NCC approves plan for 9-km riverfront revamp

The Ottawa River South Shore Riverfront Park will include three sets of rapids, including those near the popular Remic Rapids Park and its balanced rock sculptures. (National Capital Commission)

The National Capital Commission has approved plans for the Ottawa River South Shore Riverfront Park, an expansive corridor spanning more than 200 hectares of riverfront land between Mud Lake and LeBreton Flats.

The NCC has stewardship over the entire nine-kilometer stretch, which includes three sets of rapids, the Trans Canada Trail and multi-use pathways along both sides of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

Highlights from the plan include:

  • Improved recreational opportunities along the shoreline.
  • Access to public amenities, including washrooms, water fountains, lookouts, bicycle parking, and food and beverage services.
  • Safer cycling and walking paths.
  • Traffic-calming measures, including speed reduction.
  • A vegetation strategy to protect and enhance wildlife habitat.

Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson said the project is the result of a “new level” of collaboration between the NCC and the City of Ottawa.

“It has led our planning department to achieve one of the most advanced and interesting urban plans going,” he said, shortly after the NCC’s board of directors approved the plan.

“I hope it will win awards, and we’ll put it forward.”

The plan’s foundations were first laid in 2014, when the NCC began to reimagine the riverfront lands bordering the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

That same year, the city announced it wanted to run the future western expansion of its light rail transit system above ground for 500 metres along the northern edge of Rochester Field.

The NCC opposed that plan, insisting that there should be full and unobstructed access to the waterfront. It asked the city to either bury the route along the parkway or to use a different route altogether.

“I wouldn’t say those were easy discussions. They were intense,” Kristmanson said on Wednesday, recounting the negotiations.

Eventually, the two sides agreed to stack the LRT route beneath the parkway, a solution that Kristmanson said was both more eco-friendly and cost-effective.

As part of the deal, the city agreed to transfer part of the project savings to the NCC so it could develop the park.

“The ace in our hand here is that we have $30 million coming out of the light rail project directly into one major component of the park,” Kristmanson said.

Those funds will be used to develop the stretch between the LRT’s Dominion and Cleary stations, which Kristmanson described as a proof of concept for the project as a whole.

The National Capital Commission said the some of the improvements will be made to both Westboro Beach and Rochester Field, including improved facilities. (National Capital Commission)

According to the NCC’s plan for the park, the 2.4-kilometre section between Woodroffe Avenue and Westboro Beach will be the initial focus, with Rochester Field and Westboro Beach described as the park’s “hallmark precincts.”

Kristmanson said the NCC can also draw on the $55 million dollars in infrastructure spending it received through the federal government’s 2018 budget to develop some of the park’s projects.

Speaking in French, Kristmanson said he had “no idea” about the total cost of the park, describing as a project for decades to come.

Push for segregated pathways

The plan also proposes to push ahead with segregated paths for cyclists and pedestrians.

“Increasingly, we are segregating pathways. It’s not possible to do everywhere. People will have to keep learning to live together on the pathways,” Kristmanson said.

The issue of segregated lanes is just one of the issues being discussed as part of the NCC’s ongoing consultation on the future of its pathway network.

The NCC will now consult with the Algonquin First Nations and the public to decide on a name for the new park.

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