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Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Well, the start of a new season on the Rideau-so what’s new?

For those who may have heard of the short season being imposed this year, be philosophical. As the book tells the story, this has happened before in living memory. As a matter of fact, that great organization, the Friends of the Rideau, was born from the desire of those Rideau-philes and local settlers’ descendants to see the beloved canal preserved.

The whole thing is in the book !!

The Landscape Strategy is “rapidly” (a joke, son) creeping up on the same schedule, i.e., it may take as long to complete as it did to build the canal in the first place. And imagine if you will, that public input has been restricted, so that it can’t hamper progress ! It isn’t clear what the problems are that are causing the glacial pace, and we probably don’t want to know.

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Himself !!!

Well, I was out at Read’s Book Shop in Carleton Place the other day, signing books and talking to people. I find it stimulating to meet readers, and to explain what has moved me to write about the Rideau Canal and the men and women who have kept it alive for almost 180 years.

In that light, the current government squeeze is depressingly familiar – that has been an invariable part of the history of the canal – “do more with less, charge more for less”. Pile on the bureaucracy, spout lofty inanities about the priceless heritage of Canadian parks, but don’t spend any money on it. Sigh …

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Dad-sketch-5

May 29, 2009

 Courtesy of the RVCA

Canadian Rivers Day Cleanup

 

Sunday, June 14th is Canadian Rivers Day and to help celebrate our local creeks and promote clean water, the City Stream Watch program is holding a stream  cleanup on Sawmill Creek in Ottawa.  

From its headwaters along Lester Road, Sawmill Creek flows north through the community of South Keys and along the heavily-urbanized Bank Street before eventually joining the Rideau River at Billings Bridge.   Because of its urban watershed, a lot of garbage tends to collect along the banks and in the stream itself which can harm the important fish and wildlife habitat along the creek.  

The Sawmill Creek Cleanup runs from 9 am to 3 pm, with on-site lunch generously provided by the Monterey Inn Resort and Conference Centre.  If you would like a sandwich, please register by Monday, June 8th.   

We will meet at Heron Park and wade along the creek from there.   Heron Park is off Heron Road east of the Airport Parkway and west of Bank St.  From Heron Road, turn north onto Clover St., and the community centre and park is on the left side of the street.  We will park and meet there at 9 am.    Please bring your own drinking water, sun block, rubber boots, chest waders (if you own them) or sturdy footwear.  

To register or for more information, please contact Julia Sutton – City Stream Watch Coordinator at citystreamwatch@rvca.ca or  613-692-3571  x 1180.

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Dad-sketch-5

                                                                                                                                                          May 28, 2009

 Here’s a contribution from Charles Billington, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, with a well-timed update to your New Year’s resolutions.

MID YEAR RESOLUTION

 

            Now here’s a mid year resolution to consider: spend more time in the hammock this summer.   Read more.  Sleep more.  Leave the lawnmower and chainsaw in the shed.  Remove less vegetation.  In fact, let your shoreline revegetate itself.  Let nature take its course.  Relax.  Both you and your lake will be healthier for it.      

            After all, Mother Nature knows what she is doing.  Those soggy shorelines you see along the creeks, streams and lakes of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys are mixtures of alder, bulrush, sedge, cattail, pickerel weed, Virginia creeper and mud sometimes called “wet scrub”.  These streambank areas are also known as the “Ribbon of Life” because about 90% of the plants and animals living in the water need these scruffy-looking areas at one time or another in their life cycle.  And they are as essential to the health of the river as your kidneys are to you. 

            Plants are right at home here.  Insects, fish, birds and mammals move in where the plants are.  These rich areas are nurseries, food cupboards, hiding places and hunting grounds.  They are a buffer against floods, wind and erosion.  They filter out large quantities of nutrients washing in off the land.  Vegetated shorelines are small pieces of ecological heaven with the best of all worlds: heat, light, water, land and food. 

            These fragile areas are under siege in the urban and rural parts of our local watersheds.  People cut and fill in and “clean up” and “harden” the shorelines with little thought for the health of the stream or lake.  Those types of old-fashioned practices have let us down badly.  Clean water, lots of wildlife and stable shorelines are at risk in many parts of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys. 

            That’s not to say that we can’t use and enjoy our rivers, lakes and streams.  We can but it does take a little shift in attitude towards the unique and fragile Ribbon of Life.  It costs nothing and it pays huge dividends in terms of a healthy river system for future generations.   

            It is time to start respecting our alders.   Leave the natural vegetation along the shore alone.  It has been there through thick and thin for the past 10,000 years and is in perfect harmony with the river environment.  If it’s already gone or substantially changed, let it grow back by not mowing within five metres of the shoreline (ten metres is even better).  Mother Nature will do the rest.    

Avoid using fertilizers and other chemicals on your property.  Common sense tells us that liquids do find their way into either the groundwater (which we drink) or lakes and rivers (which age faster with chemical boosts).   Check that your septic system is up to scratch.   Check with your municipality, Conservation Authority or Parks Canada about permits needed for any shoreline projects such as docks.    A good first step is always the helpful folks at the LandOwner Resource Centre at 613-692-3471 or 1-800-267-3504 ext 28 or ext 32 (or info@lrconline.com). 

            The battle for healthier waterways will be won by thousands of people staying in their hammocks longer on the shorelines of every lake, river and creek in Eastern Ontario.  Power to the people indeed!

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Dad-sketch-5Flash! The great wall of the Rideau is being rebuilt and for only $2 million –  read all about it this morning in the Ottawa Citizen. Minister John Baird is positioning this expenditure as necessary to remain attractive to tourists –  something like Botox ?

I recall reading that the post-WWII Department of Reconstruction paid then-big money to rebuild thousands of feet of concrete wall along the canal and around Dow’s Lake. This was aimed at stimulating an economy just making the transition to peace-time industries and looking for employment for returning soldiers.

When the Canal Basin was abandoned and filled during the late 1920’s, the original thousands of feet of concrete wall went up. There was 1455 feet worth from Connaught Place to Laurier Avenue on the west side; over 6100 feet of concrete went up on both sides of the canal from Bank to Bronson; 655 feet on the north side of Dow’s Lake, and a further 3000 feet planned to join this small wall to the rest of the canal.

The late 1920s was the flourishing era of the new concrete technology – it quickly pushed out the original stone masonry of the canal lock structures. Stone in the necessary sizes had become scarce, and thus expensive – concrete was one-third the price and didn’t need skilled masons, stone-cutters, etc.

Hartwells, Long Island, Burritt’s Rapids, Old Sly’s, Beveridges, Beckett’s Landing, Nicholson’s, Smiths Falls Combined, Chaffey’s, Jones Falls, Ottawa Locks – all had facilities reconstructed in concrete over this period.

I guess that we can’t go back and replace the “heritage” concrete with stone now, even if we could find it and the skills (and the money) to do it. It just wouldn’t qualify as “shovel-ready”.

Sic transit gloria mundi ……

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dad-sketch-52Howzat for alliteration, eh!

This Very Saturday – May 9th – The Annual Spring Meeting of the Friends of the Rideau – Legion Hall – Merrickville – 9:30 AM. Scawf down coffee and sweets, including coffee cake.

The Visual Landscape Strategy for the Rideau update from Heather Thomson, Heritage Planner, Parks Canada, is the highlight. It will be followed by a tour and talk by the one and only Ken Watson, webmaster, author and all-around guru of the Rideau.

See you there!

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dad-sketch-57The Landscape Strategy for the Rideau just got some more  publicity from the other end of the Corridor – Kingston Whig-Standard, to be precise.  The article noted that Ottawa’s planning and environment committee is expected to endorse the draft vision for the Rideau Corridor.

Somerset Councillor Diane Holmes is introducing a motion to support the Parks Canada “Visual Landscape Strategy” initiative because Ottawa rightly regards the canal as a major visitor attraction. The visual beauty of the Rideau Corridor will be a major factor in drawing people from around the world to visit the newest World Heritage site.

The township of Drummond-North Elmsley has yet to endorse the principles being drafted by Parks Canada’s Pam Buell and Heather Thomson, the heritage planner for the canal.

Thanks to Margaret Brandt of the Westport Review-Mirror for advising me of the Whig’s article. Margaret and the Westport area are keenly aware of the need to provide municipalities and other groups with agreed-upon and effective principles, processes, procedures and permits that will guarantee future generations the same or better level of enjoyment that we have.

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I’ve fallen behind in posting, trying to get to the end of the research for my upcoming book, The Invisible Army.  Anyway, here goes.

1. John Baird, Minister of transport, Infrastructure and Communities will be announcing “Economic Action Plan” funding for “Tourism Infrastructure And Heritage Preservation in Eastern Ontario”.  This takes place at Laurier House, 335 Laurier Avenue East in Ottawa.

I plan to be there  to push for funding for the Friends of the Rideau’s efforts to get a paid position for someone to oversee and manage our information distribution and visitor contact centre in Merrickville at the Depot. We’ve been doing this on a volunteer basis for years but the volunteers are “wearing out”.

We produce and distribute a ton of stuff on heritage, environment, culture, community events, places to see and stay, etc.,  and just plain talking to visitors – we think this is important.  Let’s see if  Minister Baird  is willing to back a proven, time-tested approach or will be seduced by some heavily-marketed proposal with no track record. More to come.

2. As an example of the above, the Friends ( mostly Ken Watson and a sprinkling of volunteers), continues to make available to the general public some important documents on Rideau history that were produced by Parks Canada for their own use. Examples are;

 Forbes Bush’s “Builders of the Rideau Canal, 1826-32″ which has been OCr’d, proofed, and reviewed and will eventually be available as a PDF on CD.

Robert Passfield’s report on “Historic Bridges” should be available on CD for our Annual General Meeting in Merrickville.

Larry Turner’s book, “Recreational Boating on the Rideau Canal” is in the process of completion by one of our volunteers, Helen Parson.

Larry Turner’s works on the Tay Canal are in the process .  We want to get them available for the 175th this summer.

Judith Tulloch’s “The Rideau Canal 1837 – 1914 is now on CD.

Ken also has volunteers working on “Industries and Industrialists of Merrickville” and “Commercial Navigation on the Rideau Canal”. They will be available in the fullness of time.

3. A 52 page report, entitled “As Was Said Forum” on the Rideau Canal Landscape Strategy Forum of April 2 has been published.  There is a lot of good insight and food for thought in it.

I say that and I’m a great skeptic of such fora, having taken part in so many over the years – more than I want to remember or count. If there’s any interest in getting copies, call the Parks Canada office in Smiths Falls at 613-283 -7199.

4. A “Watch Your Wake – Rideau Canal Boating Safety Campaign” , meeting was held March 31st  with reps from the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, Ontario Marine Operators Association, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Ottawa Police Service, Rideau Roundtable, Parks Canada, and, last but not least, Friends of the Rideau and the Rideau Heritage Network.

A Communications Plan of print and radio ads has been started. An Information package has been included in mailings to boaters when they ask for lockage and mooring permits. Gillian Organ of Long Island is vigourously pushing this with her fellow marina operators and her clients.

Four other elements are also being reviewed and prepared: Education, Signage, Enforcement, and Research. They are linked together to see, for example, the impact of the communication, signage and education elements on enforcement. Research will be done on the impacts of wash and wake on shorelines and wildlife habitats ( especially loon nests and sites). The research will also look at erosion damage and identify sensitive areas along the Rideau.

Finally, various sections of the Rideau will be looked at to assess the need for additional speed zones.

An ambitious agenda, but necessary and timely.

5. The Annual Spring Meeting of the Friends of the Rideau will be held Saturday, May 9th, 9:30 to noon, at the Legion Hall in Merrickville. The business portion WILL BE BRIEF. This will give Heather Thomson, Heritage Planner for Parks Canada, lots of time to talk about the Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy and to answer questions.

Our post-meeting walking tour last year was a great success. Another tour is being set up, even as we speak (so to speak). 

See you there.dad-sketch-55

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Here is an issue close to the hearts of many who live, cottage, boat or travel along the Rideau – the integrity of its visual setting. Parks Canada is embarking on a large project to define and protect the “visual values” of the Rideau.

Parks Canada’s job is to develop an action plan. Starting this summer we should expect to see more opportunities for public participation and definitive work toward the goal of protecting the canal’s visual values.

The project was started a couple of years ago after the Rideau was evaluated by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Site nomination process. The technical evaluation found that the Rideau had good legislative protection for its environmental values ( water quality, wildlife habitat, etc.) but lacked protection for its visual values. To quote directly from the UNESCO report:

“ICOMOS [UNESCO’s technical evaluation group} considers that the visual setting of the canal needs clearer identification and where appropriate tighter controls to protect identified vistas and the background to key features of the canal, which needs protection. The current arrangement which allows development only if it does not cause environmental damage could be strengthened to include constraints against development that might cause damage to the visual setting of the canal.”

They concluded by saying  “… that the visual setting of the canal needs clearer definition and appropriate protection to ensure the visual values of the setting are protected alongside theenvironmental values.”

Since the end result of this process has to be legislative protection ( federal, provincial and municipal) the first stage for Parks Canada has been to get the various levels of government “on board” with this project. To date, 9 of the 13 municipalities that border the Rideau Canal have agreed to the general concept of this “Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy”.

The first public meeting on the topic was held on April 2, 2009 with an invited group of over 100 representatives from first nations, federal and provincial agencies, municipalities, NGOs, property owners and business owners. The scope of the meeting was broader than just the visual values issue and a rather large laundry list of issues affecting the Rideau Canal was developed and discussed by the participants.

To find out more about this project, come out to the Annual Spring Meeting of the Friends of the Rideau in Merrickville on Saturday May 9, 2009. Our featured speaker will be Heather Thompson, the Heritage Planner for the Rideau Canal. Pam Buell is heading up the Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy project and looking after Communications, while Heather is doing the planning. She will provide us with the details of how Parks Canada is moving forward with the project and will be able to answer any questions you might have about this critical issue for the Rideau Canal.

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