The Greenbelt

The Greenbelt is a unique and special place where nature, people, recreation and agriculture come together. The Greenbelt is a people place. With the Greenbelt’s more than 150 kilometres of trails, users can connect to the Trans Canada Trail, the Rideau Trail and the Capital Pathway network.

The Greenbelt has a rich diversity of natural heritage resources, including a rare boreal wetland, numerous species at risk, geological outcrops from the interglacial age, and remnants of an ancient sand dune dating back over 10,000 years. It is a place where amateur scientists, researchers and other citizens can get involved in making the Greenbelt an enriching source of meaningful experiences and lifelong learning.

The Gréber Plan guided the shape and development of the Capital Region for over half a century. It directed the establishment of the Greenbelt as a means to limit the extent of urban growth in the expanding Capital, to protect its scenic countryside with lands dedicated to agriculture, to create a connected system of natural areas and to provide a home for large federal institutions. Gréber’s plan did not foresee the rate of population growth, or the changing patterns of urban land consumption. Consequently, the Greenbelt gradually ceased performing a growth management function many years ago. Now ringed with urban developments, it is accruing value as a major protected urban green space.

In 2067, the Greenbelt will have better integrated its vast network of natural spaces in the midst of an urbanized region. It will remain an integral part of the Capital green space network as a cohesive and robust entity supporting a balanced mix of environmental protection, local agriculture and recreation. It will continue to function as an ecological network connecting high-value natural and cultural landscapes in the midst of growing and intensifying urbanization. The Greenbelt will reinforce the region’s overall resilience and exemplify the Capital’s commitment to protect its picturesque and natural assets. The Greenbelt will be an environmental example, demonstrating the Capital’s leadership in environmental stewardship.

The projected population increase will have an impact on the Greenbelt, as much of the growth within the City of Ottawa could take place in communities adjacent to the Greenbelt. With increasing urban intensification and suburbanization, the Greenbelt could assume even greater importance in coping with climate change, food security, ecological connectivity and the need for a low carbon economy with a low ecological footprint. In time, it will become a green haven in the centre of the city, and it will be as important to this region as the Emerald Necklace is to Boston, U.S.A., the Adelaide Park Lands are to Adelaide, Australia, and the Vienna Woods are to Vienna, Austria.

The Greenbelt will build regional resilience with local food production. An evolution toward modern, diversified, resilient and viable agricultural production will secure greater relevance for the community. The conservation of productive farms and soils on federal property in the Greenbelt, as well as potential future innovations in sustainable agriculture and urban farming, are important in a future of regional population growth and continued urbanization. The Capital will also benefit from the creation of opportunities for enhanced agro-tourism and the active preservation of cultural landscapes.

Key policy directions for the next 50 years

  1. The NCC will be a careful steward of these lands by maintaining and protecting high-value ecological features such as wetlands and habitats, as well as agricultural lands. It will accommodate carefully located pathways and, where possible, enhance and promote recreational opportunities to users. The Capital will demonstrate the benefits of sustainable agriculture to the country.
  2. The NCC will continue to update its Greenbelt land use policies on a regular basis to ensure adaptive management of the land base in response to the region’s physical evolution.
  3. The NCC will allow soft or low-impact recreational uses, provided that they do not affect the Greenbelt’s ecological integrity or result in the fragmentation or loss of productive farm soils over the long term. Furthermore, municipal community gardens serving adjacent neighbourhoods may be permitted on lands that allow agricultural uses.
  4. The NCC will work with the City of Ottawa, conservation agencies, and other private- or public-sector partners to develop ecological linkages from the Greenbelt to broader ecological networks.
  5. Where new infrastructure must cross the Greenbelt, when demonstrated that there is no other viable alternative, the NCC will encourage its clustering in corridors to avoid further fragmentation of the land base. Any proposed new transportation infrastructure must be evaluated through the cumulative effects assessment process that the NCC has jointly established with the City of Ottawa.
  6. The NCC will host world-class urban agriculture. It will follow cutting-edge practices and undertake collaborative research in farmland and soil conservation and food production. Building on the unique position of its protected agricultural lands near the centre of a large urban region, the NCC will be a leading contributor to enhanced food security and resilience by encouraging local production. The NCC will celebrate Canada’s living agricultural legacy by elevating the region’s rich agricultural history and heritage while embracing modern, diversified and sustainable agricultural production.
  7. The NCC will participate in discussions with other levels of government on future land use at the outer limits of the National Capital Region to protect regional biodiversity.