Preserving the Carp Hills

Like a piece of Gatineau Park dropped into Ottawa-Carleton, the Carp Hills provide an area of Canadian Shield  complete with a myriad of  beaver ponds, wet meadows, rock-knoll oak stands and young poplar-birch forests.“*

* (from Dan Brunton, “Nature and Natural Areas in Canada’s Capital” published by the Ottawa Citizen.)

The Vision

The Friends of the Carp River support preservation of the Carp Hills as part of the broader City vision to create a “quality of life” environment that attracts and retains both businesses and knowledge workers to the city.

The vision for the Carp Hills is to ensure that the beauty of its trails and ponds can be enjoyed by the City’s residents while maintaining the natural landscape and healthy biodiversity.

Why drive all the way to Gatineau Park, or farther, when there is a jewel of stunning natural beauty within the City of Ottawa?

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Background

The Carp Hills (or the Carp Ridge as sometimes called) run roughly northwest from the South March Highlands at March Road to the Kinburn Side Road entirely within the municipal ward of West Carleton-March.   It is one of the largest environmentally significant areas remaining within the National Capital area.

The wetlands of the Carp Hills form a significant part of the Carp River watershed by contributing year round clean water flow into the river through surface streams and underground aquifers.  The Carp Hills acquifer supports the supply of water to the wells of residents up and down its length.

The Carp Hills are also home to a rich biodiversity of over 600 species of plants and animals.  It hosts a mix of mature forests, ponds, wetlands, and rocky Canadian Shield outcrops that together provide breeding grounds and habitat for waterfowl, raptors, songbirds, deer, bear, wolves, rare lichens, and orchids.

The above figure is a satellite image of the eastern section of the Carp Hills.  March Road runs from the lower right corner and Thomas Dolan Parkway is in the upper left side.

Currently the ridge is used by local cross country skiers, snow mobiles, hunters, runners, hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, and general nature enthusiasts.

In 1971, the City considered the Carp Hills sufficiently environmentally significant to be worthy of preserving.  The Carp Hills appear on the planner’s map as a “proposed conservation area” similar in size and significance to Mer Bleue on the east.  The 2012 updated NCC Master Plan identifies the Carp Hills as a “significant natural area”, and advocates connecting them to the Greenbelt through an “ecological corridor” that would also encompass the South March Highlands.

Action

The Friends of the Carp River advocate the following:

1. The City of Ottawa continue to add to its holdings on the Carp Hills for the purposes of preserving the land for the benefit of the City’s residents.  The City announced that it has created a $4M Environmental Land Reserve to protect sensitive areas throughout the City, a fund which is ideally suited to the purchase of Carp Hills acreage.

2.  The City, working in partnership with community organizations such as the Friends of the Carp Hills and local recreational groups, develop an approach for use of and stewardship of the ridge as a conservation area for recreational enjoyment and educational purposes while preserving its natural environment.

3.  Landowners on the ridge consider making an Ecological Donation in the form of a Conservation Easement which has the dual benefit of protecting the land in the future and providing tax credits to the landowner who continues to retain title to the land.

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