Still struggling to make Lansdowne Park green

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Trees awaiting planting at Lansdowne Park in 2014. BRUCE DEACHMAN / POSTMEDIA

David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

Three years after Lansdowne Park reopened, the trees on its commercial streets are still struggling, scraggly things, fighting for life in tough conditions.

“Greening” Lansdowne was a major selling point for the partnership between the city government and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), turning a dreary old fairground-cum-parking-lot into a city oasis. And, in fairness, the new trees in the Lansdowne’s eastern parky section are doing just fine. The ones in Aberdeen Square, where the farmers’ market sets up between the Aberdeen Pavilion and the Cineplex movie theatre, are also OK.

The ones on Bank Street and on Marché Way and Exhibition Way, the two streets running into Lansdowne off Bank Street, less so. They were planted in spring 2014, the following winter was savagely cold and a bunch of them died, and the survivors are mostly failing to thrive.

“We’re challenged,” says Roger Greenberg, OSEG’s chairman and the longtime head of the Minto property empire. “We’re challenged with the design that we were given, we’re also challenged by Canadian winters and we’re also challenged by the fact that to keep the site safe we have to put salt down. Salt and trees don’t go well together. So we’re trying to learn from those experiences and get better at it, but we still have a way to go.”

Greenberg used the trees explicitly as a metaphor for the state of Lansdowne as a whole when he gave an annual presentation to city council’s finance committee on Tuesday. The site’s financial performance isn’t what OSEG or the city would like yet but it’s getting there. Ditto its arboreal performance.

The pretty pictures that come with any new development proposal are always supremely optimistic about the lush canopy that’ll enfold the finished product. Shady, leafy and cool it’ll be. One of my favourites, for a building to go up just a little north of Lansdowne on Bank Street, shows a row of big, healthy trees sprouting straight out of the sidewalk, watered by magic.

In real life, it’s hard out there for a street tree. This isn’t Vancouver, where you can stick a broken twig in the ground and expect it to leaf out next spring. Cold winters hurt saplings, whose roots are unprotected by layers of insulating snow. Hot summers stress them out. Paving restricts how much water gets to their roots and how far those roots can spread. They get splashed with poisonous salt and gouged by passing plows. Ash trees historically did pretty well here, then along came ravenous bugs that chewed them to pieces.

At Lansdowne, trees are the main feature meant to soften the shopping streets, which are otherwise nothing but concrete, stone, brick, glass and metal, as barren as when the place was a parking lot.

“It’s not due to ill will on anybody’s part,” says Coun. David Chernushenko, whose ward includes Lansdowne and who was a green-business consultant before entering politics. “Everyone wants to see the trees thriving.”

Lansdowne carried out Escapade — but no guarantee it returns

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Wayne Scanlan, Ottawa Citizen

While Lansdowne Park survived the year’s Escapade Music Festival, the jury is out on a return engagement.

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko has reservations about the Glebe neighbourhood as a suitable place for electronic music concerts, feeling that Glebe residents tolerate enough commotion from sports events and “amplified activities of all kinds,” Chernushenko said Monday, via email, a day after the weekend festival at Lansdowne.

“There is a breaking point, and it would be irresponsible and unfair at a human level for the city to allow it to be crossed,” Chernushenko said, adding that “several dozen people” from Old Ottawa South and East “reported to me that their houses were shaking, notably on Sunday night, after the main stage was closed down and the closing acts were moved to the Aberdeen Pavilion.”

The councillor, who was active all weekend responding to constituents’ noise concerns, wants to consult emergency responders, on-site staff and local residents before thinking about future EDM events on Bank Street. In past years, Escapade has been held at Rideau Carleton Raceway, soon to be home to a major casino and entertainment venue.

“I never did feel that Lansdowne – surrounded by residential communities with no significant buffer – is the right place for electronic dance music or any other music genre that relies heavily on deep base,” Chernushenko said.

On the whole, Chernushenko felt that concert staff responded well to expressed noise concerns, using their directional speaker systems and base drawback technology to control outward vibrations.

Regarding medical and police issues, the councillor said he was troubled that so many resources have to be expended to keep people safe at a festival.

Escapade defies doubters with few medical emergencies, noise complaints

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Outdoor stage at Lansdowne Park shut down Sunday because of storms

CBC News

The Escapade music festival at Lansdowne Park went off relatively smoothly, despite concerns about drug use and noise in the buildup to the event.

However, severe thunder caused a bit of a scramble on Sunday when the main outdoor stage was shut down, although none of the main acts had to cancel.

Paramedics said 18 partygoers were treated during the two-night festival, and 10 of those cases were related to drugs and alcohol.

Two people overdosed on ecstasy and the sedative GHB, while another slipped and broke their leg, according to paramedics.

Michael Latimer of the Ottawa Paramedic Service told CBC News Sunday that those numbers suggest that there were fewer issues than they had anticipated.

None of the patients treated was in life-threatening condition, and responders did not have to use naloxone, a medication used to treat opiate overdose.

Concerns had been mounting because of an increase in overdoses in the city, especially with prom and festival season now underway.

For the first time in the festival's history, Ottawa police were on hand with what they call a "drug amnesty" box, where attendees could discard their drugs, no questions asked.

"It was a success, they did have some stuff that was dropped off anonymously before people entered the festival grounds," said Ali Shafaee, the festival's director of partnerships.

Organizers of the festival estimated that they spent about $200,000 on safety and security measures for the event.

Noise an issue for some

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko said he personally received 10 to 12 noise complaints from residents of Old Ottawa South, but the noise stayed within what's allowed under city bylaws.

"I heard from a number of immediate neighbours who weren't happy, we've certainly had louder [events] but several found it louder than they'd play their home sound systems with the windows closed, was how they described it," he said.

Fifth-Clegg footbridge to start construction in fall but we need more like it and faster

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David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

The footbridge between Fifth Avenue and Clegg Street is finally being built after 110 years on the books, with a promise of $5 million in Ontario government money delivered on Friday.

Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi has spoken fondly of the Rideau Canal bridge for his entire political career but it took this long to find all the money for a span that’s been included in federal and municipal plans since early in the last century.

“If we can start the construction in 2017, it can technically be a legacy project. So happy birthday to Canada,” Naqvi joked as he made the announcement outside the Canal Ritz restaurant, where the west end of the bridge will be.

The federal government promised $10.5 million more than a year ago; the city bet that the province would come through and put the project up for bids without all the money in hand. Construction is to begin in September and the bridge should be done in two years, Mayor Jim Watson said.

Footbridges like this one used to be things Ottawa agreed to only grudgingly; the Corktown bridge across the canal squeaked through a reluctant city council in 2005 and traffic over it massively exceeded projections. The same thing happened with the Adawé footbridge over the Rideau River.

Now, said Coun. David Chernushenko, in whose Capital ward the new bridge is to be built, the question isn’t whether we should build these things, it’s where the next one is going to go and how exactly we’ll pay for it.

Right. That’s the thing.

The city estimates this bridge is a $20.5-million project — it’s crossing a particularly wide part of the canal and it’s tricky to squeeze the approaches in at either end. This is a lot of money but a trifle in transportation budgets that include, for instance, $40 million to widen nine kilometres of Highway 17 in Clarence-Rockland, $58 million to widen just 1.7 km of Greenbank Road, or $200 million-plus to widen 11 km of Highway 417.