From Parking to Parks

Miracles do happen at City Hall.

Not often. But one is unfolding right now. Pay attention.

Instead of paving over more of our scarce parkland for vehicle parking, instead of just whining forever about the lack of City park space in our downtown neighborhoods … our parks dept has actually agreed to expand a park onto the road allowance. And removing some vehicle parking too! Yes, this miraculous green space expansion is happening right here in little ole’ Ottawa.

Chaudiere Park is a small pocket park on Elm Street in West Side Ottawa. The proposed expansion replaces on-street parking with a more livable expansion of the adjacent park. The reclaimed strip of land is about 8′ x 140′.

But it is more useful than the small dimensions might indicate. The main part of the park is for little kids — a tot lot, a wading pool, gazebo — with another third for teens in form of a resurfaced basketball court.

The strip of land along the front curb will be useful for passive functions, like sitting and conversing, resting whilst taking the dog for its walkies, people watching, etc. The new wiggley fence of the main park will actually “push” some more landscaped space out toward the passive sitting area. Right now, there are decorative boulders and perennials in this strip. Hopefully, it can be restored as an even better garden for the enjoyment of perambulators and procastinators.

I’m not sure how “fixed” the plan is. For example, the benches along the street are rather rigidly set parallel to the curb and spaced far apart. Not very sociable at all. I’d rather see them clustered in a U shape, maybe with a few two-seater benches and a single seater, sort of like a conversational grouping in your living room. Might as well talk to the neighbours if we gonna sit on our asses. And put a garbage can by sidewalk to collect those popsicle wrappers.

The benches need to be set on permeable paved surfaces if our feet aren’t to get all muddy. And why not put some plants along the curb for some greenery, plants that die down flat to the ground come winter for the convenience of snow plows? Tall decorative grasses come to mind, but surely there are others. Yes, this is pushing the greenery right out to the maximum extent. And along that curvy fence, I hope there are some real flowery shrubs of the type people like to stop and look at (eg azalea) and not just those minimally flowery ones beloved by landscape architects deemed suitable for “mass plantings” seen at 60 kmh.

Here, for those who are sceptical, is a planted bulb out on Argyle Street. Worthwhile? You betcha.

(Above: Ottawa parking spaces restored to livable street people space)

The City didn’t seem too enthused with the expand-a-park idea when I first brought it up last fall, but I’ve got to give them credit for running it up the flagpole and seeing who salutes and who boos. Thus far, the fans are far out numbering any opponents. So kudos to the parks people for stepping out of the easy confines of the official parkland box. And to Councillor Holmes for pushing the idea. If you support the park expansion, email

Little real-world improvements like this park expansion, or the trees soon to come all along the Somerset Street viaduct (first trees in Ottawa to be planted on a bridge) are practical manifestations of the good community associations and community involvement can accomplish.

Residents of Dalhousie are invited to come out to the annual community association AGM on April 10th at 7pm at the Dal Centre to hear our guest speaker Dr Bruce Firestone talk about Intensification: Boon or Bane. There are free cookies too.

3 thoughts on “From Parking to Parks

  1. Great News!
    More park, and less room for commuters to cut from Booth to Preston!
    The bike lane experience has taught us that the people who use the free street parking feel so secure that these spaces will never be touched, so they never participate in these kind of discussions, until the spaces disappear.

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