City Staff Rejects Acquiring Pine Forest


This is a release from the City of Ottawa:

To Mayor and Members of City Council File/N° de fichier: N/A 

From Don Herweyer, Interim General  

Manager, Planning, Real Estate and  

Economic Development Department 

Subject Hunt Club Road Pine Plantation  Acquisition Feasibility Assessment 


Date: November 22, 2023

At its February 23, 2022 meeting, Ottawa City Council approved a motion to commence discussions between the City, the National Capital Commission and the Airport Authority related  to the red pine plantation at 660 Hunt Club Road. The motion consisted of three actions, which  have been completed.  

After contracting and conducting an external evaluation of the plantation, Natural Systems and  Rural Affairs staff recommends the City not acquire the woodlot. In the opinion of Natural  Systems and Rural Affairs: 

  1. Acquiring the woodlot would contribute very little value to the City’s urban greenspace and  natural heritage system; 
  2. Reducing the public safety risk from damaged or unhealthy trees to an acceptable level  would require clearcutting and replanting of the woodlot 

Management of the woodlot to improve biodiversity and reduce public risk would have substantial  operational costs, with minimal offsetting revenues. 

In addition to the significant costs of acquiring and managing the woodlot, the City’s  Environmental Remediation Unit has identified contamination issues, along with substantial  investigation costs and potentially significant remediation costs, and possible long-term liabilities. 

On November 20, 2023, the Ottawa Airport Authority publicly announced its intention to begin  clearing of the plantation. Due to Federal ownership of the property, it is not subject to the City of Ottawa’s Tree Protection By-law. Any future development of these lands would be subject to the  City’s Official Plan and Zoning By-law and site plan control process. 

Forest Condition and Management Assessment 

As part of the staff response to Council’s direction, the Corporate Real Estate Office (CREO) and  the Natural Systems and Rural Affairs Branch (NSRA) sought an external forestry consulting  company to complete an assessment of the plantation. The contract required the consultant to  provide the following services: 

  • Survey and inventory the forest; 
  • Assess the condition and overall health of the forest; 
  • Identify the management actions necessary to: 

o Ensure the future health of the forest; 

o Diversify the canopy and understory of the forest; 

o Improve the quality of the forest as wildlife habitat; 

o Make the plantation safe for recreational walking. 

The main deliverables of the assignment were: 

  • A site survey and inventory; 
  • A report, certified by a Registered Professional Forester, including: 

o The site survey and inventory; 

o The results of the condition and health assessment; 

o The proposed management plan for achieving the management objectives. 

After a competitive contracting process, the City hired FSmith Consulting Inc. for the project. The  work was carried out by Registered Professional Foresters (RPFs), as required by the Ontario  Professional Foresters Act, and the project was managed by RPFs in the City of Ottawa’s Natural  Systems and Rural Affairs Branch.  

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The assessment of the woodlot and the development of management options were conducted in  accordance with normal professional practices and standards.  

Overall, the assessment concluded: 

  • The plantation is severely over-stocked 
  • The surviving trees are in a high-stress condition due to competition and other natural  factors 
  • If thinning were to occur, the potential for any growth recovery of remaining trees is low, or  would be delayed for many years, due to the small crown volumes 
  • The risk of residual trees breaking, bending or otherwise falling over is currently high, and  would increase proportionally with the amount and pattern of any thinning operation. 

Forest Management Options 

The assessment identified and evaluated six management options, in increasing magnitude of  intervention. Options 2 to 6 would require buckthorn removal and control prior to any cutting to  prevent proliferation and to allow regeneration of native species. 

  1. Do nothing: acquire the land and let nature take its course, or do not acquire the land. 2. Very light thinning using crop tree approach (10% basal area). 
  2. Light row thinning with follow up thinning in ten years (20% basal area). 4. Traditional row thinning (30% basal area). 
  3. Restoration thinning to create canopy gaps (row thinning with creation of 20 m diameter  gaps). 
  4. Clearcut and restoration. 

Due to the low biodiversity of the plantation, the opportunities for restoration improve with the  magnitude of intervention, while the hazard from damaged or diseased trees decreases with the  magnitude of intervention. From both perspectives, Option 6 provides the best opportunity for  increasing long-term biodiversity and managing public risk. In fact, in staff’s opinion, Options 1 to 

5 do not adequately address the risk to the public from damaged or diseased trees.  Consequently, after reviewing the options, City staff directed the consultants to base their  management recommendations on Option 6.  

Preferred Management Plan  

Under Option 6, clearcut and restoration, the consultants outlined the following management  steps: 

  1. Buckthorn control 
  2. Marking and marketing of timber 
  3. Harvesting 
  4. Site preparation 
  5. Planting 
  6. Tending 
  7. Monitoring and assessment 
  8. Public outreach and education 

The management plan would extend over a period of 30 years or more. Given the length of the  plan, development of a reliable cost estimate is not feasible. However, the interventions would be  substantial, and the overall cost would greatly exceed the revenue of approximately $25,000 to  $30,000 from the initial harvest of red pine.  

Implementation of the management plan would disrupt public use of the woodlot. For public  safety, access to the woodlot would need to be prohibited until conclusion of the harvesting phase. Subsequent access would need to be restricted periodically through the site preparation,  planting and tending stages to allow successful restoration of the site. 


The plantation has low biodiversity and poses an unacceptable risk to public safety from  damaged and unhealthy trees. Improving the biodiversity of the site and reducing the risk to  public safety would require substantial intervention and long-term management. In the event of  acquisition, the preferred option would be to clearcut the forest, fully replant the site, and  implement a long-term adaptive management plan. The cost of such a plan would greatly exceed  any revenues from the initial harvesting.  

Under all options, the City would be required to restrict public access to the plantation to protect  public safety or to carry out restoration actions. Such restrictions would likely create a continuing  friction with residents currently engaged in unauthorized use of the site for dog walking and  passive activities. Given the likelihood of continued unauthorized access, ownership of the  woodlot would create an on-going enforcement pressure as well as potential legal and financial  liabilities.  

In the opinion of the Corporate Real Estate Office and Natural Systems and Rural Affairs unit,  acquisition and management of the plantation would provide little benefit at substantial cost and  risk. The City’s resources are better directed at current efforts to protect and grow the urban  forest, and to ensure safe, equitable public access to urban greenspace.




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3 Responses

  1. Been There says:

    This taken from the report
    “ the City’s Environmental Remediation Unit has identified contamination issues, along with substantial investigation costs and potentially significant remediation costs,”

    Does this mean the next item on the airport’s agenda will be to ask for a brown fields grant?

  2. The Voter says:

    Has Hydro Ottawa been approached to see if they have any interest in the site? I don’t know where they currently source their hydro poles but it might be useful for them to have a local supply under their control.

    For how long has the Airport Authority been allowing the public to access the woodlot for recreational purposes? Would the use of the land by locals have established a legal right-of-way into and through the property? This would make it less valuable to a purchaser.

    If the airport people deem the use of the land by the community to be unsafe, when did they make that determination? And did they immediately take steps to completely and securely close off access to the property in order to protect a) themselves against potential liability from knowingly permitting access to a dangerous site and b) the public from recognized hazards? Their very public admission of their awareness of the ‘dangers’ would be very helpful to the case of anyone who wanted to sue them for considerable damages should they be injured on the site.

    Or is the truth of the matter that they just want to unload the land to a developer and are well aware that there will be objections raised over the loss of the forest itself and the greenspace? No developer is going to purchase the land with the trees still in place since they would then have to deal with the community protests.

  3. Richard says:

    Why doesn’t the city then take the land, sell the cut timber and develop the land for geared to income housing with an ask of federal funds?

    Otherwise, we’ll just get a developer producing over priced 500sq ft homes useless for families or over priced carriage home like Larco built near Hunt club and Albion.

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