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 Trail Study – Phase 1 Report

Consulting ecologist Holly Bickerton carried out Phase 1 of the Carp Barrens Trail Study in May and June, and is just wrapping up her report.  Her focus was on determining the extent of the trail network, physical impacts, and the presence of early breeding birds

Holly had volunteer help from FCH, from bryologist Cassandra Robillard (Canadian Museum of Nature), and from the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club Bird Committee.  Experienced birders Bob Cermak (Committee Chair) and Bernie Ladouceur surveyed for night calling birds between 3:30am and 5:30am on one day and in late evening on another.  Thank you!

Early results confirm that the Carp Barrens provide critical habitat for Species at Risk:

  • Significant numbers of Eastern Whip-poor-will (Threatened) and Common Nighthawk (Special Concern) were observed.  A Nighthawk nest was found near a trail.  Both birds are ground nesters and easily disturbed by human traffic.
  • Blanding’s turtles (Threatened) and Snapping turtles (Special Concern) were found on both north and south sides.  The area is likely used by Blanding’s turtles for nests, which we will look for in Phase 2.  Turtles were easily disturbed during many observations, even from a distance.  Repeated disturbance of turtle basking by human traffic disrupts thermoregulation and increases energy expenditure.
  • Eastern Wood Peewees (Special Concern) were heard on multiple occasions.

A number of regionally rare plants were also confirmed as was the presence of non-native species along the trails.

Holly’s costs were covered by donations from individuals (over $1500 received), a donation from the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club, and by a research grant from OFNC.  Phases 2 and 3 will be covered by a City of Ottawa grant and by the OFNC grant (see article below).

Background information about the study and its purpose are available at:  Carp Barrens Trail Study.

DUC Property Management Plan

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has completed a management plan for its 440 acre property in the Carp Hills.

In February 2019, DUC met with representatives of FCH and the City of Ottawa to discuss the development of a 5 year management plan.  We used the property’s conservation objectives and the ecological study conducted in 2018 to guide the discussion and our decisions.  The conservation objectives are:

  • The Carp Hills property will be managed for the long-term conservation of its environmental, ecological, and biological values.
  • The Carp Hills property may be managed for provision of low impact, recreational uses, where those do not negatively affect the conservation objective.

Highlights of the Plan

Recreational Use – Permitted Activities

  • Pedestrian activities
    • Non-winter use – hiking on designated trail(s) only, which will be marked.
    • Winter use – hiking, snowshoeing, skiing – prefer people stay on the trail.
    • The trail will be accessed via a connection to the Crazy Horse Trail.
  • Snowmobiles
    • DUC has signed an agreement with the West Carleton Snowmobile Club that allows use of an existing trail that runs on the north and west sides of the property. The club has put up signs designating the trail for snowmobile use only and no ATVs.
  • Hunting
    • Hunters have traditionally used the property and DUC would like to continue to allow hunting in compliance with the City Discharge of Firearms By-law with limitations on the distance away from residences.
    • DUC will develop a hunting plan by fall 2019.  Potential conflict between trail use and hunting will be addressed.
    • Hunters must have permission from DUC to hunt on the property.
  • Dogs
    • Allowed, but must be on leash or under direct control.  Owners must pick up and remove dog waste.

Prohibited Activities

  • No ATV’s, dirt bikes, or other motorized vehicles
  • No mountain bikes or fat bikes
  • No camping or camp fires

Nature Hike: Spring has Sprung in the Carp Hills

Event moved to our rain date – Sunday, 28 April due to poor weather.

Join Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Rich Russell for a nature hike on the Crazy Horse Trail on Sunday, 28 April at 9:00am.  Pre-registration, payment of $20, and signing a waiver are required.  Discover early-arrival migratory birds, early-emergent wildflowers, amphibians, and maybe turtles.

Rich is a Carp Hills resident, wildlife biologist, and outdoors enthusiast.  We’re lucky to get some of Rich’s time before he heads up north in May.  Rich has offered to bring an acoustic recording unit to discuss the application of technology in bird monitoring programs, like for the upcoming Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas.  He says that migration is already underway so we should see/hear kinglets, phoebes, pine warblers, thrushes, and sparrows. We may hear wood frogs and peepers.  If it’s a sunny day perhaps a winter-weary turtle will be basking in one of the ponds where we’ve seen them in the past.


For the enjoyment of participants we are limiting this event to 25 people.  Ten people signed up at our AGM so act soon!  The cost is $20 per person; children under 16 are free.  Proceeds help cover the cost of our insurance so that we can offer these events.  Please register by buying your ticket(s) on-line using Eventbrite: Spring Has Sprung in the Carp Hills.


The trail will be wet, muddy, and slippery.  Rubber boots are a requirement as we will likely be wading through large puddles.  

Download, print, and sign the waiver (PDF).  Bring your copy to the event.  We will have a few blank copies on-site if you forget to bring it.

Meet at the trailhead on March Road at Huntmar Drive by 8:50am to sign-in before our 9:00 am start.

Bring binoculars, a camera, and your curiosity!

Rain Date

We will go out rain or shine.  However, if it’s raining hard, we may postpone the event to Sunday, 28 April. Check our web site for confirmation.

Impacts of Dogs on Wildlife

The spring melt down is revealing a large amount of dog poop on the Crazy Horse Trail and in the woods. We’re lucky to have this trail open for dog walkers.  Dogs are banned in many sensitive natural areas owned by the City and the National Capital Commission.

There are many justifications used by dog owners for not picking up dog poop.  But there are studies that show how dog poop has deleterious effects on wildlife and the environment:

  • It’s not just your dog leaving its waste; it’s many dogs a day doing so. This volume of waste with alien microbes from non-native animals is introduced into an ecosystem that is not set up to handle it.
  • Dogs can transmit diseases such as Canine Distemper Virus to wildlife.
  • Dog waste fouls the water.
  • It’s unsightly and smelly for trail users.
  • Your dog can get sick from eating other dogs’ poop or from lapping up fouled water.

For reference, we’ve loaded a two page summary of research on: Impacts of Dogs on Wildlife (PDF)

So if you’re out with your dog on the trail, please be a responsible owner:

  • Keep your dog under control by the trail at all times.
  • Pick up and carry out your dog’s poop.
  • Do not let your dog chase wildlife.


Carp Barrens Trail Study

Update on July 2019:


We’ve received over $1500 from individual donors.  Your donations allowed us to start the research in May and June, a critical time for turtle and ground nesting bird observations. Thank you!

The Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club has awarded us a research grant to help with study expenses.

We received a generous donation from the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club.

We received a Rural Community-Building Grant from the City of Ottawa, which will cover the remaining costs.

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.

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.