The Ottawa Stewardship Council has been working with the Briar’s Brook Morgan’s Grant Community Association (BMGCA), Hydro One, and the City of Ottawa for over five years to make the hydro corridor into useful community green space.
This summer, OSC’s Bob McFetridge made four bee hotels, which were installed along a one kilometer section of the Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor.
BMGCA’s summer student monitored the activity in the four hotels. By the end of the summer, all of the hotels had eggs laid in them. Bee hotels must be properly constructed and maintained to ensure they are actually providing a benefit to the bees. Next year the hotels will be cleaned after this season’s eggs have hatched to help prevent mold and parasite infestation, and to make them ready for a new generation of bees.
OSC also supplied a bat house, which was installed on the corridor in mid-summer. The bat house was made by students at École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard as part of OSC’s urban natural area stewardship project in Chapman Mills West.
Carleton University third year Environmental Science students made their group project presentations last week. One of the projects we sponsored, in partnership with the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club, was about Rock Elms (Ulmus thomasii). The project team examined whether Rock Elm is a species in decline due to Dutch Elm Disease (DED) using data in iNaturalist. They also reviewed the strengths and limitations of citizen science, the natural history of Rock Elm, tree species recovery programs, and the history of DED in North America.
From the data available, the team concluded that the Rock Elm mortality rate seemed better in 2017-2020 than between 2012-2016; however, they recognized the likelihood of sampling bias. They also confirmed that the proximity to a dying or dead Rock Elm increases the likelihood that surrounding Rock Elms will also be dead or declining.
We thank the students for their excellent work demonstrating the scientific method and for highlighting the need for a Rock Elm recovery program.
The Ottawa Stewardship Council continues to work on a model for sustainable maintenance, conservation, environmental stewardship, and safe public use of hydro corridors across the city. Interest is building at Hydro One, the City of Ottawa, and communities across the city in developing a stewardship model for corridors owned by the City or Hydro One.
Based on our work with the Briarbrook Morgan’s Grant Community Association in Kanata, we are learning about what is important for the community, how to better engage the City, and how to meet Hydro One’s requirements for access and clearance around towers. This collaborative approach led to Hydro One asking the OSC for advice and assistance in building links with communities where they needed to do corridor maintenance.
As a result OSC has advised several other community groups about how to work collaboratively with Hydro One staff in exploring what they can do on hydro corridors while in turn providing a positive impact on Hydro One’s maintenance practices. The goal is to create ongoing cooperative links that will grow into active community led stewardship programs in the future.
Most recently OSC has been actively engaged in advising city councillors on the importance of including almost 250 kilometers of hydro corridor lands into the City of Ottawa’s greenspace management plan as well as having them identified in the City’s new Official Plan. These efforts are showing promise as the councillors with whom OSC has met are supportive of the value of recognizing corridor lands and of the need for a cooperative long-term agreement with Hydro One such that communities affected by activities on hydro corridors may take active roles in their environmental stewardship, conservation, and recreational use.
These discussions, and the involvement of an increasing number of community groups and associations who have contacted the Council and its partners, are growing. We are encouraged by the number of individuals and groups who want to learn how stewardship can improve their impact on the ecological quality of hydro corridors and by steps being taken by City Councillors to support the initiative.
Councillors Jenna Sudds and Jean Clouthier are looking at forming a working group of community organizations and City staff that will help advise on best approaches and practices for creating a model. The goal is for interested communities living near or adjacent to corridor lands to become engaged with Hydro One and the City in the proper care and stewardship of these significant tracts of greenspace. The Council has provided considerable input into these plans and continues to offer its assistance.
Morgan’s Grant has had a busy summer. Using a second year of financial assistance from Hydro One, the Briarbrook and Morgan’s Grant Community Association hired a full time student to carry out a maintenance program in the hydro corridor this summer.
The student cleared wild parsnip from designated areas, removed a variety of noxious plants from around towers and areas where people were likely to access, and talked with visitors about the work and goals of making the corridor a community conservation area.
The student also ran a research project on the efficacy of mowing and of using chelated iron to control wild parsnip. Chelated iron is used primarily as a fertilizer but under certain conditions if it is applied in the wrong concentration can damage wide leaf plants such as wild parsnip. The tests were carried out over the summer on test plots offered by a land owner near Carp who was interested in the outcome. Although some success was observed, the general consensus was that more research needed to be done before the application of chelated iron could be considered as a means to control wild parsnip and other wide-leaf noxious plants.
Volunteers and the summer student also cleared the bases of several hydro towers of garbage, roots, and weeds to improve safety of access, increase opportunity for native species to expand and improve the general appearance of the area. The results were clearly appreciated by Hydro One staff on their late summer tour of the corridor. Volunteer efforts like this do two important things: they help maintain safety and security in the immediate areas around towers so that workers are less likely to be injured and they show to Hydro One and the City the potential of community stewardship as a vehicle by which these important urban environments can become healthy and safe greenspaces for the benefit of everyone.
On 30 November 2019, the Briarbrook and Morgan’s Grant Community Association (BMGCA) held a workshop to engage the community in a visioning exercise for future uses of a hydro corridor. The corridor runs 1.5 km from Old Carp Road to Terry Fox Drive. We have been working with BMGCA, Hydro One, and the City of Ottawa for four years to support the evolution of the corridor into green space that provides recreation and green infrastructure benefits. Councillor Jenna Sudds and Hydro One’s Terry Tysick also attended the workshop.
There was some discussion about how Morgan’s Grant can act as a model for other publicly owned hydro corridors in Ottawa. Corridors can serve many community needs: recreation, sustainable mobility, physical and mental health, natural heritage, biodiversity, food security, and ecosystem services like storm water absorption. The design must be resilient to access by Hydro One for maintenance and repairs, and to withstand extremes of weather.
Key issues discussed during the workshop include:
making the corridor more available for winter recreation;
enhancing natural heritage features – adding more local native shrubs and plants, including those that provide food like wild berries;
connecting the corridor trail into the network of Kanata North trails that can be used by bike commuters (a north/south link to tech business), and recreation bikers and walkers;
serving a broad demographic (children, adults, seniors);
adding benches and a place for meditation; and
adding crosswalk markings to bisecting roads to improve safety.
In 2017 Hydro One seeded the corridor with a pollinator mix designed by the University of Guelph. The mix consisted of:
20% blue stem grass
14% Virginia wild rye
6% purple cone flower (rudbeckia)
5% lanceleaf coreopsis
4% common sunflower
3% black-eyed susan
3% showy tick trefoil
3% common milkweed
2% wild bergamot
Hydro One bought and installed two pollinator hotels in the corridor and provided funding for a summer student in 2019, who removed wild parsnip, set up and monitored test plots, and documented flora and fauna in iNaturalist.
[Hillary Hale was a student in the 2018 Environmental Science group research project course at Carleton University. Her group’s project was Pollinators in an Urban Meadow, which studied the Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor in partnership with Briarbrook Brookside and Morgan’s Grant Community Association. This is her blog from the project.]
I spent a pleasant afternoon visiting the Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor last Autumn and observed a variety of interactions between nature and humans. What I noticed as I walked along the corridor highlighted its potential. The corridor could very well blossom into a beautifully vibrant area where nature and community flourish.
As I walked down the path surrounded by fluttering butterflies, I observed many insects flying from flower to flower pollinating plants, and at times, it felt magical. I also witnessed the joy of others. The laugher shared between a father and son riding their bikes along the pathway, families walking their dogs, even observing the contentment on one’s face while taking a stroll. All of these observations illustrated the innate desire for pollinators and people to use the area. But how could the space be improved, and would the benefits be fruitful?
A Key Aspect to Improvement? Pollinators.
To enhance ecosystem health pollinators are key, yet pollinators depend on flowering plants. By having a variety of pollinator friendly flowers, ecosystem diversity and colour are enriched (United States Department of Agriculture, no date). This creates an enticing community space as research on urban meadows shows people prefer colourful areas containing many flowering plant species (Hoyle, 2017).
Pollinators assist in plant reproduction by fertilizing plants (Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, 2015), and we humans rely heavily on them. Globally, 217 billion dollars is generated from pollinators representing one-third of food consumed (Pollinator Partnership, 2018). Urbanization, habitat loss and pesticide are a threat to pollinators worldwide (United States Department of Agriculture, no date). The hydro corridor could be a haven for pollinators. We can develop this ecosystem to combat the decline of pollinators locally while also developing our community.
A healthy ecosystem, a healthy community
Nature is beautiful and the studies show that health benefits include reduced stress, psychological wellbeing and reconnection with ourselves and others (University of Minnesota, 2016). Pollinators may not be the only ones benefitting from a rich ecosystem, our health and community would too. Research shows that green spaces provide neighbourhoods with a sense of community, acting as gathering place and fostering social interactions, improved well-being and increased safety (Landscape Ontario, no date). We can further community engagement locally building on, for example, the community gardens.
The community gardens hold abundant potential of engagement through group gardening, a potential farmer’s market, and learning opportunities – especially for youth (Landscape Ontario, no date). The corridor represents a multidimensional space budding with potential. If we provide pollinators with the right plants to enhance their ecosystem, we can also enhance our community. Two goals which benefit nature’s well-being, as well as our own.
The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum provides a quick and light interactive webpage which provides a high-level overview of bee pollination including diagrams and other informative photos.
This policy includes a detailed fact sheet regarding how urban meadows affect people and wildlife. The information presented is organized and concise which promptly equips readers with important information and resources.
Pollinator Partnership provides the breakdown of the pollination process including what pollination is, its importance, who and what are pollinators, as well as approaches to help pollination. The webpage is very rich in additional sources which allow audiences to continue their learning about pollination.
Although this webpage is targeted toward pollinators within Pennsylvania, the materials presented are still very informative and transferable. This resource also provides tips for maintaining a pollinator friendly area and links that pertain to pollination, conservation and additional readings.
United States Department of Agriculture. (No date) The importance of pollinators. United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service Pennsylvania. Accessed: October 29, 2018.
A detailed overview of the various ways in which nature affects our wellbeing. Links to additional resources are provided within.
Roadside Wildflower Meadowsis a publically available research paper which discusses the various aspects of roadside wildflower meadows including ecological, economic, and aesthetic benefits. It provides insights with respect to the importance and benefits of incorporating more wildflowers within an urban meadow.