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:
- Cover three seasons – spring, summer, and fall – in 2019.
- Map the trail network.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Provide three reports, one at the end of each season.
donations from organizations,
grant applications, and
donations from individuals like you.