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.

City hall's advisory committees are still a disaster

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Nancy Biggs poses for a photo at her home in Ottawa Ontario Tuesday June 20, 2017. Nancy has just quit as vice-chair of City Hall's advisory committee on environmental issues. Council doesn't even ask the committee's opinion on things, let alone listen to it, she says, and she'll be more use volunteering with outside groups like Ecology Ottawa. Tony Caldwell

David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

Nancy Biggs regrets spending three years trying to advise city council on the environment.

“I had high hopes in the first year and it just became more and more evident as time passed that we weren’t really a resource to the city at all,” Biggs said Tuesday, the day after she quit as vice-chair of city hall’s environmental stewardship advisory committee. She’s the second to bail out in six months and other members are restive. “We have never really been utilized at all.”

City hall’s advisory committees have a long history of sucking up interested citizens with expertise, ignoring them and making them mad, and then spitting them out again.

Biggs has a master’s degree in environmental science and spent her career in medical research. Since she retired she’s been increasingly active in environmental causes. She thought helping craft city policies on garbage, energy and especially active transportation (like biking and walking instead of driving) would be a worthwhile project. Instead, “I just don’t feel like I’m being useful, or like I’m using my time well.”

Biggs thinks she can make more of a difference away from city hall, with groups like Ecology Ottawa and Citizens for Safe Cycling.

“I just don’t like it when you somehow imply that you’re getting really good advice and it’s somehow being acted on when it’s not,” agreed committee member Bill Eggertson, a former radio journalist who’s more recently worked in the renewable-energy sector. The committee amounts to “greenwashing,” he said, pretending the city is much keener on an environmental agenda than it really is.

The members of the committee aren’t randoms pulled in off the street or activist wackos, he points out; they applied for the volunteer positions and city council chose them.

“If there is somebody on an advisory committee who is hot on Issue X, if you’ve got that type of expertise, why not take advantage of it?” Eggertson asked.

Main Street locals celebrate end of 'complete street' construction project

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Old Ottawa East thoroughfare took two years to finish

Mika Weaver, the owner of Singing Pebble Books on Main Street, sits in the cafe next door that's run by her husband. Weaver was one of many local business owners who faced precarious times during the City of Ottawa's lengthy project to turn the four-lane thoroughfare into a so-called 'complete street.'

Mika Weaver, the owner of Singing Pebble Books on Main Street, sits in the cafe next door that's run by her husband. Weaver was one of many local business owners who faced precarious times during the City of Ottawa's lengthy project to turn the four-lane thoroughfare into a so-called 'complete street.' (Trevor Pritchard/CBC) 

During the worst of the construction, through the detours and dusty days, Mika Weaver remained optimistic.

"I was sure we could weather it," said Weaver, who has owned Singing Pebble Books on Main Street since 1995. "And really it wasn't that bad."

Two years ago, Weaver and other locals found themselves in the middle of a major City of Ottawa project to overhaul the four-lane street running through the otherwise tranquil Old Ottawa East neighbourhood.

The plan was to turn Main Street into the first major Ottawa thoroughfare that's also a so-called "complete street" — a road that's shared equally by cars, cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. 

On Saturday, both the community and the city celebrated the end of the work with a party that included street food, carriage rides and a brass band.

"Finally, finally, finally." said Weaver. "The street is now designated cool."

Will improve traffic flow, says councillor

While the city converted Churchill Avenue in Westboro into a complete street in 2014, Main Street is more heavily used and more centrally-located.

The renewal project began in May 2015 and involved the replacement of deteriorated water and sewer systems, as well as the addition of new cycle tracks, wider sidewalks, parking spaces and public art.

The street gradually began to reopen to car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic last summer. 

david chernushenko councillor main street ottawa june 17 2017

Coun. David Chernushenko holds a necklace made of the century-old pipeline that was torn up as part of the Main Street renewal project. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)


"There's been a major shift throughout North America of what a major thoroughfare that runs through a downtown residential neighbourhood … should be and what it could look like," said Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko, sporting a necklace made from the century-old subterranean pipe that was torn up as part of Main Street's renewal.

"You can still keep traffic flowing, but essentially take it back as a real liveable safe street for people."

Aside from some minor work that remains on the southernmost stretch of the bike track, Main Street is now back open, Chernushenko said.

While drivers may notice one fewer lane in each direction — stretches of Main Street are now two lanes instead of four — a centre turning lane at major intersections will actually improve traffic flow, not slow it down, he added.

"One car that wanted to turn, previously, was essentially stopping all of the moving traffic. And now, even with fewer lanes, it's not," said Chernushenko.

main street reopens complete street cyclists bike path ottawa

Two women walk their bikes along a new separated bike path on Main Street on June 17, 2017. Hundreds of people came out Saturday to celebrate the completion of a lengthy construction project that turned the previously four-lane thoroughfare into Ottawa's latest 'complete street.' (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)


'It's safer'

Main Street's previous flaws caused "frustration for so many years," said Phyllis Odenbach Sutton, president of the Old Ottawa East Community Association.

"We have wide sidewalks now, where it used to be walking on this street was horrific. And biking on this street was not something you wanted to do," she said. "So it's just wonderful."

The truth is, if you build infrastructure, people will use it.- Joey Gunn, Main Street resident

Odenbach Sutton said the community association wanted to see the power lines along Main Street put underground as part of the renewal work. The fact that many large trees had to be uprooted to make the changes possible was also somewhat bittersweet, she said.

But the positives of the project ultimately outweigh the negatives, Odenbach Sutton added.

Joey Gunn lives on Main Street and said he's already seen concrete changes in cycling volume along the road.

"The truth is, if you build infrastructure, people will use it," said Gunn. "You see the traffic, the bike traffic now. People are using [the bike tracks]. And it's safer."

Fifth-Clegg bridge next

With the Main Street renewal project mostly complete, attention in Old Ottawa East will likely turn to the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the Rideau Canal that would connect Clegg Street with Fifth Avenue in the Glebe.

Mayor Jim Watson told those who came out Saturday afternoon he expected the province to make a funding announcement for the bridge in coming weeks.

Both the city and the federal government have already committed to their share of the roughly $17.5-million bridge project.

For Weaver, the pedestrian bridge will not only bring more patrons to the stores along Main Street — it will also bring benefits for people like herself who also call Old Ottawa East home. 

"A lot of the kids in this neighbourhood go to schools in the Glebe. So having that footbridge connect means that people can just get across the canal much quicker," she said.