Further steps along Brantwood Park trail

SLOE volunteer Barry Davis discusses concept plan for pathway through Brantwood Park with landscape architect Martha Lush. PHOTO BY JOHN DANCE

Recommendations to improve the Brantwood Park trail were the topic of discussion at a community meeting at the Brantwood Park field house on Thursday, April 12.

Twenty-five community members gathered to hear Martha Lush, a landscape architect at Corush, Sunderland, Wright, who reviewed suggestions drawn from earlier workshops.

Rebecca Aird of Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE) briefly reviewed the history and work to date on the Rideau River Nature Trail (RRNT). She noted the original vision, shaped through input from community members and other stakeholders, was to enhance the ecological integrity of the shoreline, maintain a sense of tranquility, improve amenities and provide better connectivity.

Since 2007, there have been quite a few community-based initiatives to help realize this vision. In terms of the path itself, the design implemented several years ago in Springhurst Park was city-led but significantly influenced by the RRNT vision and community input.

The Springhurst section of path has characteristics that would also work well in Brantwood Park. It is meandering, soft-surfaced (stone dust instead of paving), narrower than the three metres that is typical for multi-use recreational paths, and pulled back where possible from the shoreline.

Lush admired the park itself, noting its amenities, the variety of current and historical uses, its popularity and naturalized environment. She saw a stone dust pathway with a mown border so that riparian plantings don’t intrude into the walkway itself. She spoke about lookouts and points of interest to observe, but not interfere with, resident wildlife.

In addition to the main path weaving to and away from the shore itself, Lush suggested there may be room for a secondary path: a boardwalk at the edge of the river at the old Brantwood beach.

There is a precedent for this kind of structure on the river near Rideau Street, installed when the Rideau Place development was approved. The resulting space enclosed between the two paths could form a comfortable seating and play area.
Further study will be necessary to make sure a boardwalk isn’t disruptive or intrusive as there are sensitive nesting habitats for amphibians and waterfowl along the shore. Additional plantings should help, although it will also be important to provide good sight lines throughout the park so walkers feel comfortable and not isolated at any point.

The goal would be that the trail continue to be very comfortable and safe for pedestrians. One participant noted, however, that the multi-use path on the other side of the Rideau River accommodates high volumes of cyclists often travelling at very high speeds. An improved path on the Old Ottawa East side of the river could better accommodate cycling as well, but does not need to be designed for similar levels and speed of cycling.

The north end of the Brantwood trail faces the steep slope that resulted when Saint Paul University added fill to its construction site.
Lush suggested removing some of that fill would allow an extended barrier-free pathway to rise more gently towards the Oblate lands and the Springhurst trail, something that could be discussed in conjunction with the impending development of those lands. While a few trees might have to be removed, trees, roots and stumps could be used along the riverbank to encourage fish habitat and reduce erosion.

At the south end of the trail, Lush suggested the trail keep more or less to its present location, but that a longer ramp be added to provide barrier-free access to Brantwood Drive.

For next steps, there was a suggestion to involve our councillor, David Chernushenko, as well as city officials, and to consider the timing of the necessary construction.

The Community Activities Group hosted the meeting, under the auspices of SLOE and the Ottawa East Community Association. Through the generosity of  Evergreen Foundation and Fido a small honorarium was provided to Lush for her contribution.

SLOE’s funding includes a portion to implement a selected community project along the shoreline this summer. This could be habitat-related, or might include a contribution towards sitting boulders on the shoreline.
Lush’s draft concept plan is posted on the SLOE and OECA websites: http://www.sustainablelivingottawaeast.ca/ and http://www.ottawaeast.ca

The proposed concept plan for the Brantwood Park pathway includes a boardwalk running along a portion of the river. GRAPHIC BY MARTHA LUSH



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