Thursday, 26 January 2012

NCC "Grand" "Massive" Greenbelt Expansion More Wish List Than To Do List

According to the Ottawa Citizen:

OTTAWA — The National Capital Commission brought forward a massive expansion Wednesday of the Greenbelt that will see the “emerald necklace” grow by 2,400 hectares in a bid to cement Ottawa’s reputation as one of the world’s greenest capitals.

(View Greenbelt expansion in a larger map)

The effort is part of a grand plan to protect the natural environment and ecosystem of the National Capital Region and connect the Greenbelt to features such as the Carp Hills, South March Highlands, Cumberland Forest and even across the Ottawa River to Gatineau Park.

Over 50 years, parcels of land — large and small — belonging to provincial and city governments, as well as private holders would be added to the Greenbelt through outright purchase or negotiations. By 2067, the Greenbelt would grow to about 24,000 hectares (23,875) from 21,875 hectares today. Overall, 57 per cent would be natural environment, up from 50 per cent today. Nearly 5,800 hectares would be set aside to promote sustainable agriculture, mostly small-scale operations of varied crops and livestock.
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The biggest parcels of land the NCC hopes to add to the Greenbelt include privately owned land in Shirley’s Bay and provincially owned woodlands and natural areas near the Mer Bleue Bog. The NCC believes it can negotiate with provincial and city governments to make their land part of the Greenbelt while maintaining ownership. Other pieces of land would be part of a study to determine if they should be added to the Greenbelt. The trickier part for the NCC, which is hard-pressed for cash, is to find the money to buy private lands.
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(NOTE: map in this article is the same map previously released on March 18, 2011 with the NCC Greenbelt Concept Plan documents - rww)
The old saying goes "if it sounds too good to be true ..." and unfortunately this sounds more like good intentions than a real plan. We have a 50 year time span over which much can change, including the NCC Board and leadership. We have no apparent budget but an admitted shortage of funding. And most importantly, some of the most environmentally sensitive lands, such as much of the South March Highlands, are in private hands and planned for development. Are they going to be put in limbo for potentially 50 years - not likely.

And talking about the South March Highlands and other similar lands, just what does "connect the Greenbelt to features such as the Carp Hills, South March Highlands, Cumberland Forest and even across the Ottawa River to Gatineau Park." mean. To me that implies that the Carp Hills and South March Highlands would be added to the Greenbelt and protected - why else connect to them. The Greenbelt is already "connected" to lots of subdivisions. The Ottawa Citizen article is annoyingly vague here and we can only assume the vague wording originated with the NCC. Unfortunately we could not find any official statement on the NCC web site last time we were able to access it (currently appears to be down).

We need more details. We need a timeline telling us when specific lands will be added to the Greenbelt. We need assurance that the NCC has the funding necessary and the willingness to expropriate private land if necessary. And we need to know that all the proposed additions will be protected from development until they are added to the Greenbelt.

Otherwise all we have is a pipe dream.

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