Heather Jarrett: Passionate Advocate for the Community and the Environment

Theresa Wallace

Heather Jarrett and her husband John are pictured here overlooking the Rideau River. Photo by John Dance

Heather Jarrett and her husband John are pictured here overlooking the Rideau River. Photo by John Dance

If you enjoy the soccer, basketball, ping-pong, play structures for kids and adults, riverbank walk and wide-open spaces of Springhurst Park and you’re happy it doesn’t yet have an elevated four-lane road right beside it, one of the people to thank is Heather Jarrett, who moved to Old Ottawa East in 1994 and spent years fighting the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor (AVTC).

“Between 2000 and 2007 that battle heated up and completely took over my life,” admits Jarrett, who along with Sandy Hill’s John Legg was a key leader in the City centre coalition that fought the building of a highway from Conroy Road in the south through Alta Vista and over the Rideau River into Springhurst Park, potentially dumping more cars and trucks than available capacity onto Nicholas Street, Lees Avenue and the Queensway.

Mason Terrace resident Don Fugler met Heather decades ago when a fledgling group of neighbours worked in opposition to the AVTC. In recent years, they’ve become part of a dynamic bridge foursome with fellow community activists Jan D’Arcy and Paul Goodkey. “Heather brought her considerable professional knowledge in environmental assessments to the table when we were working against the AVTC being in the official plan,” Fugler explains. “I remember her being tenacious and passionate back then, and that hasn’t changed. She’s a lot of fun to play bridge with, too.”

Despite the significance of that fight, Jarrett’s opposition to the AVTC represents only a small part of her contribution to life in Old Ottawa East. Through her longtime involvement with the community association, The Mainstreeter—she has not only delivered the paper for decades, but she was also an original member of the board of directors and drafted the bylaws with Jan D’Arcy—and the neighbourhood at large, Jarrett has been involved in almost every major community improvement in Old Ottawa East over the past couple of decades.

Clive Doucet, former city councillor for Capital Ward, was part of a lunchtime running group that included Heather Jarrett back in the 1980s when they were both public servants. “Heather was a great runner. We trained together for the 10K Montée de la Gatineau, a race on the hills in Gatineau Park, and we became good friends,” Doucet says. “I’m not surprised Heather is still fighting the good fight in Old Ottawa East. All her life, she has been committed to the community.”

Jarrett grew up on a dairy farm near Kingston and says her volunteer ethos flows directly from both her father, who is in the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame, and her mother, who was active in the Anglican church. Jarrett’s first job with the feds was at Labour Canada, but subsequently, she moved to the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office and worked on environmental assessments for much of her career. (For over two decades, she also captained a dragon boat that started out being mostly co-workers and she also served on the race committee for the dragon boat festival.)

Heather Jarrett and her husband, painter John Jarrett, now live in Phase One of The Corners on Main (TCOM). When asked what Heather brings to TCOM, neighbour Monica Helm said, “What doesn’t she bring? Heather delivers The Mainstreeter to us, works on the community association membership drive, spearheaded our protest when the city approved nine storeys for building 2B in Greystone Village. She is one of the key people who help maintain our courtyard garden. Her feisty passion, combined with her droll sense of humour, keep us talking and engaged. We’re so very glad she chose to live at TCOM!”

Jarrett says, “I have always looked at community as an extension of the family. I believe inclusivity is really important. The Buy Nothing site, the Grapevine, the people who help the turtles, the woman who coordinates the puzzle exchange—all these things make a more inclusive community. Things that work against inclusivity are, for example, the board of The Mainstreeter requiring the Old Ottawa East community association to pay for their columns in the paper, and the corner of Greystone Village that has closed itself off and called its sidewalks and roads private.”

Jarrett, who is 78, doesn’t run anymore, but she walks along the Rideau River every day, sometimes alone, sometimes with her husband John. “My favourite thing about Old Ottawa East is something I have not had a role in,” Jarrett says. “It’s the river. I love it. Every time we walk along the river, I see at least one person I know and say hello to and can chat with.”

“I have a big family here, which is amazing and quite wonderful.”

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