Skip to content

Proposed P3 mega-playstructure could pollute Rideau River

The site of the proposed mega-playstructure at Mooney’s Bay Park on the Rideau River.

There are concerns that a proposed public-private partnership (P3) mega-playstructure could pollute the Rideau River, a federally protected waterway.

The City of Ottawa has agreed to a 4,600-square metre mega-playstructure in Mooney’s Bay Park, which is situated in Ottawa South. The City is also providing Sinking Ship Entertainment, a Toronto-based for-profit entertainment company, with $1 million of public money for this project. The construction of the playstructure will be featured on a reality TV show called Giver.

There have already been concerns expressed about the 16+ mature trees that were cut down for this playstructure. Just after that happened, Save Mooney’s Bay, a local group of residents opposed to this project, stated, “This space is also a flood plain right next to the Rideau Canal Waterway, a World Heritage site. There was no environmental assessment [for the] removal of trees and construction of permanent structures close to the edge of our beloved and historic waterway.”

The Ottawa Citizen has reported, “[Local residents] argued that building the $2-million, 4,600-square-meter playground at Mooney’s Bay Park opposite the Rideau Canoe Club — without public consultation — will scar the waterfront, cause problems with storm water at the foot of a hill built on a former garbage dump, and displace popular charity events.”

And at a recent City Council meeting that voted 15-7 against halting construction on the playstructure, CBC reported “one young man — who identified himself as a lifeguard — expressed concern about how safe it was for so many children to be playing by the water. ‘I’ve pulled children out of the water’, he said, pointing out that the beach is unsupervised some of the time, including last weekend when it was packed.”

In addition, CBC has also reported, “The city likely broke its own rules when it decided to spend $1 million on a project built by a private company without telling council. …[The city’s Ottawa Option Policy] clearly states that ‘city council shall approve the application of the Ottawa Option for all proposals where the value of the revenue, cost, or benefit is expected to equal or exceed $500,000’. However, the 2017-themed playground project was kept completely secret from most councillors and the public until a press release announcing the deal was sent out on May 13.”

The city also likely violated its “Community Partnership Major Capital Grant Program, which is generally meant to help residents improve their local parks and rec infrastructure by splitting the costs of improvements with the city. The first thing you’ll notice is that groups who can apply are ‘community associations/organizations, sports organizations, clubs’. No mention of television production companies. Also, while the city will fund up to 50 per cent of eligible costs for projects on city-owned property, the policy calls for funding of just 25 per cent on non city-owned facilities.”

Now the Save Mooney’s Bay group says, “There is a membrane being placed on top of the site where the play structure is going. We have learned from the Dragon Boat Festival that this membrane must not be punctured. The City is supplying sandbags for Dragon Boat Festival tents because tents can’t be staked to the ground. What will happen to drainage into the Rideau River when over an acre of land is impermeable? What is under that membrane that can’t be disturbed or disclosed? What happens if the membrane is disturbed? Will we know?”

Just recently Ottawa became a Blue Dot community. On May 25, City Council passed the resolution that states, “The City of Ottawa declares that its residents have a right to live in a healthy environment, including: …a right to access nature [and] a right to participate in decision-making that will affect their environment.” Residents are trying to invoke their rights under the Blue Dot designation to protect the river.

And while the former Harper government delisted 99 per cent of waterways in Canada from federal protection when it gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Rideau River is still a protected waterway. Ottawa South MP David McGuinty, whose riding includes Mooney’s Bay Park, is opposed to the mega-playstructure and has been asked to pursue action against it using this federal water protection law.

Local residents are expected to raise these issues at a Community Outreach and Consultation Session that will take place on Tuesday May 31 at Riverside United Church, 3191 Riverside Drive, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Construction on the playstructure is scheduled to start as early as this week (reportedly on Monday May 30 at 7 am – the day before the City consultation session with concerned residents!).