value.  However, those who have been frequenting this area for the past 40 years know otherwise: they have observed nature at work, with an understory of new herbaceous plants and trees actively sprouting and growing throughout, giving it a more natural forest look.  As the saying goes, ‘one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.’  Is it any wonder then, that community members want to keep this forest, with all its environmental benefits, and continue to access it in perpetuity to enjoy the recreational activities within it?  For a sampling of the variety of flora and fauna in this now thriving ecosystem: https://www.savehuntclubforest.ca/biodiversity/

One way to capitalize on this neglected Red Pine woodlot would be to regenerate it into a mixed, hardwood forest, transforming the entire area north of De Niverville Private, south of Hunt Club Rd and east of Billy Bishop Private into one continuous healthy forest.  Foresters know that “Red Pine dominated forests can be managed for increased habitat value and species biodiversity through greater use of ecological management techniques such as legacy retention, mixed-species and multi-age management, variable density thinning, and long rotations.” [2]      Many other advantages of an urban forest can be found here: https://www.savehuntclubforest.ca/about/

So what is the issue?  This crown land (approximately 14 hectares), currently designated as T1A in the City’s zoning framework, has been leased to the Ottawa International Airport Authority since 1997.   The Ground Lease signed between the OIAA and the Ministry of Transport includes the right to sublease these grounds for commercial development.   Indeed this is exactly what the OIAA has been planning for the strip of land now occupied by the Red Pine trees (and for other lands also zoned T1A).

It is the application made to the City of Ottawa, on behalf of Otto’s BMW car dealership, to allow for additional storage space along with a parking lot to be built at the east end of this parcel of land that brought this whole issue to light.   This  particular development would require a clear cutting of at least 4 acres of these Red Pines.  The moment the posters announcing this plan went up along the fence of the ‘Hunt Club Forest’, the community immediately mobilized to express its strong opposition to this plan.  A multi-prong campaign of daily protests along Hunt Club Rd, researching, letter writing, and phone calls quickly kicked into gear since early June.  To be clear: Although this application has been temporarily withdrawn from the City’s Planning Department, the file remains ‘active’, which means that it has not been cancelled:  https://www.savehuntclubforest.ca/2021/08/28/ottos-plans-parked/

We understand that the OIAA needs to ensure its own financial sustainability and that it seeks to increase its economic impact by generating employment and economic activity on its leased lands.  The economic gains by developing this strip, then subleasing it would be substantial, no doubt.  With the financial losses accrued by the OIAA over the last couple of years because of the whole pandemic situation, one can appreciate how this would be a welcomed strategy.

However, we are in a climate crisis and there are other ways that the OIAA can stimulate the local economy, without clear cutting these Red Pines.  The many nearby hotels could certainly market an urban forest within walking distance (or within a 5 minute drive) as an asset to prospective guests traveling here to attend conferences.  After a long day of workshops and meetings, a stroll in the woods is a great destresser.    Job opportunities could also be created for scientific research in silviculture  projects related to the forest’s regeneration and perhaps eradication of targeted invasive species.  The recognition of the community’s expressed desire to protect and preserve this urban forest is a great opportunity for the OIAA to raise its profile as a more respected ‘community partner’.

The OIAA still has access to another 580 hectares of land, roughly, (designated T1A for commercial development) to the east and west of the Airport Parkway, all potential sources of revenue, once sublet.  This includes the E Y Centre on Uplands Drive.   Would the potential development of these lands not provide the needed revenue to offset the losses sustained by the OIAA over the pandemic?  Once international travel happy Canadians start flying to their preferred destinations again, will that not quickly bring the OIAA’s revenues to the required levels?

Let us also remember the millions of dollars recently given to the OIAA by the federal government, first to support the cost of the new LRT being built to the airport, and then to help compensate for the losses caused by the Covid-19 situation.  The federal government also waived the OIAA’s rent fees for ten months in 2020 and for the whole 2021 year.  These facts are important to be aware of.

We are hoping that in this era of climate urgency, the OIAA, will honour its corporate culture of responsibility, respect of the environment, and of the local community; will work in partnership with the ministries of Transportation, Natural Resources and Environment, via our elected federal, provincial and municipal representatives; will demonstrate the kind of leadership expected from them; and will agree to amend their Ground Lease with Transport Canada, by removing the ‘Hunt Club Forest’ parcel of land from it, in order  that it be protected and preserved in perpetuity.  And that’s what all the fuss is about!

[1] Hunt Club Neighbourhood Plan – Existing Conditions Report, November 1997
[2]  http://ncrs.fs.fed.us/fmg/nggm/rp


The Sky’s the Limit for the Hunt Club Neighbourhood – Let’s Soar

What do you love about living or doing business in the Hunt Club neighbourhood?

What would you change?

These two pressing questions (yes, really!) were the hottest topics during the Hunt Club Community Association (HCCA)’s September Zoom meetings, and the debate was certainly lively!

From the abundance of green space to its proximity to shops and services, the airport and downtown, to the incredible diversity of its neighbourhoods, new and seasoned residents alike agree that Hunt Club is a great place to live.

But we also agree it could be even better.

  • Imagine if we had a covered, year-round outdoor central meeting place that could host events like a farmer’s market, a winter holiday/Christmas market, outdoor yoga or even open-air concerts (when safe to do so)?
  • Given that many of us are spending more time at home, how about some independent coffee shops, bakeries, and a greater selection of bricks-and-mortar eateries and pop-up food vendors and food trucks?
  • A library branch that could do double-duty as a cultural venue within our Hunt Club-Riverside community centre?
  • At least one community garden per neighourhood – green thumbs not required!
  • More amenities for the fabulous parks in our area – including Uplands Park, Cahill Park and Owl Park
    • – such as chess/checkers tables, performance spaces and gazebos to provide shelter from the sun/snow/rain…while savouring a gourmet ice cream or hot chocolate from a nearby vendor?
  • More things to do for the different age groups and resident profiles that make up our fantastic part of Ottawa!

As you can see, there are lots of opportunities – and spaces – for our neighbourhood to grow and expand, and there is no shortage of enthusiasm to help it along!

To borrow from the movie Field of Dreams, our unofficial motto is, “if you build it, they will come!” (If you haven’t seen it, check it out!) In fact, there’s another opportunity: community movie nights in the park…

The sky truly is the limit, but we need to hear from you, our Hunt Club residents and businesses, about what you want our community to be.

If you have ideas or resources and want to help our community grow and prosper, we’d love to hear from you!

If you want to meet us and see your HCCA in action, we’d love to have you attend our monthly meetings (held via Zoom) the first Monday of each month. Just send an email to outreach@hunt-club.ca and we’ll be in touch! Tip: no one has to know you’re logging in PJs!

Not ready to commit? No problem! Get to know us and what we are up to:

News and Views from Paul Landry Park

Pride in our community was on display with the dozen volunteers who came on Saturday, October 17 for the annual fall litter pick up at Paul Landry Park.  Even our municipal councillor, Riley Brockington, joined in with rake in hand!  It was a gorgeous day weather wise, and with so many helping hands we made quick work of the pick-up.  The good news is that the quantity of litter continues to diminish over the years, with just a few ‘usual suspects’ seemingly unable to hold on to their cigarette wrappers, chip bags, candy bar wrappers, water, beer and juice bottles or cans, until they get home.

Unfortunately, last winter was rather dismal with our pristine snowy pathways continuously despoiled by dog poop droppings all along the way.  This coming winter, we ask all dog owners to please ‘Stoop and Scoop’ (City by-law No. 2003-77 ‘Animal Care and Control’) and respect others who use the park. We thank the vast majority of dog owners who do pick up after their dogs, for the pride and respect that you are showing for our community.

Garbage pickups have now stopped in the park, until next spring.   Please do not dump your litter or dog poop bags in the bin at the Uplands Drive end, as they will not be picked up.   You need to dispose of your own waste.  Thank you for remembering this.

Very happy to report that seven new trees were planted on November 20 at the Uplands Drive end of the park: two each of Sugar Maple, Prospector Elm, and Honey Locust and one Hackberry.  These trees will eventually provide food and shelter to birds and small animals, as well as shade for all of us.  We thank our City’s Forestry department for replacing those diseased trees that had to be cut down over a year ago because of the Emerald Ash Borer.

Next on our ‘ask list’, as shared by many neighbours, is to have a few more benches installed around the play structure – for adults who are supervising their children; and maybe a picnic table or two near the newly planted trees, where people will be able to find respite in the shade on those hot sunny summer days.