Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Experimental Farm - an urban oasis

     The people of Canada own the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa---not federal politicians, bureaucrats or real estate developers. The Farm is an urban oasis, a "country in the city"...and a developers dream. In 1975, a former head of the National Capital Commission wanted to see 7,000 housing units on 700 acres of  CEF land. The project never materialized, thanks to Agriculture Minister Eugene Whelan, "Save the Experimental Farm" and many other concerned individuals and groups.
     In 1965, my classmates and I visited the Experimental Farm, and we were fascinated by the Dominion Observatory---the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles is featured in the James Dean/Natalie Wood movie "Rebel Without A Cause":

The Dominion Observatory in Ottawa, Ontario---a Classified Heritage Building that a former government wanted to demolish.
Federal officials said in 1998 that the Farm may be radically changed, and there could be major controversies.
    What does the term "radical changes" mean? A chain link fence barring the public from the grounds? A major selloff? The Mulroney government privatized 91 acres of the CEF:

In 1983, the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa encompassed 1,200 acres of land. The Clyde/Merivale lands were sold to a developer.  (The above document is from a book called "1985 Federal Property Profiles-National Capital Region"; the book can be found in "The Ottawa Room" at the Ottawa Public Library on Laurier Avenue West.)
 The public was barred from the grounds of Rideau Hall from 1986 until 1990, when the new Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable Ray Hnatyshyn reopened the gates.
      Will joggers, bird watchers, dog walkers, bicyclists...have to pay admission fees?

 A few weeks ago, Ottawa city councillors were discussing the possibility of a "wall" of high-rise condos lining both sides of Carling Avenue, near Dow's Lake. The National Capital Commission, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Natural Resources Canada are major landowners in the vicinity of Dow's Lake and Little Italy.  
     I would like to know:
- if a hotel, casino or convention centre will be constructed on the grounds of a flattened Sir John Carling Building.
- if Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is planning to sell Farm land in the nation's capital.
   In 2001, the Canada Lands Company bought the Upton Experimental Farm in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Federal MP Shawn Murphy, P.E.I Premier Pat Binns and many other Islanders called for a moratorium on redevelopment of the land.
   In 2002 the Canada Lands Company wanted to buy the Ravenwood Experimental Farm in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, but they faced too much opposition, and the current Agriculture Minister, the Hon. Gerry Ritz refused to declare Ravenwood "surplus".
     Canada Lands Company plans to redevelop the Natural Resources Canada Booth Street Complex for housing (high rise condos?):

     "Natural Resources Canada approves, in principle, the strategic disposal of NRCan properties at 550, 552, 601 and 615 Booth Street and 405 Rochester Street to CLC or...NRCan properties at 550, and 552 Booth Street and 405 Rochester Street and part of Site 13 located Carling Avenue fronting Booth Street," from  an Ottawa Citizen article "Government to sell five buildings at Booth Street complex" by Mohammed Adam, February 16, 2005.

Front page Ottawa Journal article 1975.

Letter from MP Shawn Murphy to Hon. Peter MacKay.


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