Friday, November 30, 2012

Urban Wild "Express" (the art corner of D & C)

Ned Kahn - installation artist "Articulated Cloud"

See other pieces by this artist on You Tube here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 1)

Canada Lands Company (CLC) and the team of consultants selected to do the planning process and development strategy had their first public meeting this week regarding this site.  They provided information on the current conditions of the 125 hectare site and existing infrastructure (including sewar, stormwater and transportation - such as bike/ped networks and transit) and some concepts for "green and blue" that could help guide the process forward.  The public was encouraged to participate at this Ideas Fair through comment sheets, recorded messages, ideas clouds and even at a children's station.

Personally I was thrilled that so much consideration was given to current ecological conditions that included both water and land features and established species.  Not only did maps indicate where "significant tree groupings" and individual trees (there is a 160 year old Bur Oak on the property) were located (Landmark Trees of Ontario noted on their Facebook page that there are multiple large Bitternut Hickories, Sugar Maples, Basswood, Rock Elm and Slippery Elm spread throughout the site), they also showed "periodic standing water" features and potential locations for rain water ponds.  Two adjacent woodlots were highlighted - including the ecological land classification of these woods (Great Lakes-St. Laurence Forests) - and the aquatic scenery of the Ottawa River was noted.  Between the woodlots and development areas, buffers were proposed, allowing for a transitional zone which would help protect the integrity of these forests.

“Our vision is for the complete integration of landscape architecture and urban design, which I think is quite ground-breaking.”

- Don Schultz, CLC’s real estate director for Rockcliffe
Daily Commercial News, May 2013

All in all it's a great place to start and allows the public to envision an urban space that is truly integrated with its surroundings.  And who wouldn't be inspired when they see images like this:

There is still time for you to provide your input.  Review the presentation and display boards online at the CLC website and then share your ideas and comments through the link on the Contact Information page.  This is a year and a half-process, so there will be many other opportunities to have your say and show your concerns and/or appreciation as the project develops.  Next spring the consultants will provide their conceptual design options for the property - which they will start to develop after receiving public comments from the meetings this week.

All images are from:


Winter 2013 Update:

The Public Consultation Report from this Open House/Ideas Fair was published in January 2013.  It was shown that there was overwhelming support from the public to "preserve as much of the natural topography as possible and enhance the area's walkability and connectivity" (see page seven of the report):

The largest group of similar comments focused on protection of existing trees, forests, birds, animals and open space.

Also as mentioned above the CLC Real Estate Director views this project as an opportunity to integrate the landscape with the urban design and the landscape architect that is part of the consultant team believes in the importance of creating and maintaining urban oases public space which bodes well for the project.  She was in Ottawa in 2006 doing a presentation for Carleton's School of Architecture Lecture Series:

Here is the full quote: Why is landscape important?  Because it feeds your soul. Someone won't sit down and write a poem, but they will design a garden. We have to put pressure on government to say that public realm spaces are really critical in terms of quality of life, especially as we're doing more development. We need theses oases in the urban areas that surround us.

As the project continues, I will provide more details on the progress in my series of posts!

Posts on Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment:

First blog post: September 2011

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 2) - April 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 3) - September 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 4) - October 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 5) - November 2013

Thursday, November 22, 2012

native vs cultivated (Toronto)

The City of Toronto  is in the middle of changing its Bylaw in regards to "Natural Garden Exemption".  The Local Scoop has a blog post notifying local gardeners to be aware of the changes and provide comments if interested here are some suggestions/concerns:

"The details of the proposed changes are somewhat complicated. As a minimum, you may wish to at least make a general statement incorporating some or all of the following points :
- naturalized gardens are to be encouraged, not discouraged
- they provide many benefits (e.g. biodiversity, supporting pollinators, absorbing storm water)
- they should not require any special permit, inspection or approval process
- people should be able to have such gardens without fear of removal or cutting orders or fines
- natural gardens should not be singled out for special investigation by Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) by-law officers
- MLS should restrict its role to issues of health and safety and specified noxious weeds
- all clauses relating to garden height, size, maintenance, aesthetics, plant material etc. should be removed
- in two legal challenges launched by Toronto gardeners, Ontario courts have affirmed that citizens have the constitutional right, protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to tend a natural garden on their private property and on the city-owned road allowance in front of their property.
The terms "invasive" and "noxious" are bandied about very loosely and incorrectly.

Definition of Invasive (according to Ontario Invasive Plant Council):

Invasive species - Alien species whose introduction or spread negatively impact native biodiversity, the economy and/or society, including human health.

Alien Species - Plant, animals and micro-organisms that have been accidentally or deliberately introduced into areas beyond their native range. Synonyms may include introduced, non-native and exotic.

They say they may "request" removal of specific "noxious" weeds, but actually, they demand removal of weeds that are not noxious. 

Note: Under the Weed Control Act (Ont.), the only species listed as a noxious or local weed in the City of Toronto is Purple Loosestrife (through a bylaw). Ragweed and Poison Ivy are not invasive because they are native species. However, they are a human health hazard and should be regulated in urban areas. The Scoop recommends that Toronto declare them as local weeds under the Weed Control Act (Ont.), Section 10. Giant Hogweed should also be included, but is not listed here. 
European buckthorn is an invasive species and only noxious in rural areas, i.e., not in urban areas unless regulated as a local weed through the proper channels. E. buckthorn, DSV and Garlic Mustard should all be declared as local weeds. For starters, add Japanese Knotweed, too. Since the Weed Control Act (WCA) applies to both private and public lands, all species declared as either noxious or local must be removed within the municipal boundary. The local weed, Purple Loosestrife must be removed everywhere it occurs in the City of Toronto. If additional species are declared local weeds through bylaws, they must also be removed wherever they are found within Toronto."

Image and Italicized Text from the Local Scoop

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wetland Areas for Wildlife

Found this great article online about enhancing wet areas for wildlife:

"Animals favour ponds for different reasons. Adult amphibians use them to lay their eggs. Grass snakes use them to search for frogs and tadpoles. Birds use them to drink and bathe. Whether you add these features for the benefit of wildlife or to complement your garden design, you might be surprised how much pleasure you can get from wildlife watching. "

Here are some ways from the article to enhance areas around ponds:

Damp areas: Emerging amphibians are very susceptible to drying out (dessicating) in the sun. Avoid dry features (like slabs and cobbles) that heat up quickly.

Grass piles: After mowing your lawn consider making a compost heap. Secluded sunny spots are best and wildlife visitors might include hedgehogs (to hibernate) and grass snakes (to lay eggs).

Toad homes: Build a toad home for your back garden (visit All you need is some basic DIY skills. With adult supervision, this can be an excellent exercise for children. When the shelter is complete, just put a few leaves and twigs inside and pop it in the garden.

Amphibian wintering sites: For amphibians you could consider making a ‘hibernaculum’: an area where frogs, toads and newts can see out the winter. To do this lay down some old logs, brick-rubble or even hardcore, and cover this with excavated soil. Make sure your hibernaculum is in an area which is not in full sun, and that the soil drains well. Encourage moss and grass to grow on the top of stones and bricks by covering with a layer of soil or turf.

Log piles & rockeries: Leaving logs and rocks around the edge of the pond helps emerging invertebrates and amphibians find shelter, particularly in winter. In addition dead wood attracts invertebrates on which amphibians can feed whilst they hide. Log piles can ensure many amphibians will stay in your garden all year round.

Lizard rockeries: South-facing rockeries might attract nearby common lizards, and other reptiles into gardens. Use the soil excavated after digging your pond.

Butterfly banks: After creating your pond, consider using leftover soil to create an excellent wildflower bank for invertebrates like moths and butterflies. Sow the soil with native wildflower seeds. Like rockeries, south-facing sunny banks are best.

Grasses and wildflower areas: Depending on the size of your garden, think about a secton/strip for wildflowers, herbs or even a hedge. This will create a more varied mosaic of wildlife habitats - butterflies and bees will particularly favour these areas.

Compost heaps: Any type of compost heap can be beneficial to wildlife even if it is enclosed. This is because a compost heap attracts lots of invertebrates such as slugs and snails - an ideal meal for any hungry frog or hedgehog. A traditional open compost heap will produce a large amount of heat as the vegetation is rotting down, which will be especially favourable to slow worms, particularly if you lay some old carpet over the top. Grass snakes visit some compost heaps in the late spring to lay their eggs.

Plants for a boggy area:
  • Common Bugle Ajuga repens
  • Marsh marigold Caltha palustris
  • Hard rush Juncus inflexus
  • Lady’s smock Cardamine pratensis
  • Ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi
  • Marsh wouldwort Stachys palustris
From World of Water (U.K. Company)
Image from: Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Biocentric Cities: poop power in dog parks

 From Wired Science:

"Conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta is using dog feces to power lampposts in a park in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (His "art" comprises) a special “methane digester” that converts freshly scooped poop into methane.  Dog owners collect their dog waste in a special biodegradable bag and throw it into the digester –- an air-tight cylindrical container, where the dog feces are broken down by anaerobic bacteria. A byproduct from that process is methane, which can then be released through a valve and burnt as fuel. In this case it is being used to power an old-fashioned gas-burning lamppost in a park."

Read more about it here: Park Spark Project.

Image: Park Spark Project. 

D & C's Biocentric Cities post is a monthly post that features options for energy and heating systems that would reduce our demand on natural and non-renewable resources outside the city.  A city's consumption is many times its city limit size and impacts nature that we don't even see. My hope is that a city can produce its own energy, heat and clean water within its city boundaries.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Steve Vogel on Daylighting (Detroit)

Two minute video on You Tube:  Detroit architect, Steve Vogel discusses the topic of day lighting and it's benefit to the environment.

Also an article from The Nautilus, Spring 2011 about the potential for one project for Bloody Run Creek.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reconnecting to Wonder

At 40 I chose a new path.  It had been percolating in me for awhile.  I knew I wasn't happy at work but really didn't know what I wanted to do.  For awhile I thought a trip to India would be a good place to soul search but that would be a few years in the making.  While I pondered and saved, I started looking into local opportunities that peaked my interest.

First it was an urban stream monitoring program, where local citizens got in hip waders and took measurements of urban streams.  It was amazing to get outside - it reconnected me to my childhood and the river's comforting rush of water.  Next it was a lecture on urban meadows and the opportunity to create habitat where there never was before and create new opportunities for birds and birders.  Then I went to a tree planting session and heard from someone who recalled planting trees when he was 20 and how rewarding it was to go back 40 years later and see the living legacy that he had helped create.  All of these events and experiences led me to a new career of urban ecology.

Now I'm at school learning about scientific protocols, animal tracking, statistical reliability and restoration projects but it's hard to see its applicability in urban settings sometimes as it's such a new field.  What I'd like to do next year is fly to Europe and visit some of the cities that I have read about in magazines and on the web where they are doing incredible work in this area: creating beautiful urban meadows of flowers in the Prenzlauer Berg District in Berlin, designing urban nature zones and adding ponds to the different arrondissments in Paris, adding wetland habitat in the London Olympic parklands in Lea Valley and preserving the market gardens and greenbelt in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

It would be amazing to have what I learn, leap off the page and become real for me - to really live and breath the amazing opportunities that there are and to be able to learn from what Europe is doing and apply it to cities in Canada!

(Air Canada Entry - contest open until December!)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

urban wildlife (Ottawa)

Amy's picture of the Eastern Redback Salamander found in Rockcliffe Park reminded me of other great nature sightings in the city:

Eric Darwin, blogger of West Side Action posts some great pictures of animals in his blog, as he's an active cyclists and pedestrian.  Some of his nature photos include turtles basking, comorants on the Ottawa River and beavers in lebreton flats.  The two I've included here are a snake along the bike path and a great blue heron on the Rideau Canal.

Also Fernando Farfand who is active on Flickr managed to capture the deer in Rockcliffe Park, the same year, my partner and I saw it (but only managed to get a blurry photo of its rear!).  Another photographer on Flickr had some great pictures of the prolific rabbits in Major's Hills Park.

What type of urban wildlife have you seen this fall?

Monday, November 5, 2012

dark skies lighting

We hear about light pollution and how not only is it wasteful but also how it affects wildlife (nocturnal and those that migrate at night).  Here's a "Cool Green Feature" in Tartan's new development in Barrhaven called Havencourt (taken from their website):

Dark Skies Street Lighting
The purpose of streetlights is to light streets and sidewalks, not to block out views on starry nights. Havencourt will feature innovative downward directed street lighting—focusing the light where it’s needed. Get out your telescopes!

Read about more sustainable features on Heartfelt!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Invisible Cities - Urban Biodiversity Conference (Toronto)

Invisible Cities: An Urban Biodiversity Conference

Royal Ontario Museum
Organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources
May 20th, 2010

From the website:  

"It brought together an audience of professionals, including architects, urban planners, scientists, and the media to talk to people about how to manage biodiversity in an increasingly urban world. A mix of keynote speakers and panellists discussed real-life examples of integrating ecology into cities and debated some of the current concerns around the extent to which it is possible for cities and species to co-exist. The conference was a great success and we are pleased to be able to share it with you. We hope you enjoy them, and that they move you to think more about how we can live with nature in the modern world."

Link to videos which feature some highlights from the conference: Invisible Cities Event

Speakers included:
- Dr. Pavan Sukhdev, Special Adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Green Economy Initiative.
- Geoff Cape of Evergreen talking about his vision of tree-filled cities, and an overview of the Evergreen Brickworks project in Toronto.
- Jon Grant, Chair of the Ontario Biodiversity Council.
- Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends Of The Greenbelt Foundation.
- Laura Reinsborough, Founder of Not Far From the Tree.