By Bruce Jamieson
Urban parks enrich our community in many ways. They are places to enjoy fresh air and exercise. They contribute to the physical and mental health of persons of all ages and to the aesthetic quality of our neighbourhoods as well their economic value. They provide green spaces that improve our physical environment and a setting for community members to gather and interact for cultural activities and social events. They help build social capital. Urban spaces are an integral part our cities.
Therefore, it may surprise people to know that the Glebe Community Association (GCA) may be one of the few community organizations in Ottawa that has established a committee devoted solely to parks issues. The committee comprises volunteers: parks stewards for each of the Glebe’s community parks, two co-chairs and a few dedicated ex-officio members. Over the course of each year, the committee meets regularly to discuss emerging issues, plan events like spring and fall parks clean-ups, as well as initiatives such as new parks and parks improvements. The committee works with city officials, elected representatives, local businesses and citizens to bring these projects to fruition. Until recently, our discussions and the work we undertake have taken the form of meeting minutes and to a large extent corporate memory. Last spring the committee decided to organize our thoughts in a more structured, written form. We developed a proposal for a Glebe parks plan that was presented to the GCA Board and approved by them in June 2018.
MASTER PLAN FOR GLEBE PARKS
The plan provides the GCA with an opportunity to collaborate and build consensus and serves as a reference point for discussions with fellow citizens, business groups, City of Ottawa staff and elected officials. It will preserve valuable corporate memory. Each park will be described in terms of its history, location, size, overall topography, type, zoning and usage. The plan will also discuss how parks funding is currently sourced, managed and allocated. Finally, the plan will identify current issues and challenges facing Glebe parks and make recommendations to address them.
Our parks stock-taking has identified three major issues so far.
One challenge is the disposal of dog waste. Dog waste is not just an inconvenience; it can also be harmful to the environment. Currently dog waste is supposed to be disposed of at home, but most of it ends up in park refuse bins and then landfill. Other Ontario municipalities such as Waterloo and Mississauga are addressing this problem by installing specially designed dog waste containers in city parks, which is diverting dog waste from landfills and even converting it into energy. Ottawa is planning a pilot project in the summer of 2019 that will involve installing special green bins in 10 parks across the city. It is also planning to allow dog waste disposal in residential green bins. We hope this approach will be successful.
Another big challenge is park maintenance. As park infrastructure ages, it is important to monitor its condition on a regular and ongoing basis to prevent deterioration of park assets. For this reason we are examining the most effective ways to identify and communicate maintenance issues to the city for action.
FUNDING FOR PARKS
Given the importance of park maintenance, it follows that it is also important for citizens to have a better understanding of parks funding, not just for maintenance but for the development and improvement of parks. We need to know what funds are available from all sources each year, where the funding is spent and on what basis allocation decisions are made. To this end, we would like to see the allocation, tracking and annual reporting of all available parks funding made more transparent and accessible to the public.
We are aiming to complete the plan and present it to GCA Board for approval in spring 2019. Once the report is approved we will post it on the GCA website and submit it to the city for information and consideration. In keeping with the parks theme, it will be an evergreen document, which will be updated every year as new issues and challenges arise.
Our parks are valuable assets. Let’s make the best use of them now and preserve them for future generations.
Bruce Jamieson is an Ottawa native and a retired federal public servant who has lived in the Glebe since 1989.