Images of Greenspace Lost

From running to paddling, children valued this greenspace for the variety of their activities it supported. One little girl was so sad to see the trees gone because she and her friends played tag around them.

Ottawa Lions, Nakkertok, Ottawa Schools

Every night of the week little ones and middle ones were charging around the greenspace by the Sue Holloway Fitness park. The area was the Start/Finish and part of the course of high school and elementary cross country meets.

Canadian Canoe Kayak Championships 2015

All pictures near or in greenspace that is lost, doing activities that couldn’t happen without greenspace and trees for shade.

Spectators close to shore, kids playing around with found objects at festival, kids warming up on Mooney’s Bay, kids using old bridges for shelter and paddle storage, it was a short walk from boats laid out and ready for racing to the bay.

What it looks like today

Our Belief in Change

Dear Prime Minister

Re: Mooney’s Bay Playground

I believed in the change your team was offering at the last election. I did my part to make that change happen. I applaud the fact that your government has restarted the process on both the Victims of Communism monument and the Civic Hospital expansion on the Experimental Farm where it should have started in the first place — with public consultation.

So, I write to you today with sadness and dismay as another scenario unfolds in Ottawa regarding appropriation of federal public space, a piece of land in a historic waterway, for a development that was negotiated in secret and pushed through various levels of government with no consultation whatsoever despite the calls from thousands of residents to stop the project and hold public consultations.

Some of the facts to date: In January, 2016, a TV production company, seeking to recover from failed negotiations for a playground building reality show in Halifax, made a deal instead with Ottawa city officials. For $1M of public money, the company would build $2M worth of playground if an appropriate location could be found quickly and the whole arrangement could be secured without any public fuss. A pretty piece of Mooney’s Bay Park was offered up. The deal was closed on April 15, despite the fact that the city still had to do an environmental assessment and seek permission from the NCC from which the city leases that land. Meanwhile, the city made sure the project was seen as a “done deal”. Trees were cut down and preparation began on the site. Then, and only then, the embargo on information about this project was lifted and the public was informed via press release on May 13.

When the NCC finally approved the deal in late May — apparently a result of a phone call with the Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and some city staff — Ottawa residents had already taken to social media opposing the proposal, joining facebook and twitter groups. There were dozens of interviews with local media and letters/articles in local papers. An on-line petition was started, a gofundme site was started. It was standing room only at the one “information” meeting the city was forced to hold after trees were already being removed from the site. Does the NCC make any investigations of its own before approving such a proposal? A quick google search should instantly have sent up some red flags. Did the city officials tell the NCC that the community was up in arms? The NCC has guidelines about public consultation. They were not followed.

Citizens have contacted everyone in the federal government who could and should stand up against this project because of the illegitimate process — yourself, Mr. Prime Minister, Minister McKenna, Minister Joli, MP David McGuinty, as well as the NCC. Two members of the Save Mooney’s Bay Coalition addressed the NCC publically at their AGM June 27 asking that the decision be reconsidered, given the circumstances. The response, if there is one, coming back from communications with federal and NCC officials is “perhaps there are some lessons to be learned.”

This is not worthy of the trust electors put in your message of change. Change requires political will — and that is what has been missing on the part of all elected officials on this file — political will to actually back away from a wrong decision and start over. You did it on the “Victims of Communism Monument” and you are doing it on the reconsideration of the use of historic Experimental Farm lands for hospital expansion. This situation at Mooney’s Bay falls into exactly the same category — a worthy project set in the wrong place due to lack of public consultation and about which the public has expressed a very strong negative reaction. Governments are elected to serve the will of the people. In this case, citizens have been ignored, brushed aside and marginalized at every turn. I am asking your government to find the political will to immediately restart the process on the use of this land at Mooney’s Bay.

What you can do:

Contact the Prime Minister’s office through this link and fill out the form using this letter!

Send this to everyone!

Quick list of email addresses: (copy and paste);;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Resign, Mayor Jim Watson

The Bulldog is maybe the first but hopefully not the last to suggest that Mayor Jim Watson should resign and City Council step up and do some management of the City. The snow plowing cuts are just the final straw.

Jim Watson Should Resign(Ken Gray, Bulldog Ottawa, June 30, 2016)

Snow-plowing: City Council Must Take Control(Ken Gray, Bulldog Ottawa, June 30, 2016)

Argument for Play Equity in Ottawa

Mooney’s Bay is the wrong place for an additional 10 + play structures, for so many reasons.

This is the argument for play equity for all of Ottawa’s children.

The City’s service standard for neighbourhood parks is that a resident
should be able to access a neighbourhood  park by an 8 to 10 minute
walk, which is approximately a distance of 800 meters. [March 2012 Parks
and Pathway Development Manual pg 36]. The bus stop at Mooney’s Bay is farther, the bathrooms are 600 meters. They took a school down across from Mooney’s Bay park in the past 10 years because there were no children to attend it.

According to personal communication with Dan Chenier, the city has 403,173 residents, 790 active parks and 573 play structures.

To our knowledge, the Parks Department has never mapped the 573 plays structures to the city’s 403,173 residents to see if every child in the city  has equal access to a place to play close to home.

Until this is done, it is irresponsible for the Parks Department to use city money to build 10 more play structures at Mooney’s Bay which already has one, when there are likely areas of the city that are under served.

There is still time to suspend the contract for the playground.

Please act with accountability and responsibility and refer the mega-play structure at Mooney’s Bay to the Community and Protective Services Committee for proper review.

Yours sincerely,

What you can do:

Sign and send this email to all city councillors and city manager.

Quick List of emails:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

NCC also didn’t consult

We learned at the NCC meeting on June 27, that NCC’s Board Members discussed the Mooney’s Bay Playground at an Executive Committee Meeting and held discussions with the mayor, Jim Watson.

What is this? Yet another secret meeting with no public consultation!

The Mayor is not “the public”.
A committee meeting held with a telephone conference call is neither public engagement nor public participation.

The NCC’s Public Engagement Policy on their website says they will consult.

Here is their Policy Statement #1:

“Members of the public shall be informed or consulted on NCC plans and projects in the public domain that will have a lasting impact on their quality of life or routine use of NCC lands, and where there is an opportunity to influence decisions about said plans or projects.”

The NCC policy definition is:
The principles of public engagement shall apply to all NCC projects including those where the NCC is working in collaboration with partners.

NCC land leased to the city is still NCC land, so the policy applies.

Better not to have a policy if you don’t intend to follow it.

The ASK: There is still time to ask the City Councillors to suspend the play ground at Mooney’s Bay and have the playground project referred to the Community and Protective Services Committee, responsible for City Parks and playgrounds for their review.

NCC Annual Public Meeting, June 28, 2016 – Floor Audio

See Karin Howard around 30 minute into the video, Isla Patterson is at about 43 min.

What you can do:

  1. Write a letter to City Councillors, NCC and Catherine McKenna, noting that the NCC as well has not followed their policies. Demand that they act to suspend the contract and have the project referred to the Community and Protective Services Committee for proper review and approval. (list of email addresses below)The members of the NCC Executive Committee are: Michael Poliwoda, Kay Stanley and Bob Plamondon.Russell Mills and Dr Mark Kristmanson are also ex-officio members of this committee.
  2. Complain to the NCC ombudsman: Click the link for the pdf below. Fill it out and submit online. Complaint Form Final 2015 mm-94595_0
  3. Send a letter to the NCC ombudsman,
  4. Use the text of this press release add your own spin and send it to the NCC executive to tell them what you think of secret deals for UNESCO World Heritage waterfront.

List of email addresses for City Councillors, NCC and Catherine McKenna:

Safety of Playground Near Water

Excellent letter on the issue of safety of playgrounds located near water.

Rick O’Connor, Ottawa City Solicitor
Diane Deans, Ottawa City Councillor

Dear Mr. O’Connor,

I’m writing to draw your attention to what I believe will be a serious lapse in the city’s duty of care regarding the construction of a giant playground at Mooney’s Bay.

It is my understanding that the city has not done a risk analysis of the site with respect to its close proximity to the river and to Hog’s Back Falls and most importantly, is not requiring the builder to address any of the obvious water safety issues arising from the choice of location (which, as you are aware, was rushed through without following the city’s own processes).

City managers have apparently taken the position that this project is no different than any other riverside facility. I believe this to be a significant error in judgement that may have grave implications for the future.

The Mooney’s Bay playground is being described by the city and the proponent as the largest playground in Canada. Although this claim is factually incorrect, it will certainly be one of the largest and busiest playgrounds in the province. Clearly then, it should not be treated as just another riverside facility.

As just one example, landscape industry best practices for playgrounds located near water require careful attention to sight lines. This is so that caregivers can easily monitor their children. In the case of Mooney’s Bay, the water will almost certainly be obscured by the numerous play structures, the crowds of children, and the trees along the shoreline and yet there is no requirement for the builder to address any of these kinds of safety issues beyond ensuring that the structures themselves meet CSA standards.

The book Planning and Urban Design Standards by the American Planning Association (Wiley, 2007) notes:

“The water feature should be placed so that it is highly visible. Providing water play activities in neighbourhood and regional playgrounds where supervision may not be present at all times should receive serious consideration as to the safety and legal issues involved.”

Landscape Online writes:

“Ponds or other designed water shapes are inherently hazardous because of the water element. Water shape designers have to be considerate of safety of such environments as does any other designer of user built environments, particularly if near playgrounds.”

ASTM standard section 5.176 “Location of Play Areas Near Bodies of Water” states: “Outside play areas shall be free from …unprotected swimming and wading pools, ditches, quarries, canals, excavations and other bodies of water.”

It should be noted that the Mooney’s Bay site is especially problematic for the following reasons:

  • Partially surrounded by water
  • Close proximity to water
  • Shoreline obscured by trees
  • Location to the *side* of the supervised beach (rather than behind) which will lead to children wandering back and forth from beach to play structures in an unsupervised area along the river bank.
  • Strong currents due to the nearby Hog’s Back Falls.

This letter is, of course, not intended to be a comprehensive risk analysis. As I noted earlier, performing such an analysis clearly falls within the scope of the city’s duty of care. Failure to perform even a cursory review of drowning hazards and to ensure that the builder performs necessary mitigation could, in light of the information provided in this letter, be reasonably considered an abdication of responsibility perhaps bordering on gross negligence.

As a final note, I’d like to draw your attention to the following list of tragic headlines, all of which resulted from a child wandering away from a municipal playground into a nearby body of water. I have more cases in my file, but I think this should give an indication of the  nature of the problem.

Three year old drowns in Peoria, Ill.

Family of drowned boy, 2, says park needs fence near river,

Families call for fences where two teenagers drown

Toddler’s drowning prompts council to explore installing fences at parks on the water

Playground close to river where 4-year-old drowned

The family of a 3-year-old boy who wandered off a city playground and apparently fell into the river where he drowned has sued the day care center that was watching him that day

Residents call on town to put up fences following drowning of toddler

I am therefore asking that you, as the city solicitor, recommend that the project be put on hold until a comprehensive risk analysis is performed or at least provide an opinion as to why such an analysis is not needed. I think it’s important to have your opinion formally noted and on the public record so that if a tragedy does occur, the city’s explicit decision at this critical juncture to either address or not address the risk of child drowning is clear. For that reason, I’m copying the mayor, city councillors and the media on this letter and asking that this letter and your opinion be read into the council records. Due to the time sensitive nature of the project, I’m hoping that my councillor, Ms. Deans, could raise this point at Wednesday’s meeting.

I look forward to reading your response at your earliest convenience.

Best regards,

Save Mooney’s Bay Press Release, June 20, 2016


A Coalition of Concerned Citizens



Open letter cites importance of the space to local athletic events, environmental concerns, need for due diligence and transparency, lack of public input

Ottawa, ON, June 20, 2016 – Eleven Olympic athletes and local sports dignitaries joined environmental activists and concerned citizens today calling for a relocation of the giant playground proposed for Mooney’s Bay and renaturalization of the site that was once a much-­loved nature space. Council and city staff had quietly fast-tracked the playground this spring without following its own guidelines for public consultation. The entire process from initial proposal to the destruction of the site was completed in only 15 weeks.

Continue reading “Save Mooney’s Bay Press Release, June 20, 2016”

Open Letter to Ottawa City Council

This is an open letter sent from SAVE MOONEY’S BAY, a Coalition of Concerned Citizens on June 20, 2016.

Dear Mayor Watson and City Councillors,

Renaturalize this piece of land and relocate the giant playground to a more appropriate site. We ask you to preserve Mooney’s Bay Park as a nature experience for the children of the future.

This site plays an important role in the life of this city. It hosts the Dragon Boat Festival every year and the National Canoe and Kayak Championships every five years, events that contribute substantially to the social and economic life of the city. It is used year round by athletes and citizens as a fitness and training area. The proposed playground inhibits all these and other uses of this 5.5 acres of unique parkland, part of the Rideau Canal Waterway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The speed with which this giant playground project has been implemented, about 15 weeks from proposal to signed contract and site destruction, has not allowed time for public consultation or a full assessment of the environmental impact of the project on this unique area. The sequence of events that has led to this situation has shown complete disregard for the city’s own processes.

The contract with Sinking Ships Entertainment Inc., which came into effect April 15, was signed before environmental assessments had been received. The contract contained no contingencies should the environmental assessments indicate that the site was not suitable for the proposed playground.

We find this completely dismissive of the importance of such assessments. Actually, more than 16 trees were removed from the site prior to the city informing the public about the project and prior to the receipt of environmental studies. The soil study, which was not received by the city until June 2, six weeks after the contract was signed, indicates that the City should complete a preliminary human health and ecological risk assessment (HHERA) for due diligence purposes.

How does the city intend to address this recommendation? The Species at Risk study indicates the presence of one threatened species, the Blanding’s Turtle, and two species of special concern, the Snapping Turtle and the Milksnake. In addition, the report notes that all migratory bird species must be protected from harm under the Migratory Birds Act, 1994, and screening by a qualified avian biologist must be in place when vegetation is to be removed between April 15 and August 30. There have been no assurances that mitigation measures were, are, and will continue to be undertaken to address these issues.

In short, the city is moving ahead with this project without respect for the concerns of Ottawa citizens nor regard for the nature and historical use of this park, or a plan to address the issues identified in the environment assessments.

Renaturalize this piece of land and relocate the giant playground to a more appropriate site.


Elisabeth Arnold, Sustainable Community Development Consultant, Ottawa City Councillor (1994­2003), and member of the Canadian National Canoe Team (1977­1984).

Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, recipient of the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel) and the 2011 Earth Care Award (Sierra Club, U.S.)

Laryssa Biesenthal, women’s rowing bronze medalist (1996, 2000); Olympic women’s rowing coach (2004, 2012), Chartered Professional Rowing Coach, Fast and Female, Ontario Program Manager and mother of 2 young girls who LOVE TO CLIMB TREES!

Nancy Biggs, Member of the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee, Active Transportation Subcommittee

Iain Brambell, Three time Olympian; 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Men’s Rowing; Own The Podium High Performance Advisor Page | 2

Wayne Dustin, Two time Olympian, Cross Country Skiing (Calgary 1988, Albertville 1992)

Mariann Domonkos, 10 time Canadian table tennis Champion, Olympian and former National Coach

Wade Farquharson, Head Coach, Rideau Canoe Club

Perianne Jones, Vancouver 2010 Olympian; Member of Canadian National Cross Country ski team (2001­-2015)

Greg Joy

Tom Hall, 2008 Beijing Olympics, bronze medalist (Sprint canoeing).

Sue Holloway, Four time Olympian (Cross Country skiing and Sprint kayak) 1984 Silver and Bronze medalist

Mike Scott, Rideau Commodore for over 25 years, Member of the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame

Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team, road racing club founded in 1981, trains out of Mooney’s Bay in the Summer and Fall

XC Ottawa, local cross country ski team and xc ski news resource

Latest signatories:

Carolyn Waldo, 1988 Olympic double gold medalist & former CTV Sports broadcaster

Kristin Gauthier, 2008 Beijing Olympic Canoe Kayak team member, finalist in kayak doubles (K2).

Rhys Hill, 2008 Beijing Olympic Canoe Kayak team member.