Earlier this week I shared five reasons to celebrate Ottawa’s city parks as we look forward to Ottawa’s first Park Summit this Saturday April 22 (register for this free event here). But as I spoke with people in Ottawa, I kept finding more inspiring examples of how Ottawans are making parks their own – through stewardship, education, food and fun. Here are five more reasons to celebrate our capital’s incredible green spaces and the people who love them:
1. Winter opens up new citizen-led possibilities:
The SJAM Trail is a groomed, multi-use winter trail connecting the Canadian War Museum with park lands along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway to Westboro Beach, animating spaces that until now have been little used in the winter.
The trail exists thanks to the tireless volunteer efforts of ‘Groomer Dave’ Adams and his team. They groom the trail in a customized snowmobile to make it available for skiing, biking and walking year-round.
2. Camp in the city: Although not in Ottawa proper, Gatineau Park is an enormous urban park, half the size of the City of Toronto, accessible by bus or bike from downtown.
The park has been home to people for more than 8,000 years, but today it is primarily a natural green space that you can enjoy for the day or stay in overnight by camping, renting a yurt or a cabin.
As Ottawa’s population increases by 50 per cent over the next few years, large green spaces like Gatineau Park will be even more critical to ensuring a livable future.
3. Learn indigenous history by taking a walk in the park: If you are anything like me, your understanding of Ottawa’s history is pretty much ends at the edge of Parliament Hill. Jaime Koebel aims to change that, by leading walks through Major’s Hill Park, Confederation Park and Lansdowne Park that present public spaces from an indigenous perspective. Learn about Ottawa’s social, cultural and political history and present day through stories that centre the indigenous experience.
4. Keepers of the River: The Ottawa River is a defining natural feature of the city, and it is lucky enough to be watched over by a fiercely devoted group of Ottawans. Ottawa River Keeper uses education, apps, advocacy and even a patrol boat to protect the river and its future. The organization is one of ten water keepers in Canada – non-governmental ombudsmen who serve as the full-time public advocate for a water body. Ottawans and visitors can download their swim guide app to find the best place to take a dip, or serve as a volunteer river watcher to spot issues like toxic algae blooms.
5. From Burma to Canada: Of the many working farms in the Greenbelt, the KLEO Karen Community Farm is probably the only place where you can find Chin Baung (roselle) and Mying Khwar (pennywort). These are key flavours in the cuisine of the Karen people, an ethnic minority from Burma who arrived in Canada after fleeing one of the longest-standing civil wars in history. With the help of KLEO, Just Food and other partners, Karen refugees turned to their traditional farming methods, combining them with Canadian agricultural practices to grow high-quality produce for local sale.
Featured image: Sorting the harvest at KLEO Karen Community Farm. photo credit: Just Food.