Hydro Corridors – A Partnership for Community Greenspace

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.

Information sign at Morgan's Grant hydro corridor
Information sign at the Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor.

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.

ottawa stewardship council helping Morgan's Grant hydro corridor project.
Morgan’s Grant corridor planted with wild flowers.

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 Corridor Project Update

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.

Wild Parsnip. (Photo G. Roy, 2020)

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.

You can find the student’s reports on controlling wild parsnip by mowing and using chelated iron here:  Morgan’s Grant Greenspace Revitalization.

The maintained area of the corridor is dominated by long grasses, native plants and flowers that support a healthy urban greenspace and pollinator meadow. The pollinator hotel donated by Hydro One is on the left. (Photo G. Roy, 2020)

Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor: vacant land or abundant potential for nature and community?

A meadow’s sunset within Collingwood, Ontario. Courtesy of Hillary Hale
A meadow’s sunset within Collingwood, Ontario. Courtesy of Hillary Hale.

 

 

 

 

 

By Hillary Hale, Carleton University

[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.

A swallowtail butterfly (pollinator) resting in a Barrie, Ontario meadow. Courtesy of Hillary Hale.
A swallowtail butterfly (pollinator) resting in a Barrie, Ontario meadow. Courtesy of Hillary Hale.

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

A pollinating bumblebee. Courtesy of Hillary Hale
A pollinating bumblebee. Courtesy of Hillary Hale.

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.

Community garden within Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor. Courtesy of Hillary Hale
Community garden within Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor. Courtesy of Hillary Hale

References

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.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. (2015) Pollination: The importance of bees: pollinationCanadian Agriculture and Food Museum. Accessed: October 29, 2018.

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.

Hoyle, H. (2016) Improving urban grassland for people and wildlifeUniversity of Sheffield Departments of Landscape and Animal and Plant Science: Living with Environmental Change. Accessed: October 29, 2018.

The Landscape Ontario webpage contains information regarding the social benefits of green spaces with sources provided. It is a quick way to understand and gather the social benefits of green spaces.

Landscape Ontario. (No date) The Social Benefits of Green Spaces. Landscape Ontario. Accessed: October 29, 2018.

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.

Pollinator Partnership. (2018) Pollinators need you. You need pollinators.Pollinator Partnership.  Accessed: October 29, 2018.

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 pollinatorsUnited 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.

University of Minnesota. (2016) How does nature impact our wellbeing? University of Minnesota: Taking Charge of your Health & Wellbeing.  Accessed: October 29, 2018.

Additional Reading

A publically available research paper that discusses the benefits associated with green spaces, such as health and well-being. The paper is interesting and detailed.

Braubach, M., A. Egorov, P. Mudu, T. Wolf, C.W. Thompson, and M. Martuzzi. (2017) Effects of Urban Green Space on Environmental Heath, Equity and Resilience. Nature-Base Solutions to Climate Change Adaption in Urban Areas. 187-205. Accessed: October 29, 2018.

The research described by Chee Keng Lee et al.includes a detailed breakdown of how urban green spaces promote various health benefits. This research paper is publically accessible.

Chee Keng Lee, A.H., H.C Jordan, and J. Horsley. (2015) Value of Urban Green Spaces in Promoting Healthy Living and Wellbeing: Prospects for PlanningRisk Management Healthcare Policy. 8: 131-137. Accessed: October 29, 2018.

The Forest Research article is an informative and digestible read which discusses the habitats of wildflower meadows, their advantages and case studies.

Forest Research. (No date) Wildflower Meadow Habitats. Forest Research.  Accessed: October 29, 2018.

Huerta (2017) compares and contrasts lawns and meadows and explains the benefits meadows in enhancing biodiversity, soil productivity and supporting pollinators.

Huerta, H. (2017). Meadowscaping – Benefits Above and Below the SurfaceBenton Soil and Water Conservation District. Accessed: October 29, 2018.

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.

Jack, A., C.A. Niedner, and A. Barker. (No date) Roadside Wildflower Meadows: Summary of Benefits and Guidelines to Successful Establishment and Management. Transportation Research Record. 1334: 46-53. Accessed: October 29, 2018.