Ottawa East Community Profile

Vicki Davis, a retired resident of Old Ottawa East, laces her shoes every Tuesday and Thursday morning and strolls for an hour. She walks with anyone who wishes to participate.

Davis encourages others in the community to join her but sets out regardless of who does. Sometimes she walks to places such as the library, other times to bird watch.

“Even if it’s raining, we need exercise,” Davis said recently.

People get active as the weather warms, a trend that is evident across the National Capital Region.

Old Ottawa East is no exception.

There are various community programs and facilities, pedestrian-friendly streets, small, personable places to visit and affordable or no-cost opportunities for involvement. Many residents take advantage of them.

Davis (who also sits on the Ottawa East Community Association board) organized the Brantwood Walking Group.

In September 2011, residents met to devise ways seniors could use the Brantwood field house. It was then that Davis proposed the idea of a walking group.

“We don’t own a car,” she said, of her family. “It never made sense to us financially. If we’re going a distance we’ll rent a car or borrow our neighbours. It seems to work for us. It’s quite an active community. We’ve got the trails and the parks. Most of the people I know are quite physically active.”

Davis, who does most of her errands on foot, is motivated simply knowing that exercise is important.

About seven people came out during the fall, but fewer participated as the weather cooled and the snow started to fall.

Davis is hopeful more will join her during the summer months.

She published an announcement in the Mainstreeter and heard from a few aspiring Brantwood Walking Group participants.

While Davis takes to the trails, pedestrians and cyclists stream along Main Street’s sidewalks. The neighbourhood provides an array of destinations.

In a matter of minutes, people can walk out their door, grab coffee at Café Ninety7 and then go next door to work with a personal trainer and use exercise equipment at PS Personal Training.

Pedga Stojnic, a trainer and co-owner of the studio, said PS is busiest just before summer.

“It’s not easy to get to the Rideau Centre [to Goodlife Fitness] or downtown from that area,” said Stojnic. “It’s convenient for the community to walk from their home and access our facility. They don’t have to spend a lot of time commuting.”

PS Personal Training welcomes clients from “all walks of life,” said Stojnic. Clients can train one-on-one with qualified trainers too, with all but one having a maximum of five years of experience in the field.

Since Stojnic and his partner Peter Aronis opened the studio in June 2011, he said he has been absolutely pleased with business on Main Street.

Carol Workun has seen a 10-to-20-per-cent increase in program participation in the past seven years, during which she has served as executive director for Old Ottawa East’s Community Activities Group, a not-for-profit organization that works with the city to provide recreational opportunities, including a wide-range of physical activities, for community members.

“I think it’s [partly] an increase in awareness in what we’re offering,” Workun said. “Seven years ago was the first hiring of an executive director. Since then, there’s been an increased effort publicizing,”

The CAG brings its programs to residents’ attention through the Internet, the Mainstreeter community newspaper and an electronic newsletter.

The CAG offers sports for youth, such as soccer and flag football, as well as numerous co-ed adult sports, such as basketball, volleyball, badminton and women’s soccer.

The city helps fund the venues where the CAG holds its programs, including the Brantwood Park field house and the Old Town Hall on Main Street, where many CAG activities take place.

One of the most popular classes this year is Zumba dance workout.

“It’s so popular and trendy right now,” said CAG program co-ordinator Keri Robertson, who oversees staff and registration and community feedback.

“We find [and] come up with new program ideas and implement them into schools and community centres.”

Most recreational activities and training sessions do come with a cost; Zumba costs $85 for an 11-week class. However, the CAG offers subsidies for up to 50 per cent off the rate, for residents interested but don’t necessarily feel they can afford to participate.

People from every corner of the city can take part in CAG programs, but only Ottawa East residents can benefit from subsidies. Members generally don’t express need for financial assistance though.

“The cost isn’t really a factor because it’s [a] fairly affluent [community]… made up of income [generating], working families,” said Robertson.

Community groups run their programs in the city-owned buildings free of charge.

“They earn profit but try to funnel that back into the community with special event days,” Robertson added, using the Valentine’s Day Skate to illustrate.

The city recently contributed to revitalizing the Brantwood Park field house – primarily a changing room since 1978, now transformed into a space for activities. The park itself, with softball, basketball and tennis courts, a wading pool and a rink, had been enhanced over the years.

City hall is “keeping a pulse for what the community is looking for and trying to service those needs,” said George Blake, the city’s complex manager in Ottawa East.

The city contains costs of aging infrastructure through community involvement, Blake added. He called Old Ottawa East’s outdoor rink, “one of the best outdoor rinks in the city.”

Volunteers, who set aside time in their schedules, deserved thanks for the rink’s upkeep and availability, Blake said.

Moreover, the proximity of wide-ranging services added to Old Ottawa East’s appeal, said Blake. He referred to it as a “tight, little community.”

Others agreed.

“We are a downtown community, we are pedestrian-friendly,” said Robertson. “[It’s] quite safe, people feel like they can get out, have their children play outside and walk to the park.”

Area residents had to be innovative, she added, because many people did not want to go outside the community for recreation.

“There are not a lot of other recreation services around here,” Robertson said. “In the suburbs they have large sports centres. We don’t have anything like that here.”

“It’s a community that has lots of options within a reasonable distance,” said Blake, of Old Ottawa East.

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