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Response to the Proposed Petrie Islands Park


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by the Ottawa Field Naturalists' Club
Conservation Committee
10 July, 2002


Summary: The OFNC recognizes the need for an east end beach and park similar to Mooneys Bay or Westboro Beach in the west end. We support, therefore, the proposed Option Two, expansion onto the current sand extraction site, minimal facilities, and re-vegetation with native species. We discourage any road widening, or any major boat launch facilities. We urge city planners, when considering the proposed beach and park, to remain aware of the islands' special features: its unique ecology, exceptional plant diversity including a number of species considered regionally significant, and its importance as wildlife habitat.

The Ottawa Field Naturalists'Club (OFNC) offers the following comments on the proposed public park and beach design for the Petrie Islands.

Petrie Islands Park and Public Beach

Over the last four years the Petrie Islands have become increasingly popular as a destination for people seeking beach facilities in the east end. The Friends of Petrie Island (FOPI) have been largely responsible for this expanded usage through their work in grooming the existing beach site, creating a picnic area, developing a small, sandy parking lot and a trail system.

Beach Facilities and the Natural Values of Petrie Islands

While the OFNC recognizes that beach facilities are an important recreational feature, we are concerned with retaining and protecting the integrity of the natural values of the islands west of the existing beach area.

While the west end of Ottawa has several beaches ,the present Petrie Islands beach area provides the only waterfront park in the east end of Ottawa, and as such is heavily used during the summer, particularly on weekends. The majority of visitors stay in the beach area or walk the nearby Turtle Trail. The main trail is less wel lused, although "usage" is a relative term. Compared to numbers encountered on the trail four years ago, the current usage could be considered high, but compared to the hundreds of visitors to the beach and picnic area on any given summer weekend, the numbers of main trail users are low. Part of the FOPI philosophy behind creating the beach and picnic facilities was to encourage people to enjoy the island's eastern portion while hopefully preserving the larger western portion in a natural state. So far this is working well. The FOPI, with the assistance of the OFNC, offer guided walks, open houses, natural history brochures and interpretive material to introduce visitors to the unique features of the islands while instilling respect for the natural areas.

Proposed Options for the Petrie Island Park

During the June 24, 2002 Open House, the City of Ottawa presented four options or 'concepts' for the Petrie Islands Park, with varying proposed levels of developed facilities.

Although the OFNC would prefer to see the islands left alone as a Conservation Reserve with no built facilities, we also recognize the need for an east end beach and park where families can enjoy swimming and picnics in a largely natural setting, and where visitors can pursue other passive recreational pursuits such as walking and nature study.

Therefore, the OFNC supports Option Two as presented at the Open House. In this Option, the beach is extended eastwards on to the present site of the Grandmaitre sand extraction operation, the shoreline is left in a natural state, and built amenities are minimal. We support the inclusion of a small washroom and change room unit, more picnic tables and a modest parking expansion, the latter on the site of the sand extraction operation and not to encroach upon the wooded area southwest of the site.

Other built facilities

We would support a small boat-launch operation such as exists near the causeway, for canoes, kayaks and other small non-motorized boats, but not a major boat launch facility such as a marina.

Components proposed in other options for the beach site included wading pool, beach volleyball courts and playground structure. For several reasons, we are not in favour of any of the above, nor of any sort of food operation, whether a fast-food take-out or a restaurant. Such facilities would trigger a further increase in numbers of visitors to the eastern area of the Islands, overloading the limited area suitable for parking, and create difficult management problems in regard to littering of the beach, the dry-land portions of the conservation area, and most of all, the wetland areas which would be almost impossible to keep free from litter.

Re-vegetation of beach area

We would like to see some re-vegetation of the current sand extraction site consistent with the present beach area, where the scattered trees provide needed shade. We encourage the use of native trees and shrubs in any planting done. It could be beneficial to provide nesting trees for some species of birds. The Ottawa Forests Advisory Committee should automatically be brought in to this process. The Ottawa Field Naturalists will be pleased to assist them in such efforts, as we are already doing in at least one other instance, and expect to be so doing on other projects.

Road widening

We are concerned that the Trim Road extension on to the islands, at present unpaved, might be widened considerably. We believe that once the sand extraction site closes and the truck traffic, at times heavy, is done away with, the road as it now exists, would be sufficient. We would support paving the road if the road remains the width it now is. We believe that a wide, two or four lane road would significantly alter the island, encourage drivers to go faster, and have an overall detrimental effect on the island ecology.

References

Hanrahan, Christine and Stephen Darbyshire. The Petrie Islands: Naturally Special. 1999. Trail & Landscape 33(2):59-73

Ottawa Field Naturalists' Club. Response to the Proposed Trail Designs, Interpretive Trail Themes and Draft Environmental Inventory. 17 January, 2000.



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