At the170 Lees Avenue Tower… Local Apartment Complex Finally Begins to Address Refuse Blight

CAROL ALETTE

Far too often over the past two decades a mess of scattered water bottles, boxes, shopping bags, packing materials and other trash has greeted users of the Rideau River Nature Trail behind the Rideau East apartments at 170 Lees Avenue.

The hillside and riverbank behind the Rideau East apartment tower at 170 Lees often looked like this before the building’s management finally removed the offending garbage containers in early January. Photo by Carol Alette

The hillside and riverbank behind the Rideau East apartment tower at 170 Lees often looked like this before the building’s management finally removed the offending garbage containers in early January. Photo by Carol Alette

Until very recently, the source of the garbage was an uncovered dumpster located at the river end of the building’s front parking lot. The lighter materials in the bin regularly blew onto the hillside below and across the multi-use path to the riverbank. Aesthetics aside, a good deal of this accumulated garbage wound up in the river, where plastic and Styrofoam, in particular, proved hazardous to fish, turtles, waterfowl and other aquatic animals.

Most of the garbage removal over the years has been undertaken by community volunteers, who have saved countless bags of trash from floating downstream into the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers and, finally, into the Atlantic Ocean.

As far back as 2009, with a letter to the apartment tower’s property manager, the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) had attempted to rectify what was back then already a long-standing situation. At that time, building renovations at the Lees Avenue tower were resulting in particularly egregious amounts of garbage. OOECA asked that the garbage be contained and that the dumpster be moved away from the river, but neither of these things happened.

By autumn 2011, in his article in The Mainstreeter, John Dance reported that “The [building] management . . . has committed to a number of measures that ill transform the one unsightly portion of the nature trail.” These measures included a temporary fence to contain construction materials; a permanent fence and hedge to follow; trees planted on the hillside; and regular cleanups. However, the temporary fence didn’t last, and neither the permanent fence nor the hedge was ever installed.

In a sternly worded letter to the City of Ottawa in autumn 2018, Dance wrote “The irresponsible behaviour of the apartment building owner has gone on too long… for the City to allow a dumpster on the edge of a park is wrong.” But nothing came of this complaint, either. Cut to fall 2020, when Councillor Shawn Menard and the City of Ottawa began to take complaints more seriously. Menard’s office indicated that bylaw officers had contacted the offending party, and happily, in late November the dumpster disappeared. Unhappily, it was replaced by a much smaller wooden crate, also uncovered, which led to garbage scattering to the surrounding area.

Last month, The Mainstreeter contacted the apartment building’s facility manager, Doug MacLean, who mentioned that there had been discussions with bylaw officers and advised that he was addressing this issue. MacLean explained that bins for residents are located in an enclosed area, and that the outdoor dumpster was intended solely for larger objects. He blamed the dispersed garbage on unauthorized use of the dumpster by people from outside the building. Claiming to be unaware of the wooden crate that replaced the dumpster in late November, MacLean said “I will have my staff remove it immediately.” Later that day, the crate was gone.

Has this lengthy, distasteful saga finally come to an end? Will the management at 170 Lees Avenue finally own up to its responsibility to properly maintain its grounds? Only time will tell . . .

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