Ottawa

Baseline rapid transit plan contributes to 'erosion' of Central Experimental Farm

13.8-kilometre Baseline Road Rapid Transit Corridor plan going to city transportation committee

Experimental Farm

A proposed rapid transit corridor along Baseline Road would trim land from the southern edge of the Central Experimental Farm. (Google Maps)

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A City of Ottawa plan to build a rapid transit corridor along Baseline Road includes expropriating part of the Central Experimental Farm, and that has farm users and advocates concerned about the loss of green space.

The proposed 13.8-kilometre Baseline Road Rapid Transit Corridor would run east-west between Billings Bridge and Bayshore Station, bypassing downtown. To build it, the city would need to expropriate land from more than 200 residential, commercial and publicly-owned properties, including the southern strip of the Central Experimental Farm that runs parallel to Baseline Road.

"In general, our organization is disappointed at any encroachment onto the farm property," said Judy Dodds, president of Friends of the Central Experimental Farm. "It is a heritage site, and we would like to see the entire property maintained as a heritage site."

While Dodds says her organization isn't against the proposed rapid transit corridor, they want to know just how much of the farm will be impacted by the widening of Baseline Road to accommodate the new corridor for rapid transit buses.

Ottawa's transportation committee will review a street planning and environmental assessment study from city staff on the proposed corridor at a meeting Wednesday morning.

The staff report says the project "requires a strip of land (the typical widening being in the range of 7 m) from the Central Experimental Farm" to accommodate median bus lanes.

Cross-section

A rendering of a widened Baseline Road at the Central Experimental Farm to accommodate rapid transit buses. (City of Ottawa)

River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington said the plan requires that farm land be trimmed anywhere from two to 14 metres at spots to make room for the corridor.

While he's in favour of the plan, he would like assurances from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada — the federal government department that owns the Central Experimental Farm — that it has long-term plans to protect the green space.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada told CBC News that it "supports the new transit corridor" and has agreed to make farm land available for it. 

'Continuing erosion of boundaries'

In a joint letter to the city's transportation committee, Heritage Ottawa and the Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital echoed similar concerns.

"We would like to register our concern for the continuing erosion of the boundaries of the Central Experimental Farm, and the ongoing impact this has on its capacity as an internationally significant research institution, and its status as a national historic site," reads the letter, co-authored by Leslie Maitland and Paul Johanis.

Judy Dodds

Judy Dodds is president of Friends of the Central Experimental Farm (Supplied)

The city staff report outlines a request by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada staff to create a "shelterbelt" buffer of trees and shrubs to prevent wind, snowdrift and salt spray from Baseline Road.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said it has been working with the city to create a "buffer zone" between the farm and the road.

"The width and the landscape features will be tailored (non-linear) to minimize impact of existing research field and achieve the desired results," the department told CBC News in an email.

Dodds likes the shelterbelt idea, but also wants safeguards for the farm to ensure further encroachment doesn't happen.

"The farm is a national historic site. It is a place not only of research, but of green space in the city. It's a space of public gardens," she said. 

"I think we in general should be more respectful of those places that we have designated as national historic sites."

Read the assessment study by city staff here.

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