About Friends of the Carp Hills

Vision: To preserve the Carp Hills for the benefit of nature and the community in perpetuity. Mission: To forge a partnership of private landowners, community groups, local residents, organizations, businesses, the City of Ottawa, and other levels of government working together to create an eco-connected area of wilderness conservation and public access in the Carp Hills.

Carp Barrens Human Impact Study

The City of Ottawa owns approximately 1,000 acres on the north and south sides of Thomas A. Dolan Parkway called the Carp Barrens. The area consists of Canadian Shield covered by delicate lichen and moss mats, forests on thin, easily eroded soils, and provincially significant wetlands. It provides habitat for numerous species at risk, and is a candidate for the designation of Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (Life Science).

In the last three years, public use of the Carp Barrens for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, dirt biking, birding, field naturalist outings, orienteering, snowshoeing, and skiing has increased substantially.  Users have created and marked new trails without authorization by the City. The sensitive vegetation and wildlife of the area have experienced damage and disturbance. Parking on the narrow shoulder of Thomas A. Dolan Parkway creates a safety hazard.

The Friends of the Carp Hills (FCH) have an agreement with the City of Ottawa to maintain low-impact recreation trails for public use in the Carp Hills.  In this capacity, the FCH hosted a meeting in June 2018 to solicit feedback about human use of the Carp Barrens.  Councillor Eli El-Chantiry and Senior Planner Nick Stow from the City’s Resiliency and Natural Systems Planning Unit attended.  At the meeting, Dr. Stow stated that the area could not sustain the same level of use as the South March Highlands due to the thin soils and lichen-covered rock terrain.

As a result of the public meeting and of the feedback that the FCH received about the Carp Barrens, the City of Ottawa instituted Interim Conservation Measures to protect the land that it owns in this ecologically sensitive area.  On 13 September 2018 the City sent a letter outlining these measures to organizations connected to or known to use the Carp Barrens.

The letter recognizes the agreement that the FCH has with the City to assist with stewardship of city properties in the Carp Hills.  

The Human Impact Assessment

Another outcome of the public meeting was the need to conduct an environmental impact assessment with a focus on the areas around the unauthorized trails. FCH has agreed on the terms of reference with the City and will contract Holly Bickerton, a professional ecologist, to carry out the assessment.

The study’s purpose is to provide information about the impact of unauthorized trails constructed for mountain bike use and also used by hikers: should they be closed, moved, made official, limited to seasonal use, etc.  A report will identify any trail locations that pose a risk to the ecology of the area, describe the risk or issue, and recommend how it can be mitigated to protect species; e.g. close the trail, modify the trail, move part of the trail, allow seasonal use, etc.  This information will be provided to the City of Ottawa for consideration.

The focus of the assessment will be the land around the trails with respect to nesting birds (particularly ground nesters like whip-poor-will and common nighthawk), turtles (basking and nesting areas), rare plants, and any other habitat issues.

The assessment will address the following:

  1. Cover three seasons – spring, summer, and fall – in 2019.
  2. Map the trail network.
  3. Document significant, rare, and uncommon plants in the vicinity of the trail. Provide an assessment of the impact of human use on these plants.  Identify Species at Risk (SAR). A complete flora inventory is not required.
  4. Document wildlife in the vicinity the trail and how the wildlife uses the habitat. Provide an assessment of the impact of human use on the wildlife.  Identify SAR.
  5. Document evidence of habitat disruption and describe its impact; e.g. movement of rocks, berms built in wetlands, erosion, off-trail use, invasive species introduction, etc.
  6. Identify trail locations that pose a risk to the ecology of the area and describe the risk. Provide a recommendation on how this damage can be mitigated to protect species; e.g. close the trail, modify the trail, move part of the trail, allow seasonal use, etc.
  7. Provide three reports, one at the end of each season.
We need to raise $6000 to pay for the study.  We are raising the funds in three ways:
  1. donations from organizations,
  2. grant applications, and
  3. donations from individuals like you.

If you’d like to support this study, click on the button below.
Any amount is gratefully received and will show community support when we apply for grants.

DUC Carp Land Public Presentation – 27 Nov 2018

Here is Ducks Unlimited Canada’s presentation from their public meeting on 27 November 2018.

Here are notes on the questions, answers, and comments from the meeting.

Over 70 people attended (maybe a bit over 80)
DUC – Mark Gloutney, Director of Regional Operations – Eastern Region, and Erling Armson, Head of Land Securement, Invasive and Northern Programs
Councillor Eli El-Chantiry
City of Ottawa – Dr. Nick Stow, Senior Planner, Resiliency and Natural System Planning Unit
Friends of the Carp Hills executive
 
This was the second biggest property acquired by DUC in Ontario.
 
DUC emphasized that the land is private property and was bought for conservation as the number one priority. There will be no motorized vehicles, except for snowmobiles on the existing trail.
 
Erling Armson of DUC will work with FCH to manage the property.  Erling is located in Kingston. DUC signed a 21 year agreement with the Friends of the Carp Hills to help manage the property.
DUC and FCH will be working on a management plan informed by the ecological assessment and by input from the community.

  • Collaborative development of the management plan
  • Trail location, marking, maintenance
  • Property monitoring
  • Assist in conservation activities
  • Assist in Outreach around the property

The Management Plan will be updated every 5 years as we learn what works and as conditions change.
 
Holly Bickerton, consulting ecologist, presented a summary of her ecological study findings. She conducted her site assessment from June through September 2018.  
She showed an aerial photo from 1954. It showed that the 40 acre portion of the property (immediately behind Glenncastle Drive) used to be a farmed field, but the remaining 400 acres was uncultivated.  The 40 acre former field area had the lowest diversity and no significant species.

Geology of the site – granitic Canadian Shield – is what creates the unique ecology of the Carp Hills. The rock is not permeable, allowing for the creation of a wetland complex.
Most common habitat is rocky upland oak forest, which is interspersed with wetlands and beaver ponds.

She found 297 native plant species – this is high for property that is relatively homogenous.  If she had been on site earlier in the spring she would have found well over 300 species.

  • One – Hooker’s Orchid – is Provincially Significant.
  • 15 species are Regionally Significant.
  • Very high level of ecological integrity.
  • 11 bird species were found that require deep, interior forest habitat (e.g. Wood Thrush, which is a Species at Risk).
  • 18 Regionally Significant species were found nearby on the adjacent Crazy Horse Trail property.

Ecological highlights:

  • The native plant species present show a very high average coefficient of conservatism, indicating that the subject property enjoys an exceptionally high level of ecological integrity. There is an exceptionally low representation of non‐native species incomparison with other areas in the City of Ottawa. Very few aggressively invasive plant species are present.
  • Rock barrens and treed rock barrens are rare in the Ottawa area, are undisturbed, and contained many significant species.
  • Provincially Significant Wetland Complex.
  • Habitat for Species at Risk – rock barrens for ground nesting birds and ponds for turtles.
  • Size of the property – good forest interior, undisturbed, connection with adjacent land.

Management Concerns:

Trails – There is an extensive network of informal trails on the property. These should be reduced. Trail location should take ecologically sensitive sites into account.
Dumping and Encroachment – garden waste – people are tracking in invasive and non-native species.
Recreation – eliminate fire pits, manage trail erosion, protect any areas that cross wetlands.
No restoration of the site is required.
Increasing population pressures from adjacent areas and in the village need to be considered in the management plan.
DUC:  We want to look ahead seven generations. We want the land to be as beautiful and natural as it is now.

Questions and Answers and Comments
 
Q – What is the status of land around this property?
A – Land is either owned by the City or privately owned.  Land is designated by the City as a Natural Environment Area and zoned at the highest level of protection at EP3.
 
C from the audience – It makes sense to consider a broader management plan for both the DUC property and the adjacent Crazy Horse Trail property. Together these comprise 640 acres of ecologically significant land.
 
C from the audience – People will want to get to the DUC property via the Crazy Horse Trail.
 
Q – The area is vulnerable to fires.  Would DUC consider shutting down access during high fire season?
A – Hadn’t thought about this, but will consider it.
 
C from DUC – We distinguish between winter and non-winter trails.  Winter use is low impact and there is less concern about trail location. Non-winter use brings risk of erosion, tracking in of invasive species seeds, and wildlife disruption.
 
Q – Is the perimeter going to be marked?  Are people who live along the edges expanding into it?
A – There is not too much yard waste.  DUC surveyed the 40 acre portion of the property to confirm property boundaries and this confirmed residents’ views on their property lines.
 
C from the audience – Concern that with the property being “advertised” that it will bring in more people and negatively impact the ecology.
A – We don’t see groomed winter trails – they will be “back country”.  Non-winter trails will be marked and managed. Need to manage property use through education.
 
Q – How do you manage access?  More people will be coming.
A – Parking and access are an issue. There are no easy access points.
 
Q – What about mountain bikes?
A – Rock barrens are particularly sensitive.
 
[There was some discussion from the audience about the Carp Barrens issues, but this is a different area and was not relevant to the meeting.]
 
Q – How do we go about ensuring that people adhere to how DUC wants the property to be used?
A – DUC could have closed the property to people, but good conservation practices help people connect to nature.  FCH will be the local eyes for monitoring. We will look at a reporting mechanism for violations.
 
C from DUC – ATVs are using the property and this needs to be addressed.
C from DUC – Human use has to be dealt with on many properties.  DUC could ultimately decide to close this property to people if human use becomes a problem such that the ecological integrity is threatened.
C from FCH – The Crazy Horse Trail was put in 3 years ago and people have stayed on the trail.  Use is steady, but not high. The Carp Hills have a high tick population so off-trail wandering is not a good idea anyway. The ticks, mosquitos, and black flies keep non-winter use to a hardy few!
 
Q – What about hunting? It’s a traditional use that’s been practiced on the property, primarily duck hunting and deer hunting (bow).
A – Hunting was allowed this fall and will likely continue to be allowed.  Will look at managing this with other human use.

Logo Contest

Calling all artists!  We need a logo. We’re holding a contest and hope to inspire local graphic designers to capture the beauty of the Carp Hills in a simple, but distinctive symbol for our organization. The winner will receive — glory!  Also a ball cap sporting the logo and a three year membership in the FCH.
 
The design must meet the following requirements:

  • Use no more than two colours.
  • The logo must be easy to identify and render in a single colour to make it recognizable in black and white and in silhouette.
  • Incorporate the theme of the landscape as much as possible – hills, rock (Canadian Shield), water, trees, turtles, etc.
  • Incorporate the name “Friends of the Carp Hills”. Use Georgia font.
  • Fit within any shape, with or without a border – square, rectangle, circle, triangle, diamond, etc, – keeping in mind that it will be used on web sites, letterhead, social media, ball caps, etc.
  • Optional consideration: If the words “Friends of the Carp Hills” and a graphic are separate, then the shape of the graphic should be distinct and recognizable without the use of the words.

The deadline is 10 December.  The winner will be announced in the second week of January. Submit your contest entries to info@carphills.com. Please provide the following information in your contest entry:

  • a colour version of your logo in JPEG.
  • a single colour version of your logo in JPEG.
  • your name, address, email, and phone number.

You may submit as many logo entries as you like.

The winner will provide high and low resolution files in JPEG and PDF for the colour and single colour versions. The winner must sign over the rights to use the logo
We reserve the right not to select any entry.  

FCH Signs Agreement with DUC

Friends of the Carp Hills signed an agreement today with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) to support stewardship of DUC’s 440 acre (178 hectare) property in the Carp Hills.  The agreement states that DUC and FCH will develop and implement a management plan for the property to protect it and to provide managed public access.  The agreement is similar to the agreement that FCH has with the City of Ottawa for the Crazy Horse Trail and other City-owned property in the Carp Hills. DUC has commissioned an ecological study of the site that will inform stewardship activities such as trail locations and education.  

Under the leadership of Mark Gloutney, Director of Regional Operations Eastern Region, DUC acquired the property in early 2018 for conservation purposes.

Read more about the DUC conservation property here.

Fall Colours Hike on 21 Oct

We invite you to join us for a guided hike in the Carp Hills on Sunday, 21 October at 1:30pm.  We will start on private property at Donald B. Munro Drive, where we will ascend the escarpment for one of the best views of the Carp River valley.  We’ll then cross over onto city-owned land for a scenic view over a wetland near the Crazy Horse Trail, and return to where we started.

Make sure you wear hiking boots or other sturdy shoes. We will be crossing 15m of wetland on a narrow, temporary boardwalk. Some sections of the hike are wet.

We encourage everyone to bring their cameras and post their photos to our Facebook page.  The best photo (as judged by the FCH executive) will be used as our Facebook banner.

There is no need to pre-register.  The event will run rain or shine (unless it’s pouring!). A donation of $10 is appreciated to help cover our insurance costs.  Since we will be starting and ending on private land, participants must stay with the guides and group.  You will be asked to sign a waiver, which you can download and bring to the event.  We will have some paper copies on-site for those who forget to bring them.

To get there:  Park behind The Carp Cabin at 211 Donald B. Munro Drive.  Walk across the road, through the gate, and up the gravel track until you reach the open grassy area where you will register and gather before the hike. 

People participate in this event at their own risk.  Wear hiking boots and tuck your socks into your pants. The terrain is very rugged and the climb is steep.  The trail may be wet and slippery. You may hike through poison ivy.  Black-legged ticks are present and may carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

You can download and print the waiver (PDF) here.

Carp Barrens: Interim Conservation Measures

As a result of the public meeting we held and the feedback we received about the Carp Barrens, the City of Ottawa has instituted Interim Conservation Measures to protect the land that it owns in this ecologically sensitive area.  On 13 September the City sent a letter outlining these measures to organizations connected to or known to use the Carp Barrens.

City of Ottawa Interim Conservation Letter (PDF)

The letter recognizes the agreement we have with the City to assist with stewardship of city properties in the Carp Hills.  Our next step is to conduct an ecological assessment with a focus on the areas around the unauthorized trails.  We will provide updates as this proceeds.


Trail cutting through orchids.

Forest Therapy in the Carp Hills

SOLD OUT.

In celebration of National Forest Week, we are pleased to offer some” Tree Time” on Tuesday September 25th from 1000 am to 1230 pm. As part of this fundraiser, we will be guided by certified Forest Therapy guide Andrea Prazmowski (http://www.foresttherapyottawa.ca). Over the course of this gentle 2.5 hour exploration, Andrea will invite us to deepen our connection to the forest and nature. Refreshed and calmed by the forest, we will end with snacks and tea.

Meet at the trailhead for the Crazy Horse Trail on March Road at Huntmar Drive. Come dressed with sturdy footwear and protection from possible mosquitoes and ticks.

Tickets are $20 (plus fees) and must be purchased in advance through Eventbrite. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/forest-therapy-in-the-carp-hills-tickets-50164205489

This is a rain or shine event. The forest never disappoints.

If you have any questions, please contact Maureen Rae.

Carp Barrens Feedback and Survey Results

In June we asked people for feedback about human use of the Carp Barrens and we held a public meeting where we facilitated discussions about a set of questions related to conservation and human use.  Councillor Eli El-Chantiry and Senior Planner Nick Stow from the City’s Resiliency and Natural Systems Planning Unitattended.  At the start of the meeting, the FCH and Nick Stow presented information about the area’s ecological significance and the effect of increasing human use on the sensitive landscape and wildlife.  Dr. Stow stated that the area could not sustain the same level of use as the South March Highlands due to the thin soils and lichen-covered rock terrain.  We also asked meeting attendees to fill in a survey.  We divided people into six groups around separate tables. FCH facilitators walked each group through a set of questions.  We recorded the discussion and comments.

We had 75 people attend the meeting, which does not include ten people from the FCH or the City.  Fifty-two people filled in the survey.  On our sign-in sheet, 41% of attendees self-identified as mountain bikers by designating themselves as being from OMBA or MV Trails, but we had more than that attend our meeting who mountain bike according to the survey; i.e. 22 people who self-identified with a mountain bike organization filed in the survey, but 28 people indicated they bike on the Barrens.

Nineteen survey respondents provided additional comments on the back of the survey.  Twelve people who could not attend the meeting sent us comments via Facebook or email.

We have provided all of the survey information, feedback, and notes from the public meeting table sessions to Councillor El-Chantiry and Nick Stow.  City staff will consider feedback from this meeting in a review of its management practices for sensitive habitats.  We thank everyone for taking the time to attend the meeting, write us emails, and fill-in the survey.

Survey Results

Most of the survey questions were not multiple choice, so respondents could provide any information they wished in response.  Some only answered a few questions and left others blank.

Most survey respondents go to the Barrens for hiking (31) and biking (29).  Other uses include snowshoeing/skiing (13), birding (4), and other nature appreciation (6).

Eight people said that parking on Thomas Dolan Parkway is dangerous, but 37 said they had no problems there.

 

We asked people how important it is to protect the animal and plant life (multiple choice).  71% said it was very important, 27% somewhat important, and 2% provided no answer.

 

 

49% think the Barrens should be more accessible for recreation, 33% said noit should not, and 14% said maybe with the remaining providing no answer.

We asked what activities should and should not be permitted.  Respondents could list as many as they wished.  Respondents only supported human-powered activities:  hiking (45), winter pedestrian sports (42), biking (36), and nature appreciation (5).  Motorized vehicles (40), hunting (10), biking (5), and horses (4) were the top activities that should not be permitted.

Public Meeting Table Comments

We asked each table to discuss the following questions:

  1. What are the challenges in providing human use of the Carp Barrens? 
  2. How could these challenges be addressed? 
  3. What do you think about the Carp Barrens accommodating both human use and conservation? Why? How?
  4. What do you think should be the most important goals of a City policy for managing its natural areas? Why?
  5. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss about the Carp Barrens?

Following the meeting, we divided the comments into 9 categories and provide a summary below.

City and Planning

The common themes were that the area should be protected from development and population pressures, the City should have different policies for different areas, the City should look at what has worked elsewhere for mixed use, and it should look at the big picture for the Carp Hills, not just the Barrens.

Conservation

All tables recognized that the Barrens are ecologically sensitive and should be protected.  Protection suggestions ranged from closing it entirely to setting aside zones for recreation and for conservation.  Some suggested that bike use should be taken off the Barrens and moved to another designated area in the Carp Hills.

Education and Communication

Many users did not know that their activities could disrupt wildlife and that moving rocks destroyed habitat.  There was a strong consensus for better communication about the ecological sensitivity of the Barrens and for signage; e.g. “stay on the trail”.  One innovative suggestion was to require users to buy a pass for each season, which could only be obtained after attending an education session.  

Environmental Assessment

There was also strong consensus on the need for an environmental assessment to determine the location of sensitive areas.  The existing trails were made without conservation consultation or regard to habitat, and may need to be moved or closed.

Funding

Only three comments were made about the need for funding for signage or for building a parking lot.

Parking

There was no consensus on parking.  Comments included building a parking lot that would limit the number of users at any one time, widening the shoulder, reducing the speed limit, and leave it as is.

Signage

There was a broad range of comments on signs:  no signs because they ruin the wilderness experience, signs only at TD Parkway, signs explaining the sensitivity of the area, interpretive signs, private property signs at boundaries, “no-go” zones signs, and signs warning hunters about trail users and vice versa.

Trail

Most of the comments were about the need for trail maintenance by a recognized group and making boardwalks to replace the berms constructed in the wetlands.

Use Management

Use Management had by the far the most comments, many related to the concern about attracting more users to the site.  Comment themes were:  prohibiting use at certain times of the year (e.g. breeding season), allowing only winter use, closing trails, keeping people on the trails, restricting the number of users at any one time, having separate trails for hikers and bikers, formally monitoring and managing to prevent over-use and new trail creation, establishing trail use rules, and prohibiting motorized vehicles.  Bikers commented that the area is popular in the spring, because it dries up quickly when the South March Highlands are still wet, and it offers easy to medium level difficulty in unique terrain.

Summary of Feedback – Our Interpretation

The vast majority of people who provided comments and came to the meeting want to protect the plant and animal life of the Carp Barrens.  There is also strong support for human-powered activities on the Barrens.  These two views may be at odds:  conservationists believe the area is too fragile to allow significant human use while others advocate that staying on a trail protects the ecology.  There is a fear that formalizing a trail system will attract even more people and make the problems worse.

There is also a divide between those who want to experience peaceful appreciation of nature without the distraction of bikes and those who believe that both pedestrians and bikes can co-exist peacefully and respectfully.  South March Highlands was cited as both a negative example by the former group (“I don’t go there any more to enjoy nature because of the bikes”) and a positive example by the latter group of successful shared trail use.

There is a need to conduct an environmental assessment for particularly sensitive habitat; e.g. bird nesting areas (particularly ground nesters), turtle nesting areas, turtle basking areas, and locations of rare and sensitive plants (e.g. orchids, lichens, etc).  It should focus on the areas around the current trails.  We are in discussion with the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club about helping with this assessment.  Information would be provided to the City.

Education of all user groups is essential.  Self-policing is the most effective way to regulate rogue use and prevent new trail creation.

We need to work with the City to erect some signs near trail entrances on Thomas Dolan Parkway that are inconspicuous from the road, but clearly visible to people entering the area.

Looking forward a hundred years from now, everyone wants this beautiful area to remain natural and as unaffected by human use as possible.

Carp Barrens Public Meeting

The Friends of the Carp Hills (FCH) invites you to a public meeting at the Huntley Community Centre Mess Hall at 2240 Craig Side Road, on 11 June at 7 p.m. to share your views on the conservation and use of the Carp Barrens on land owned by the City of Ottawa. Councillor El-Chantiry and City staff will be on hand to participate and answer questions.

The FCH has an agreement with the City of Ottawa to maintain low-impact recreation trails for public use in the Carp Hills.  The FCH has offered to host the meeting in this capacity and as a community organization and will publicly post feedback from the meeting on its website.

In the last two years, public use of the Carp Barrens for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, dirt biking, birding, field naturalist outings, orienteering, snowshoeing, and skiing has increased substantially.  Users have created and marked new trails without City authorization. The sensitive vegetation and wildlife of the area have experienced damage and disturbance. Parking on the narrow shoulder of Thomas A. Dolan Parkway creates a safety hazard.

The City’s policies for its natural lands do not distinguish between more and less sensitive habitats in regulating uses. City staff will consider feedback from this meeting in a review of its management practices.

Please come and tell us how you see the future of the Carp Barrens for the preservation of nature and the enjoyment of people.
 
The Carp Barrens
 
The City’s property in the Carp Barrens consists of approximately 1,000 acres on the north and south sides of Thomas A. Dolan Parkway (see map).  The area consists of Canadian Shield covered by delicate lichen and moss mats, forests on thin, easily eroded soils, and provincially significant wetlands.  It provides habitat for numerous species at risk, and is a candidate for the designation of Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (Life Science).

For more information see our web page about the Carp Barrens.

The Carp Barrens property owned by the City of Ottawa is shown in purple.
(Note: The subdivision plan shown in the area south of Thomas Dolan Parkway relates to an old proposal that is no longer in effect.)

History of Hills – Part 2

You never know what you’ll find when you start looking! 

Seeking to know more about the history of “The Carp Hills” we found ourselves fascinated by our visit to an historic farm bordering the northern parts of the ridge . The farm buildings include logs harvested as long ago as 1829. This part of the township was surveyed by Reuben Sherwood in 1822. Sherwood ( 1775-1851)was the son of one of the first Loyalists to settle in Leeds County and was a Provincial Land Surveyor. The property has revealed ancient hide scrapers, and a whole collection of clay pipes , some bearing the mark of Robert Bannerman Clay Pipes from Montreal (1855-1907).

The owner of this wonderful property shared her research about the ancient history of her farm dating back over 11,000 years to the time of the Champlain Sea.

The Champlain Sea was a temporary inlet of the Atlantic Ocean created by retreating glaciers in the last ice age. The sea included lands where we now live . 

In this next map (see below) provided by our host we can see the “island “ of the Carp Ridge floating in the sea. The historic farm we visited had previously been on the shores of the Champlain Sea. Evidence of ancient Indigenous peoples activities is present on this land, including fire rings on what would have been the shoreline.

We have respected the owners desire for anonymity but thank them for their generosity in sharing their research. Perhaps in future editions we can share more news from an archeological assessment of the property.  Stay tuned.

If you have history about the Carp Hills that you’d like to share, Contact Us.