Carp Barrens Trail Study

The City of Ottawa owns approximately 400 hectares (1,000 acres) on the north and south sides of Thomas A. Dolan Parkway within the Carp Hills called the Carp Barrens.  The area consists of Canadian Shield covered by lichen and moss mats, forests on thin soils, and provincially significant wetlands.  It provides habitat for numerous species at risk, and lies within a designated candidate Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (Life Science).

Since 2016, public use of the Carp Barrens for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, dirt biking, birding, field naturalist outings, orienteering, and winter sports has increased.  Users have constructed and marked new trails without impact assessments, authorization or input by the City of Ottawa, causing disturbance to wildlife and vegetation.

The Friends of the Carp Hills (FCH) have an agreement with the City of Ottawa “to maintain and operate for public use low impact recreation trails that are sensitive to the preservation of the special ecology of the Carp Hills.”   As a result of our public meeting in June 2018 and in consultation with the City, FCH commissioned a trail study in 2019.  Consulting ecologist Holly Bickerton led the study, assisted by knowledgeable volunteers, both field naturalists from OFNC and professional ecologists.

The study’s purpose was to provide information about the impact of unauthorized trails created and used primarily by mountain bikers and hikers.  Over three phases carried out from May through September 2019, the study identified trail issues that posed a risk to the ecology of the area and recommended mitigation measures.  We provided three reports to the City of Ottawa for consideration in developing a policy for managing this area.  In January 2020, we met with City staff and with Councillor El-Chantiry to discuss how to implement the recommendations.  We will provide more information about the plan soon and hold public engagement meetings.

Read about the the Carp Hills and its rock barrens in our Background information.

Read about the Ecology of the Carp Barrens.

These posts provide a chronology of our activities for protecting the Carp Barrens.

11 June 2018 – Carp Barrens Public Meeting.

July 2018 – Carp Barrens Feedback and Survey Results

September 2018 – Carp Barrens Interim Conservation Measures by the City of Ottawa

January 2019 – Carp Barrens Trail Study Background

July 2019 – Carp Barrens Trail Study, Phase 1 Report Summary

November 2019 – Carp Barrens Trail Study Phase 2 Report Summary

Our grant from the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club required us to write an article for the club’s quarterly magazine, Trail & Landscape.  We decided to serialize the article across three issues corresponding to the three phases of the trail study.  The first two articles have been published:

Environmental Impact Assessment of Trails on the Carp Barrens:  Part 1 of 3.

Environmental Impact Assessment of Trails on the Carp Barrens:  Part 2 of 3.


The Friends of the Carp Hills would like to acknowledge the many hours of volunteer time donated to Carp Barrens Trail Study and financial support from: generous individual donors, the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club, the City of Ottawa’s Rural Community-Building Grants Program, and the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club. We also appreciate support from Councillor Eli El-Chantiry and the City of Ottawa. We could not have accomplished so much without your help. Thank you