Ottawa Greenbelt: “for people and nature”

These days the parking places to most trails in Greenbelt of Ottawa are closed due to pandemics of COVID-19. But we hope that with summer time the normal life will return and all interested people may enjoy the beauty of nature in the National Capital Region…

The unique Ottawa Greenbelt creates specific atmosphere in the Canadian capital and makes it one of the greenest, “environmentally friendly” and attractive city in North America. The Greenbelt idea was proposed by Jacques Gréber (1882-1962), architect specialized in landscape architecture and urban design, as a part of his master plan for Ottawa in 1950. The land for greenbelt was partly expropriated, partly bought and partly donated by owners of farms located in this area. At present, the Greenbelt covers about 204 square kilometers of lands within the present boundaries of Ottawa from Shirley’s Bay in the west to Green’s Creek in the east. Most part of the area (149 square kilometers) is owned and managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC); other land belongs to federal government[1].  The purpose of greenbelt establishment directed to prevent urban sprawl and provide open space for development of farms, natural areas and government campuses. Greenbelt surrounded Ottawa in the time of its establishment; however, after joining of several urban and rural municipalities and formation of city Ottawa in its current boundaries the greenbelt “moved” inside of the city, where it forms the green arc with numerous recreation areas.  It is considered currently as one of the largest urban parks in the world. And, who knows? Perhaps, it serves as a model for future landscape architecture of the environmentally friendly urban settlements under scenarios of adaptive management development of human societies, where highly industrialized civilization neighboring with green spaces and caring about wildlife…

Ottawa Greenbelt: Source: NCC, 2019

More information about Greenbelt and places of interest you can find here

At present, the greenbelt area comprised by forests, wetlands and traditional fields, provides immense opportunities for recreational activity within a city. This area is used for farming, forestry, research and conservation.  Successful location of greenbelt creates the “green” islands for the dispersal of wildlife, providing the connecting corridors for large number of wildlife species during migration and ensuring normal population dynamics. This belt supports also northern bird visitors during wintering, which can stay near feeders established by Ottawa Field Naturalist Club, other environmental groups and citizens.  The greenbelt provides the presence of breeding sites not only for “edge” species, but also for typical representatives of many forest and wetland ecosystems from different ecozones.

Even now, with human population of Ottawa about 900,000 people, it is difficult to find an empty trail in the greenbelt in any time of the year. With projected increase of population and its doubling after 30-40 years, the role of greenbelt for recreation will grow dramatically. Several new centers growing in Kanata, Barrhaven, Orleans, Stittsville are located beyond the greenbelt boundaries. Their infrastructure and especially new roads present the new barriers and increase isolation of wildlife habitats in the greenbelt. The further careful planning and development are very important that to keep the current level of wildlife diversity and abundance in the urban conditions. Ottawa can pioneer developing and designing the urban park concept in North America as well as in the world.  Current projects of the City of Ottawa, National Capital Commission and Nature Conservancy Canada on evaluation and analysis of the links between core natural areas provides the real base for the development of conservation plan, and, probably, for the development of urban park in Ottawa.  It is difficult to predict what we can expect after next 50 years and what kind of wildlife will survive in the urban conditions. However, it is clear that the presence of greenbelt will secure the adaptation of species to the changing environmental conditions in the process of development. The greenbelt represents the real natural and historical heritage, important not only for city, but for whole country and many Ottawa visitors. It is important to remain this land without development. Its current role as a green space will provide much more benefits to the city and citizens at present and in the future than any modern constructions, new streets and buildings. Ecological integrity is more significant that visible current economic benefits. So, we just need to think beyond the boundaries of our current believing, standards and imagination.

What you can do in the Ottawa Greenbelt?

The area of Greenbelt is designed for all kinds of recreation activities. Each designated place has the special facilities, such as comfortable outhouses, maintained trails with wooden bridges and passages in the marshy areas. Guiding maps on wooden boards at the entrance provide information about the trails, as well as about the permitted activities. If in this place you cannot walk with the dog, then a corresponding sign will be put (crossed dog sign, etc.). In places where the trails diverge, signs are usually put showing the number of the trail and where it goes. Each path has its own name. Read them carefully to avoid getting lost. Signs also show directions to parking lots and sometimes even distance to them. In each particular place of the Greenbelt there are special skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and cycling routes. Some areas are open to visitors with dogs. Some areas are open for visitors with dogs.

All sites are attractive for nature watch in different seasons and many naturalists and photographers visit sites during a year that to look for the “chronicles of nature”, inspire by beauty of changing environment or just rest observing natural things.

What is not allowed in Ottawa Greenbelt?

Any activity that can be harmful for wildlife and can damage the integrity of the Greenbelt is not allowed. It is not allowed to cut a forest, leave garbage and wastes, camp in the greenbelt, start fire, collect flowers, plants and firewood, pick up mushrooms, catch insects, hunt or capture wild animals, damage trail infrastructure, disturb animals, destroy their habitats, talk loudly or shout in the animal breeding places.

What is the best season for visit of Ottawa Greenbelt?

There is no “best” season in the Greenbelt. This area is open for recreation activity in any season and weather. However, some areas in Greenbelt are more attractive in winter. Other areas gather more visitors in spring or summer. The autumn is adorable everywhere.

[1] About the National Capital Greenbelt. The National Capital Commission. 2013.04.26

April in Ottawa area by Elena Kreuzberg

Golden-crowned kinglets arrive one of the first from winter mgrants

Yesterday it seemed that this winter would never end … The beginning of April in Ottawa, capital of Canada (known as one of the coldest capitals in the World) was accompanied by severe frosts and not only at night. Frosts were changed by heavy snowfalls. However, the first thawed patches appeared in the first decade of April. Woodpeckers drummed on dry trees, notifying everyone that spring and a time of nature rebirth were on the verge … The first skunks woke up, checking at night the availability of foodstuffs in garbage cans next to a residential houses. Those of them who live far away in the forest, do not hesitate to appear during the day, checking rodents’ holes, dug under the snow in winter, these winter pathways still kept among the old grass, and what if any of these moves leads to a living hole? The Snowshoe Hare began shedding, replacing the winter white coats on the summer brownish pelt. Mammals after a long harsh winter are not very shy; for them the cold and especially hunger are much worse than the proximity to humans. Flocks of bird migrants stretched from south to north. Canadian and snow geese arrived to the open fields and water-reservoirs among the first, some northern ducks followed them on migratory routes. With the warming other migrants will begin to arrive: migratory woodpeckers – Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Belted Kingfisher, passerines – wrens, swallows, vireo, sparrows, thrushes, warblers and many others…

Canada is one of the few countries where the diversity of wild species is quite large, thanks to significant little-developed areas located mainly in the north and thanks to laws that ensure the protection and sustainable use of rich wildlife resources. However, in many other countries, especially in developing countries, the situation with the protection of biological diversity is critical. Therefore, this year the International Earth Day is held under the slogan “We don’t have time”, denoting that measures to conserve wildlife should be taken now, and not in the distant future…

Striped Skunk just woke up and looking for food
Snowshoe Hares after winter

Starting our blog in April, we hope to be able to talk about Ottawa Greenbelt and other natural areas around us… We also hope to talk about biodiversity and wildlife in other countries, discussing and sharing the experience of wildlife conservation and management …

Wildlife in April