The Friends of the Central Experimental Farm are trying to get ahead of the design of the Ottawa Hospital’s new Civic campus by highlighting some concerns.
“We were just urging the National Capital Commission and design people in general to keep in mind that these are public areas that people value and that that should be taken into consideration when design and forward-looking plans are made,” said president of the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm, Judy Dodds.
Dodds said the group is concerned about the impact the new hospital will have on the sounds and sites of the arboretum and ornamental gardens.
“It could end up being a pretty visually dominant thing from various places in the arboretum or the ornamental gardens. It’s going to be a big structure,” she said of the plans to locate the hospital at the former site of the Sir John Carling building.
The 50-acre site is located at the north-eastern corner of the Central Experimental Farm.
One of the other concerns she has is about Prince of Wales Drive. The winding roadway cuts through the farm and if there was a desire to either widen or straighten it, it too could take more land from the National Historic Site.
Further encroachment is always a concern, Dodds said.
Already the group will have to move some shrubs, as part of the historic hedge collection that is on the south side of the Dominion Observatory. According to friend of the farm Richard Hinchcliff, who wrote a book about both the arboretum and the ornamental gardens, the shrubs were planted in the 1890s to demonstrate how a variety of trees and shrubs could be used around houses, buildings, along roads and lanes. More than 20 tree and shrub species from the northern hemisphere make up the collection.
“The construction itself could be pretty disruptive for the arboretum and the ornamental gardens, those are the big concerns,” Dodds said adding, whether the plants survive relocation remains to be seen.
Those challenges were outlined in a letter to the National Capital Commission, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada Lawrence MacAulay, Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, MPP Yasir Naqvi and Mayor Jim Watson.
The area’s councillor, Riley Brockington, said he supports the hospital’s new location, but he does share some of the group’s concerns.
“Without any clear federal legislation protecting the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, concerns from local residents and local stakeholder groups about the long-term vision to retain the farm is very real,” he said.
He suggested that Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada needs to firmly say what their plans are for the farm moving forward and prepare legislation to further protect the farm.
Back in December, Ottawa’s Liberal MPPs announced a $3 million grant to kick-start the planning stage for the new campus.
At that time officials said the first four to five months of the planning phase would involve selecting which programs would best fit at the new location. Following that would come concept designs and infrastructure planning for the new site. The whole planning process will last about two to three years. The hospital aims to have the new campus built in the next 10 years.
The entire process will consist of six stages, with consultations with the community throughout.
Brockington is hoping to have a preliminary consultation with residents sometime this year.
“I certainly want to preserve the arboretum and the ornamental gardens full stop, period. They are treasured assets. They are over 100 years old. They add to the beauty of this city. They are part of the whole educational experience, as well,” he said.
“I don’t want to see them negatively impacted, but again I need to have a better understanding of the proposed footprint and the other required buildings required before looking at how to minimize the impact on that entire area.”
-With files from Michelle Nash Baker