'Depaving' project carves green space out of Ottawa street

Volunteers were out Saturday removing the asphalt on a short stretch of Pontiac Street, in order to seamlessly connect a nearby park with NCC lands along the Ottawa River.

Community has been working on Pontiac Street project for 3 years

Volunteers help remove the asphalt from a stretch of Pontiac Street in Ottawa on Oct. 5, 2019. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

A street in Ottawa's Kitchissippi ward is being "depaved" — in the hopes of creating a little more paradise. 

Volunteers were out Saturday removing the asphalt on a short stretch of Pontiac Street, in order to seamlessly connect nearby Champlain Park with the National Capital Commission lands along the Ottawa River, as well as the Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail.

The road used to be open to vehicles, but had been blocked off by planters for the past year. The community has been working on the project to change the underused paved area to green space for about three years. 

A fence separating the green spaces will also be removed.

Pontiac Street being 'depaved' in order to connect green spaces in the area. It's an initiative he community has been trying to accomplish for three years. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Yesterday morning, volunteers removed asphalt by hand "as much as possible," said Jen Stelzer, manager of community sustainability programs with Ottawa non-profit EnviroCentre, which helped co-ordinate the project.

"A lot of the time, these big community projects can sort of just happen behind the scenes. But in this case, we actually have scored all of this asphalt ... and we'll be using pry bars to lift it out by hand. And the community will come together and really experience that many hands make light work," Stelzer said.

"It really brings ownership back to the spaces in our environment."

Jen Stelzer with EnviroCentre says much of the depaving work on Pontiac Street is being done by hand, which helps residents feel connected to the project. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

'Win-win' for community

EnviroCentre has carried out two other depaving projects in Ottawa this year at École élémentaire publique Marie-Curie and Elgin Street Public School, but this is the first involving a city street.

"It just makes sense to [reconnect] it back to nature," said Adrian Bradley, a volunteer with the Champlain Park Community Association.

For some time, the community association had been trying to find a way to connect the park with the nearby Champlain Woods. Bradley said depaving Pontiac Street also makes it easier for people to access the lands along the Ottawa River.

"It's a win-win for the whole community," he said. "Everybody can make a difference. Doesn't matter how small it is."

Adrian Bradley with the Champlain Park Community Association says 'it just makes sense' to return the road to a more natural state. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Will help with flooding

Kitchissippi ward Coun. Jeff Leiper said the project will also help improve drainage in the area as big infill projects take up permeable space. 

"That's putting a strain on our stormwater system. As storms become more intense, as we see more things like flooding, having more green space to soak up some of that water is going to be critical," said Leiper. 

Leiper called the redesigned stretch of Pontiac Street "a space for people rather than a space for vehicles."

"That's something we have to do more of, again, as we intensify our neighbourhoods," he said. "The quality of life that we have is going to be dependent on having great outdoor spaces."

About $25,000 from cash-in-lieu funds from Leiper's office went toward the Pontiac Street project, along with about $12,000 from EnviroCentre and Green Communities Canada through the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

"I think it's wonderful," said volunteer Heather Dunlop, adding she hoped to see more depaving projects in the future.

"I think it makes a nice green space right down to the river that the kids and people who want to use the trails can access."

Volunteer Heather Dunlop hopes to see more projects like the Pontiac Road depaving in the future. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.


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