We held a meeting with the community on 5 March 2014. We listened. The result is declaration of our organization’s motivations and intentions.
What are the Carp Hills?
The “Carp Hills” is 3 to 4 km band of mostly forested Canadian Shield that rises above fertile farmland. Its southern most expression is the South March Highlands, but our area of focus runs approximately 13 km from the southeast at March Road to the northwest at Kinburn Side Road in West Carleton. These highlands, in the former Township of Huntley, are sandwiched between Carp Road and Marchurst Road and comprise an area of over 3900 hectares (9600 acres).
The City of Ottawa Official Plan designates the Carp Hills as a Natural Environment Area with Significant Wetlands. It is zoned Environmental Protection 3, which limits existing lots that have road access to one dwelling and an associated outbuilding.
“The Carp Hills ANSI is … a forested upland containing a large number of shallow beaver ponds connected by small and/or intermittent streams between thinly soiled uplands supporting young to submature early successional deciduous and mixed forest (Red Maple, Sugar Maple, White Spruce, Trembling Aspen, White Birch, Bur Oak, Red Oak). Several Great Blue Heron colonies are known from such ponds, which are also utilized by a variety of breeding mammals and waterfowl.”
On either side of Thomas Dolan Parkway lies a unique area of the Carp Hills called the Carp Barrens, a sparsely vegetated outcrop of Canadian Shield dotted with small ponds. From the 1992 ANSI report:
“The Carp Barrens is dominated by the most extensive, best-expressed complex of granite bedrock on the Carp Ridge and in the site district … Canadian Shield plants otherwise uncommon or rare in the [City of Ottawa] are common here.”
What is the problem?
While the Carp Hills have always been used for recreation (e.g. snowmobiling, cross country skiing, hiking, hunting), nearby population growth is causing increased usage in fragile areas and unauthorized incursions onto private land. Private property adjacent to Carp has seen the largest increase in public access due to new residential development in the village. Unmanaged usage without conservation practices has led to new trails being forged by people and vehicles without regard for the impact on the land.
There are three groups with mutually overlapping interests in the Carp Hills:
a. Landowners, who are sensitive to trespassing and use of their land;
b. Environmentalists, who want to protect the land; and
c. Users, who want to continue to access the Carp Hills for recreational purposes such as walking, skiing, snowmobiling, bird watching, hunting, and cultural purposes.
Some are comfortable with the “status quo”, but this is not a viable option over the long term. Uncontrolled and damaging use of private and City owned property by the public is only going to increase when 3000 new units are built nearby in Kanata North along March Road and once construction is completed at Green Meadows in Carp on Donald B. Munro Drive. We are also aware that groups are continuing to publicize events and activities in the area, such as mountain biking, orienteering and nature study.
In the past the City purchased many parcels of land in the Carp Hills using a funding program from the province for protecting environmentally sensitive land. This has resulted in a patchwork of privately owned and City owned land. Municipal funding to purchase more land is no longer available and the City is not managing the area in any way.
What are we doing?
The Friends of the Carp Hills are concerned citizen volunteers who have stepped up to try to manage the diverse interests of landowners, environmentalists, and users with the aim of preserving and conserving the Carp Hills for the benefit of nature and the community.
Our main focus is the area between March Road at the village of Carp to just the other side of the Thomas Dolan Parkway. This area is most at risk due to population growth, but it also has the greatest potential for protection due to the large amount of City-owned land. The Carp Hills land closest to the village consists of four main land parcels: one City-owned (200 acres) and three privately owned. These parcels comprise roughly 20-25% of the Highlands and are the most heavily used with an extensive but informal trail system.
We see the need for the following actions:
1. Educate the Public About Landowner Rights
We will work to educate the public that it does not have access to privately owned land without permission. Demarcation of private land will likely be required.
2. Divert Users to City-Owned Land Near the Village
We want to develop a trail system on the City-owned land near the village of Carp to divert people away from using the private land near the village (Hidden Lake and behind Glencastle). The community can become involved in the land’s stewardship and conservation measures can be introduced.
3. Conserve and Protect the Carp Hills
We will research and assess the Carp Hills to more fully understand its geology, plants, wildlife and ecological functions.
We will educate the community about what makes the Carp Hills special because people value what they know and understand.
We will enlist landowners to engage in stewardship practices and to consider conservation easements.
We will work to minimize the impact of public access on the Carp Barrens and the wetlands in the interior of the Carp Hills, balancing the desire to experience its beauty with protection and conservation.
We think that the needs of users – for traditional activities like backcountry skiing, hunting, and snowmobiling – can be accommodated in parallel with conservation practices. We want to focus recreational activities on City-owned land near the village of Carp, acquire more land, and minimize or manage public access on sensitive lands such as the Carp Barrens and the forests and wetlands in the interior.
All of these measures are designed to take pressure off and therefore minimize the impact of public access on the more sensitive lands in the Carp Hills, such as the Barrens to the northwest of Carp. Our challenge will be to balance the desire to experience the natural beauty with protection and conservation.
We intend to accomplish these actions with full community involvement and consultation with the City of Ottawa.
The Friends of the Carp Hills
Preserving the Carp Hills for the benefit of nature and the community in perpetuity