McKenney proposes turning the greenbelt into a national urban park

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The mayoral candidate said the proposed park would benefit the city’s tourism industry and help attract new people to the capital.

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Vowing to make Ottawa the “greenest, healthiest and best-connected city in the country,” mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney vowed to work to turn the nation’s capital Greenbelt into a national urban park if elected.

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“The Ottawa Greenbelt is the largest public greenbelt in the world and yet the greenbelt here is often under threat of development,” McKenney said Tuesday at a news conference held at the entrance to the Pinhey Walking Trail. Forest near the Nepean Sportsplex.

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McKenney (who uses the pronouns they/them) promised to work with the National Capital Commission, Parks Canada and elected officials “at all levels of government” to create the park.

“The Greenbelt surrounds our city and is accessible to everyone,” McKenney said. “Transforming the Greenbelt into a national urban park is environmentally friendly, protects farmland and will ensure that the trails, ski runs and green spaces you enjoy today will be there for you and your family forever. .

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The horseshoe-shaped National Capital Greenbelt surrounds central Ottawa with 200 square kilometers of forest, farmland, shrubland and wetlands. It was established as part of urban planner Jacques Gréber’s 1950 plan for the capital and aimed to confine development within the green belt and limit urban sprawl.

Critics say this only exacerbated the sprawl problem as development skipped over the Greenbelt and continued unabated in Barrhaven, Orleans and Kanata. The greenbelt has lengthened trips to downtown and increased the cost of delivering municipal services such as sewers and water lines to distant developments. But McKenney dismissed those concerns.

“We know we need to protect green space in this city,” McKenney said. “It’s a way to make sure we stop the loss of nature in this city and it’s an important part of climate action.”

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“This is a unique opportunity to take advantage of the federal government’s program to establish national urban parks.

In 2021, the federal government announced a $130 million fund to create national urban parks as part of its commitment to conserve 25% of land and inland waters and 25% of marine and coastal areas by 2025. to reach 30% by 2030. .

The proposed national urban park would benefit the urban tourism industry and help attract new people to the capital, McKenney said.

“It would improve the quality of life and access to outdoor recreation and nature is a key factor when deciding to move to Ottawa.”

McKenney is planning another announcement Thursday for his climate action plan, followed by a “climate rally” on Friday.

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Mark Sutcliffe, one of McKenney’s contenders for mayor, dismissed the park plan as a “recycled idea that doesn’t do not meaningfully address issues facing Ottawa’s environment.

The Greenbelt is federal land and not the responsibility of the city, he said.

“There is no doubt that we need to protect the greenbelt and ensure that development remains within city limits,” Sutcliffe said in a statement responding to McKenney’s announcement. “But taking a designated green space and calling it something new is not serious climate leadership.”

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Sutcliffe’s own climate action plan, released in August, contains more than 25 points, including planting one million trees over the next four years, installing more electric car charging stations and electric bikes and working with the NCC to further develop and integrate skiing and hiking trails into the city.

Canada’s first national urban park was created along the Red River in Toronto. Parks Canada has managed and worked on expanding Rouge National Urban Park since 2011. It covers 79 square kilometers of rugged terrain with hiking trails and a campground, stretching from Lake Ontario north to the Oak Ridges Moraine. The park is accessible by public transport and its use is free.

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