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Maude Barlow calls on Ottawa mayor to renaturalize site at Mooney’s Bay Park

Clockwise: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson; construction crews remove brush and topsoil from the park; a mature tree cut down for the proposed playstructure; a City sign announcing the “Giver 150” playground.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has joined with numerous other prominent Ottawa residents to call on Mayor Jim Watson and City Council to “renaturalize” an area of Mooney’s Bay Park that has been bulldozed to make way for a mega-playstructure.

The City of Ottawa is supporting the construction of a 4,600-square metre Canada-shaped mega-playstructure in Mooney’s Bay Park, which is situated in Ottawa South near the Rideau River. The City is providing $1 million of public money for this project. Sinking Ship Entertainment, a Toronto-based entertainment company, want to film the making of the playstructure for a reality TV show. The City’s Ethics Commissioner is now investigating the company for not registering as a lobbyist before bringing this proposal to the City as is required. Sixteen trees have been removed from the site, as well as the park’s footbridges and an adult fitness structure. The area is now covered in $200,000 of gravel and wood chips.

The open letter released today asks the mayor and city council “to preserve Mooney’s Bay Park as a nature experience for the children of the future”.

The letter highlights, “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.”

The letter also notes:

  • “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.”

  • “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.”

  • “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.”

Along with Barlow, this letter was signed by four time Olympian Sue Holloway, former city councilor Elisabeth Arnold, Rideau Canoe Club head coach Wade Farquharson, and numerous others.

In addition to this letter, a recent column by Ken Gray called on Mayor Watson to, “Say you’re sorry. We were eager to give Ottawa the best playground possible and we failed to take the public into consideration. We overpaid. We got the location wrong. We just got it all wrong. We’ll see what we can negotiate with our private partner and maybe we can come up with something that better suits the citizenry. We’ll bring our new solution to the public for debate. We’ll do our best to get it right.”

But so far the City doesn’t seem to be listening. Last week the CBC reported, “The production company takes over the site at Mooney’s Bay after the Dragon Boat Festival wraps up on June 26, when the next phase of construction will commence.”

Save Mooney’s Bay is a local group of residents working to defend the park. They can be found on Twitter at @SaveMooneysBay and on Facebook here.

Further reading
Mooney’s Bay playground roll-out misplayed, officials admit (CBC news report)
Which rules did City of Ottawa break with Mooney’s Bay playground? (CBC analysis)