NATURE IS ON YOUR DOORSTEP
The Riverfront Awareness Handbook is designed to provide residents of Greystone Village the tools necessary to understand and protect the important and sensitive natural environmental feature that is in proximity to your home, the Rideau River.
Residents of this community are fortunate to have the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the river right in their backyard. The objective of this booklet is to provide information about the river and make available information on how you, as residents, can be good environmental stewards to ensure the Rideau River and its watershed remain healthy.
The Rideau River starts with Upper Rideau Lake, near Smith Falls, and flows north into the Ottawa River at Rideau Falls in the City of Ottawa. The river with its source lakes is 146 kilometres in length, of which 2.5 km of the Rideau’s shoreline runs along Old Ottawa East. The river was given the French name “Rideau” (curtain) after the appearance of the waterfall as seen by Samuel de Champlain from the Ottawa River.
The Rideau River flows past the entire east boundary of Greystone Village and features a steep, unkempt river bank as well as an informal pedestrian pathway which runs along the top of its bank. A pathway links Brantwood Park to the south and Springhurst Park to the north.
The portion of the river adjacent to Old Ottawa East is considered part of the Lower Rideau River Sub- watershed, specifically the Rideau Falls catchment area (RVCA, 2012a). The regulatory authority charged
with protecting the Rideau River and its tributaries is the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.
The Rideau River has undergone several important transformations since settlement along its banks which began around 1790, but one of the most significant was the construction of the Rideau Canal which occurred between 1826 and 1832. Up river, the historical value of the Rideau Canal, as well as the ecological value of the lakes and rivers that comprise it, were recognized in 2000 with the designation of the Rideau Canal Waterway as a Canadian Heritage River System under Canada’s National River Conservation Program. It has also been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
THE HISTORY OF THE SITE
Greystone Village was historically known as the Oblate Lands, purchased by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1863 from John Fitzsimmons. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate were instrumental in the establishment of Catholic churches and schools in Ottawa East, the University of Ottawa, St. Patrick’s College, and Saint Paul University.
The site was the centre of activity for the Fathers and was fully developed to accommodate their lifestyle. The site included a variety of buildings over the years such as Holy Martyrs School, Ste. Famille Church, a cemetery, a sugar bush, ice rink in the winter, the “White House,” garden houses, vegetable and flower gardens, a barn, chicken house, hand ball court, convent, and orchards. At the centre of the site sits the historic Deschâtelets building originally named St. Joseph Scholasticate, first erected in 1885. It is the one remaining building and has undergone several changes since its construction. The Deschâtelets was built in 1885, while the bell tower was installed in 1886. There was a small convent added at the back of the building in the early 1900s which was later destroyed by fire. It wasn’t until 1925 that the building received the addition of two wings, one on either side of the building. In 1950 two additional stories were added along with the Gothic roof and central chapel. More information on the history of the area can be found in the resources links at the end of this booklet.
The entire site has been heavily modified since the initial site clearing by the Fathers. Fill was placed across the site to protect the lands from flooding. Some of this fill was minimally contaminated with coal ash and construction waste as a result of the standard practices of the day. This fill was removed and replaced with crushed rock over the entire site to construct Greystone Village. Only the shoreline was left untouched along the river where the bank remains quite steep in some areas. Today, a 30m wide naturalized band along the river has been protected from development and only permits limited public use. This buffer zone is important to stabilize the shoreline, maintain water quality, and protect aquatic ecology and wildlife habitat. No composters, garden plots, yard waste piles or other disturbances to the natural buffer area is permitted. The buffer will protect the more sensitive shoreline by filtering overland flows containing sediments, contaminants and non-native species. The only development that has occurred within the buffer is a stonedust footpath along the full stretch and a small portion of the paved Multi-Use Pathway that encroaches into the buffer for a short span near Clegg Street where it winds down the slope to the road and near Springhurst Park. Here, heavy planting and strategic grading is provided to protect the river and its shoreline.
RIPARIAN HABITAT AND THE RIVER
RIPARIAN HABITAT: ALONG THE SHORE
The shoreline is well vegetated with shrubs, trees and other plants growing in a wide swath along the River. This vegetation, along with the leaves, sticks, rotten logs and stones found beneath, provide important habitat for all types of wildlife. The vegetation not only provides shelter, places to build nests and protection from predators, it also attracts insects and grows seeds, berries and nuts to feed the variety of wildlife that use the area.
Take a walk along the path in this area, and you are sure to find many of the bird species of Old Ottawa East, chipmunks and squirrels busily gathering food, or even a snake quietly searching for frogs to eat. The riparian area also acts as an important corridor for wildlife moving between natural areas up and downstream of Greystone Village. In the evenings, you may be able to spot bats and birds such as ‘chimney swifts’ or ‘nighthawks’ feeding on insects flying over the waters of the river. Snapping turtles are commonly seen in early to mid-summer nesting in sunny patches of soil near the river bank.
RIPARIAN HABITAT: IN THE WATER
The river provides fish with four important habitat features: cover, food, good conditions for reproduction, and migration routes. Cover offers areas for escape from predators, competitors and high water flows. Different kinds of substrates (rocks, gravel, sand or mud at the river bottom) provide both cover and suitable spawning conditions for different kinds of fish. Substrates are also important for food availability. Water quality and temperature are critical determinants for food, reproduction and the types of fish that can live in the water.
Slow-moving, shallow water with a muddy botto and plenty of vegetation is best suited for river-dwelling turtles and frogs along this stretch of river. On sunny days in early spring you may see turtles basking on logs, and later in the spring you may find one digging a nest in the soils along the shore. On spring and summer nights, wetlands along the river come alive with the calling of frogs and toads, each species with its own unique song.
CONNECTING YOU TO THE RIDEAU
What happens to the rainwater, snowmelt and any other runoff from properties and roads? It enters the storm sewer system through the sewer grates at the edges of roads and travels through pipes to a nearby waterway. Whatever runs off your property, and the street in front of your home, ends up in the river. Similarly, other storm sewers along this stretch of river carry storm water from other neighbourhoods in Old Ottawa East. Everyone in Old Ottawa East is connected directly to the Rideau River through storm sewers.
PROTECTING NATURE AND THE RIVER IN GREYSTONE VILLAGE
The aquatic quality of the Rideau River has been protected by designing the subdivision so there is a significant separation between residential lots and the River. Homeowners can further assist in protecting the aquatic habitat of the Rideau River by being careful not to direct any potentially harmful substances such as detergents, solvents, oil, fertilizer or pet wastes into the stormwater drains. The proximity of the river means there is a responsibility to be extra careful about such contaminants entering the river during a rainstorm or in the spring. Contaminants are typically picked up during the first few minutes of a rainstorm known as the ‘first flush phenomenon’.
To recharge the groundwater supply and improve quality, residents can build and maintain rain gardens. Rain gardens are designed with a dip at the centre, surrounded by wildflowers, sedges and grasses. Avoid traditional lawn turfs to minimize maintenance and maximize the benefit to wildlife. Locating rain gardens next to hard surfaces such as laneways, sidewalks, driveways and under gutters makes these gardens thrive. Another important way of helping to protect the aquatic resources is sweeping driveways and other hard surfaces to minimize the grit and other fine material that will enter the storm system.
OTHER WAYS TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT AND RIVER SYSTEM.
- Avoid depositing yard waste where it may come in contact with the shoreline and river.
- Leave it “messy”. Woody debris, leaves, rocks, hollow trees and other similar natural materials provide vital habitat for creatures living along the River. They should be left in place and not disturbed by people or pets.
- Be respectful of the shoreline. Do not climb up and down the banks or permit pets to do so. This wears on the smaller vegetation that protects the water quality and aquatic habitat. Soil erosion pollutes the waterway and destabilizes banks.
- For protection of native wildlife, domestic pets should be kept on leashes and outside of the naturalized shoreline and river – cats allowed to roam outdoors are a leading cause of death for birds and small mammals, even if they are declawed.
- Pick up after your pet so the bacteria, viruses and nutrients do not run into the storm sewers and, from there, to the river.
- Use organic methods of pest control. Avoid the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides wherever possible.
- Landscape with native or at least species known to be non-invasive. Non-native trees, shrubs and other plants should be avoided to reduce the potential for invasive non-native species spreading to the shoreline and impacting on the plants and wildlife.
- Use only nursery material that has not been treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.
- Keep drains, culverts and gutters clear of debris so that water will drain properly.
- Consider using a rain-barrel to collect and store rain for use during dry periods.
- Wash your car in a carwash to prevent pollutants from entering the storm sewer.
- Do not remove wildlife, plants or soil from natural areas and do not feed wild animals, including ducks and geese.
- Respect and value the natural heritage water ways.
- Assist in naturalization efforts, for example by volunteering for clean ups of adopted parks or joining in periodic planting and invasive plant removal efforts by Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE) along the Rideau River Nature Trial.
- Join local community groups such as the Ottawa East Community Association (OECA), Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE) and Communities Activities Group (CAG). Learn more at the end of this handout.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE IN YOUR COMMUNITY?
- Native and adapted plant species were selected throughout Greystone Village that thrive in the Ottawa climate and require minimal maintenance and irrigation. These include drought and salt tolerant species.
- Democratized access to the shoreline with a uniquely designed window road for slow moving vehicular traffic, cyclists and pedestrians.
- Street trees provided on all streets.
- A 30m wide band of naturalized shoreline.
- Provision of unique urban outdoor spaces to accommodate Farmer’s Market and community events.
- Maximized the vegetated landscaping and reducing the impervious areas, helping to manage stormwater.
- Dedicated pedestrian and cyclist pathways east- west and north-south.
- Seamless integration with Old Ottawa East, Greystone Village is designed to organize and intensify connectivity through the site to the benefit of its own residents and the greater community beyond. The design recognizes existing linkages and weaves the circulation design into the existing fabric.
- Singles and Town homes in Phase 1 are Energy Star qualified.
- Entire neighbourhood is designed and built with the environment in mind; meeting the LEED for neighbourhood development rating standards.
- For every home built in Greystone, eQ Homes contributed funds to Tree Canada’s National Greening Program to replant an equal number of trees.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT? GET INVOLVED.
The community of Old Ottawa East has a rich history of volunteerism and varied skills in administration, science and arts. Anticipating changes the community has championed a community design plan and a “traditional main street” designation for Main Street. The community has taken an active role in shaping its future.
Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE) is the environmental committee of the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OECA). SLOE has provided inspirational leadership and spearheaded many innovative programs with partners in Old Ottawa East. These Include the Main Farmer’s Market, The Rideau River Nature Trail, the award winning Children’s Garden, neighbourhood energy audits, and the Deep Green program to encourage sustainable development of the institutional lands. SLOE has adopted the local parks and leads regular clean-up activities. SLOE participated in developing a shoreline vegetation management plan with the City of Ottawa and helped plant 1000 trees shrubs and perennials. There are regular efforts to remove invasive plants and shrubs that threaten the plantings. SLOE has received grant money to organize stewardship events, inventory wild life, and produce and install informative panel signs along the river.
The Community Activities Group (CAG) is the volunteer directed organization that runs city recreational and after school programing in the neighbourhood. Among many other programs, programming includes outdoor activities in the Children’s Garden and in association with the Rideau Canoe Club, kayaking and canoeing camps and courses in Brantwood Park.
ottawaeast.ca The Ottawa East Community Association (OECA) is the volunteer run association representing the residents and businesses of Old Ottawa East.
sustainablelivingottawaeast.ca SLOE is a committee of the OECA that is focused on making Old Ottawa East a leading green community in our city.
ottawaeastcag.ca The Community Activities Group of Old Ottawa East (CAG) is a voluntary, not for profit, community-based organization that works in partnership with the City of Ottawa to provide the residents of Old Ottawa East with programming, recreation, and special event opportunities that are local, affordable, inclusive and of interest to members of the community.
mainfarmersmarket.org Main Street Farmers’ Market. Learn what’s in season, who the vendors are and coming events.
oldottawaeastcommunitygarden.wordpress.com The Old Ottawa East Community Garden (OOECG) was established in June 2007 is a volunteer run organization managing 40 plots located with their generous support on Saint Paul University’s property.
ottawachildrensgarden.org The Garden exists to engage the community and to educate the senses, the mind and the imagination while having fun in nature. During the spring, summer and fall there are regular playgroups, art and organic gardening workshops, science activities, harvest feasts and more.
history.ottawaeast.ca “A History of Ottawa East” – Published May, 2004 by the Old Ottawa East Community Association, Written in part and compiled by Rick Wallace; technical direction by David Walker. This site contains a wealth of information on the industrial, institutional and residential history of Old Ottawa East and dozens of maps and photographs taken by local photography enthusiasts in the nineteenth century.
rvca.ca Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) is one of Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities. They are a community based environmental protection agency that works closely with municipal, provincial and federal government partners, landowners and community groups to maintain and improve the natural resources in the Rideau watershed. The RVCA promotes an integrated watershed approach — one that balances human, environmental and economic needs.
nature.ca/rideau The Nature of the Rideau River – The scientists of the Canadian Museum of Nature and their partners have completed the Rideau River Biodiversity Project.
serontario.org The Native Plant Resource Guide for Ontario produced by the Ontario Society for Ecological Restoration – provides information on native species and methods to discourage invasive exotic plants, including suggestions for alternative native species that provide better wildlife habitat.
maps.ottawa.ca/geoottawa GeoOttawa is a good source for interactive maps which can be overlaid with historical aerial photographs to show changes over time. By applying zoning overlay option to these photos and maps, one can see the current hundred year flood level of the Rideau River in the neighbourhood.
chrs.ca/the-rivers/rideau Canadian Heritage River System, Canada’s National River Conservation Program.
Click here to download the Greystone Village Homeowners Guide To: Living Next to Nature as a PDF.