Ottawa’s new plan for healthy urban forests

David ChernushenkoBy Councillor David Chernushenko

I am pleased to report that City Council recently adopted a 20-year Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP). I wrote about this important project during the draft stage last year, and am providing an update because residents of Capital Ward made it clear that protecting and expanding our urban forest is very important, and because I consider this an example of excellent public consultation and collaboration with stakeholders. That’s not always the case at City Hall.

The UFMP (download the PDF at provides 26 recommendations for making Ottawa’s urban forest healthier, more diverse, resilient and, ultimately, sustainable. These recommendations cover program structure and administration, planning (including a review of existing tree by-laws), maintenance and growth, and outreach. And they respond to the six challenges faced by Ottawa’s urban forest: invasive species, pests and pathogens; land development; difficult growing conditions; tree loss on private property; limited community awareness and engagement; and non-City ownership of urban trees.

Urban forests provide valuable benefits: helping us mitigate and adapt to climate change, supporting physical and mental health, increasing property values, reducing energy use, reducing costs for health care and infrastructure maintenance, and improving air and water quality.

The City now has a great opportunity to encourage extensive public engagement and foster environmental stewardship in every neighbourhood. With 40% of Ottawa’s urban area made up of privately owned land, residents can play an active role in the UFMP and increase its potential impact.

Some residents are concerned about bylaw enforcement and whether the plan will actually change anything. Like many communities, Old Ottawa East has lost many trees due to infill projects. Our current planning rules and building permit application process favour property owners’ right to build or expand at the expense of existing trees. Even protected trees are cut without a permit; the fine for doing so seems insufficient to discourage such behaviour.

Our existing tree-related bylaws and planning processes need to be updated and strengthened if we wish to stop the steady loss of significant trees in our neighbourhoods. Accordingly, the first four-year management period of this plan calls for a review of the tree bylaw, with public consultation expected to play an important role. As timelines become known, I inform residents of opportunities to participate.

What did you think of Escapade?

On June 24-25, Lansdowne Park hosted the Escapade electronic music festival. The heavy, repetitive bass appeals to some, but not necessarily to the neighbours.

While I would not normally have considered the Escapade organizers’ entreaties to move the festival to Lansdowne, a last-minute termination by the new owners of their previous venue put them in an unexpected bind. So I granted a one-time trial at Lansdowne under strict conditions: limited hours, tight security to counter the prevalence of recreational drug use, and substantial measures to limit bass vibrations and noise bleed in general.

Were these measures adequate? Were you negatively affected? Or, did you find the festival no more intrusive than a typical Lansdowne event? Maybe you even enjoyed it!

Feedback from Old Ottawa East residents is among the factors that will inform any decision about Escapade’s potential return to Lansdowne. Please share your thoughts.

Contact information:

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Filed in: FP, Front Page, Political Pages

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