Pathway Improvements in Rockcliffe Park

NCC Hopes Contractors will Vie for the Job

According to an advertisement posted online on January 8, the National Capital Commission will be allocating somewhere between half a million to one million dollars annually to improving its system of recreational pathways – with one of its focal points in 2012 centred on Rockcliffe Park.

In its listing on MERX, (a hosting site for government contractual work,) the National Capital Commission states that it “has focused considerable efforts over the last several years in the rehabilitation/reconstruction of its existing network [of recreational pathways] and in the construction of new links and pathway segments. The Commission plans, over the next several years, to continue its pathway life cycle rehabilitation program and to proceed with the construction of key missing links and pathway segments.”

For Rockcliffe Park specifically, the NCC outlines its plans to upgrade to a system of universally accessible pathways, so that visitors with mobility problems can more easily navigate the trails.

Map of the recreational area, where most of the Rockcliffe Park trails are located

In my own observations, the trails and pathways of Rockcliffe Park aren’t always well-tended, with fallen trees and other debris often encroaching onto the footpaths. Certain trails taper off into narrow passages, some have very steep inclines, and many can be uninviting to even capable hikers, dogwalkers, and skiers. Some areas are relatively inaccessible through the city-sanctioned paths, and the boot prints of people who have forged their own paths are readily identifiable along the trails.

This wall of craggy rock is one example of the type of terrain found along the trails that might impede people with mobility problems

However, there are expansive open areas, including a field near the Rideau Canal where residents are allowed to unleash their dogs, and these are easily accessible to anyone, regardless of their level of mobility.

Rockcliffe community children decorate trees along the pathways for Christmas

Whether these city funds will be well-utilized in maintaining Rockcliffe trails, or ought to be transferred elsewhere will be a matter of debate. In this audio interview, Rockcliffe Park resident Lynne Murtagh offered me her opinions of the accessibility of the pathways near her home.

The NCC expects its prequalification submissions to be in by January 26.

Beechwood Cemetery

Beechwood Cemetery

Although it was originally established in 1873 as a rural Anglo-Protestant burial ground serving only its immediate environs, Beechwood Cemetery today is a refined and spacious multicultural and multi-faith memorial park where Canadians of all sorts are represented and immortalized together.

Flowers are placed in front of most headstones at Beechwood

Lifelong locals, out-of-towners, and foreign-born citizens are memorialized in equal measure here. Names on the epitaphs are not only of Anglo-Saxon or Francophone heritage, but can be traced to far-off places like Poland, Germany, and Japan, with each having their own specific religious rites to be taken care of. A Chinese pagoda is situated in the centre of the cemetery overlooking a bubbling pond – the cemetery’s website indicates that services are offered in three different dialects of the Chinese language.

The Chinese Pagoda

All strata of Canadians are welcome, and there is no clear delineation between religious faiths or a person’s particular place in the class hierarchy. An artist rests across from a businessman. A 102-year-old woman rests across from a 17-year-old girl.

Headstone of Edith Macham, who lived to 102

Beechwood is home to the National Military Cemetery of Canada, with 12,000 burial plots allotted for active servicemen and women killed in action. General Maurice Baril noted that the military had been given “the high ground of the cemetery, in sight of our Parliament, next to veterans of previous wars and among the thousands of Canadians buried in Beechwood. This is exactly what we want.” Wreaths Across Canada, an organization that acts to honour Canada’s veterans and war dead, has recently put plans into motion to decorate every grave with a memorial wreath. The hope is that the sight of 3,000 wreaths will solidify in the minds of visitors the magnitude of the sacrifice our soldiers have made.

About the Neighbourhood

The Village of Rockcliffe Park

Until 2001, Rockcliffe Park operated as an entity independent from the city, and as such, it retains vestiges of its former self that differentiate it from the rest of Ottawa. The streets are laid out haphazardly; twisting in unorthodox directions, with no through streets and seemingly arbitrary curves and hills. Their arrangement seems to have been based more on the natural geographic features of the underlying landscape, and less on the ease of use of its inhabitants. One residential street splits down the middle and rejoins itself 50 metres later, leaving behind an island of grass, populated with trees and benches for neighbourhood dog-walkers and birdwatchers. One can find many of both roaming the parks, which are well-tended and welcoming to visitors.

A home facing onto the "island of grass"

Rockcliffe is the most affluent neighbourhood in Ottawa, with the average annual income of its residents double that of the city overall. Many of the homes would be welcome within the pages of Architectural Digest, with parapets and towers and wrought iron gates. There is a private boarding school and several small lakes with restricted access. Stornaway, the home of the leader of the Official Opposition, as well as the residences of many international ambassadors are located here. Kids keep their Fisher Price pedal cars out on their front lawns, adults keep their garage doors open with expensive power tools in clear sight of potential burglars. People here seem to feel safe.

Training apparatus for the Ashbury College football team

The only looming question is how best to expand, with the most viable and contentious option being to convert the old Canadian Forces Base into a new residential area. Whatever the outcome of the dealings are, Rockcliffe Park will remain one of the most quaint and charming areas of the city.