Springhurst greenspace saved

Christine Loth-Brown, with support from her son Noah, successfully led the community campaign to save the Springhurst greenspace from a large parking lot development. Photo by John Dance

A huge community effort, including support from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko, forced the move of a University of Ottawa parking lot, originally proposed for the green space between Springhurst Park and the Lees Avenue apartment buildings.

As a result of an agreement between the city and the university, the parking lot will be shifted to the U of O’s  200 Lees campus, east of the apartments.

“I am pleased that the city and the university were able to come up with alternative solution that protects the Springhurst Park green space for the community,” says Christine Loth-Bown, a Simcoe Street resident who led the community’s campaign.

In December, people learned of plans for covering most of the green space with a staging area for construction of the Lees light rail transit station and a 360-space parking lot.

They voiced their opposition to the city, which immediately scrapped the staging area.  

But residents wanted the proposed parking lot taken out as well.

The lot was compensation from the city to the university for the use of two existing parking lots during LRT construction. The planned lot would have covered about half the green space for six years.

“I am very pleased we were able to find this positive and green solution,” Watson said, adding the new location for the lot, “is not presently used as a park and will not affect the community’s use of green space or recreational programming.”

“Those who led the community campaign to oppose the original plan made it clear that this land is important as a public space, and that a better alternative could and should be found,” Chernushenko said. “Thanks to them, it was.Green space is precious, and should not be used for parking, temporary or otherwise, anywhere in the city. Now we need to look for ways to keep growing the supply of recreational green space in the area and formalize the spaces that we have.” 

Not only will the new parking lot not be on the green space but it will be more convenient for university users and have less than half the number of spots originally proposed.

Although the university is getting fewer parking spaces, it will have them on a permanent basis. The acre of land lies just to south of where Lees Avenue goes over the Queensway.

One outstanding concern of the community association is that simple and safe cycling and pedestrian access continue through the university’s property to the pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River.

The city has provided assurances this access will be built into the design.

Construction of the estimated $1.7 million parking lot is expected to begin in June and be complete by the end of August.

The Old Ottawa East community association, the Community Activities Group, the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and the Mainstreeter all played key roles in the campaign to defeat the original parking lot proposal.

Chestnut Street resident Rick Burrowes monitored use of university parking lots and found there were many unused spaces.

The health centre had a large rally on a cold February day. People at the rally signed petitions protesting the proposed parking lot and took in  the Ottawa Wolves exhibiting their rugby skills bare-handed on the snow-covered Springhurst field.

“It’s great that the space has been saved for now, but it is still earmarked to be used as the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor,” said Jaime Girard, vice president of OOECA. “If we as a community want to keep that space for recreation, now is the time to lobby the city to remove the proposed four-lane highway from the transportation master plan.”


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