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A hidden gem in Ottawa west

Rising above the Queensway, Carlington Park is home to the highest natural point in Ottawa.

The fantastic views of Ottawa and Gatineau are only one reason people come to Carlington Park. There’s also the challenging slope that’s perfect for sledding and snowboarding in winter, and hiking year-round; the Carlington Woods (22 hectares of Environmentally Protected land), where you can find a quiet place to contemplate the world or check out a cool tree. The meadow was replaced with a mountain bike pump track in 2019.

The view from atop the Hill at Carlington Park. Winter 2016. Photo by Linda Landry.

But there is so much more to Carlington Park.

The Carlington Woods (owned in part by the City, part by the National Capital Commission) are a designated City of Ottawa Environmentally Protected zone. This designation means that the lands provide important environmental resources, such as storm water, flood, erosion, and urban heat island control; acts as a local carbon sink; and provides habitat and food for wildlife, including some protected species. Natural areas and urban forests are also good for our physical and mental health.

Certain activities are prohibited in these zones, due to their impact on the ecosystem and biodiversity. In the Carlington Woods, these activities include sledding, skiing, cycling, erecting structures, damaging or cutting vegetation or soil, and creating unsafe trails.

If you’re concerned about conserving the Carlington Woods for future generations, or just want to know more about how you can you help protect our parks, urban forests and other public greenspaces, there’s no better place to start than right here. Let’s take a walk!

Check out some of these resources and find out more about how you can help protect and conserve our natural areas.

Environmental Protected zone outlined in pink. undefined

Ecological Study: Carlington Woods and Hampton Park Woods

Friends of Carlington Hill teamed up with the Friends of Hampton Park and the Hampton-Iona Community Group to have an ecological study conducted of the Carlington Woods and Hampton Park Woods in 2020.

The study, funded by a City of Ottawa Community Environmental Protection Grant, is now done and the report can be downloaded here as well as our Executive Summary.

Webinar features the unique ecosystem of the Carlington Woods

“It’s a real pleasure of mine to speak about Carlington Hill because it’s one of the best natural areas in the City of Ottawa.”

Owen Clarkin, 2nd VP, Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club

The Friends of Carlington Hill welcomed guest speaker Owen Clarkin of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club to its first webinar on June 27, 2020. Owen’s passion for and curiosity about the natural environment is infectious! He presented more than 60 of his own iNaturalist observations and answered participants’ questions on a range of topics, from trees and flowers to snakes and fungi.

“These limestone upland habitats tend to have pretty unique species,” he said, starting off with a photo of a Milk Snake, a federal species of Special Concern, but not endangered. Its provincial status was downlisted in 2016 and is no longer considered a species at risk. “This snake isn’t common in the Ottawa area and it’s very susceptible to being run over, by bicycle tires for example. If a bike runs over a snake, it probably dies. This is a significant species to have.”

Considering that the Carlington Woods is in the middle of a city of 1 million people, the biodiversity of flora and fauna is quite good, including migratory raptors like owls and hawks, many species of insects, and insect- and seed-eating birds. There is also wide variety of tree species and plants. A few are listed below.

Monarch Butterfly / Mourning Cloak Butterfly / Red Admiral / Fire flies

Purple fragrant raspberry / Early Goldenrod (uncommon) / Trout lily (spring ephemeral)

Ware’s Elm / Rock Elm (species of concern) / Slippery Elm (one of the best sites in Eastern Ontario)

Butternut (endangered) / Peach Willow

Sharon Boddy, of the Friends of Carlington Hill, provided a short introduction to the area, its zoning and land use designations, and the type of ecosystems found within it. She also reported that Friends had secured a City of Ottawa Community Environmental Protection grant so that an assessment of the urban natural area can be completed later this year. If you’d like to view the webinar, please email FriendsofCarlingtonHill@gmail.com for the link, or visit us on Facebook (search: Friends of Carlington Hill).

Thanks to TD Park People for their continued support of the Friends of Carlington Hill!

Friends team up with Friends

For the second year in a row, the Friends of Carlington Hill have secured funding from TD Park People. TD Park People provides grants to small community groups events and activities related to public parks, and also has a wealth of information and research on the importance and value of our natural areas.

This year, Friends of Carlington Hill has teamed up with the Friends of Hampton Park (part of the Hampton-Iona Community Association), less than 2 kilometres away to raise awareness of urban forests.

On June 27, we’ll be hosting one-hour webinar that introduces new and long-time residents alike to the Carlington Woods, an environmentally protected inner city urban forest. Guest speaker Owen Clarkin, 2nd VP, Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club, will share his expertise on the rich tree biodiversity to be found in the Carlington Woods and answer your tree-related questions. 

Look for event registration details on the Friends of Carlington Hill Facebook page and on Twitter @CarlingtonHill starting June 15, 2020.

Native, naturalized or invasive?

You’ve heard of a guided plant walk? Well, on September 14, the Friends of Carlington Hill are hosting a guided plant sit! That’s right, bring a chair, a cushion, or a blanket and get comfy in a living laboratory! In the fertile greenspace that leads into the Carlington Woods, you’ll learn how to identify the plants you see every day and the roles that they play in the environment.

This event is low impact, all ages. There will be an optional, shorter walk (less than 2 minutes) to study certain species, like black walnut trees.

Event runs from 10:30 am to noon. Meet at McBride Street and Lepage Avenue in Carlington, four blocks south of Woodward Avenue. OC Transpo #14, stop at Raven and McBride. Look for the blue Environment Protected Zone sign. Long pants & insect repellent recommended.

Rain date: September 15, 2019. About the instructor: Sharon Boddy is a professional environmental writer, amateur naturalist, a Westboro Brainery instructor, and a member of the Friends of Carlington Hill and the Friends of Hampton Park.

This event is supported by a grant from TD Park People.

Clean up & tree walk a great success!

Thanks to the approximately 20 volunteers who cleaned up Carlington Park on Saturday May 4, 2019. The forecast did not disappoint and by 11:30 it was perfect conditions for litter lugging! Many of our volunteers clean up the park whenever they come and several people remarked on how clean the park had been recently. Thanks you to all of you, you are making a big difference! Keep it up!

Thanks as well to the Carlington Community Association for helping spread the word and for donating prizes. The bubble blowers were a real hit with the kids, and let’s hope all those wild flower seeds take root!

Record turnout

For the second time in three years, Owen Clarkin, Chair of Conservation of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club, shared his tree-identifying expertise and enthusiasm at the Tree Discovery Walk. Watch video of some of the walk on our Facebook page.

Almost 60 people turned out to learn more about Carlington’s trees. Many had never been to the park before and even some who lived nearby had no idea that such a rich, urban forest was right on their doorstep.

Trees provide a window into history

Owen explained that the area was predominantly limestone with alkaline soil, so it’s perfect for a wide variety of deciduous tree species. Conifers would have traditionally grown in this area as well, but were likely cut down in favour of other, more economically valuable trees. Just west of Carlington Park is an old limestone quarry, now a city snow dump.

The Clyde Woods, where the majority of the walk took place, has had many uses over the years, including as farm or pasture land and as a woodlot. One of Carlington’s long-time residents said that livestock were once driven through the area to the Experimental Farm lands to the east.

The presence of ironwood seems to prove it. Ironwood is very slow growing but is the densest and hardest wood of any native tree species. Owen noted that it’s often a hold-over tree from where cow herds were pastured or raised.

Rich biodiversity

Owen pointed out sugar maple, slippery elm, butternut, bitternut hickory, ironwood, and birch. There were some rock elms, but many were dead or dying. Owen, who grows rock elms, has offered to donate some seedlings to help reintroduce them to the Clyde Woods. Friends of Carlington Hill has accepted Owen’s offer. If you’re interested in volunteering for this project, let us know: friendsofcarlingtonhill@gmail.com.

We always want to have a variety of species because we don’t know what may be at risk next. City forests help ensure biodiversity.

Owen Clarkin

Other elm species (slippery, Siberian, American) were ravaged by Dutch elm disease in the 1960s through the 1980s but are making a limited comeback. “About 30% of elms survive Dutch elm disease,” said Owen. “They’ll probably shake it off eventually, but rock elms are on life support.”

White ash trees are in even worse shape. They are critically endangered. The species has been virtually wiped out by the emerald ash borer, a beetle native to Asia. There, ash trees have learned to co-exist with the bug; not so their Canadian cousins. The small saplings that continue to come up are safe from the insect while young, but are at very high risk as they grow.

Lest we forget the smaller plants Owen also pointed out many spring ephemerals that grow in areas like this, including bloodwort, trout lily, and trillium. These young spring plants only appear for a few weeks then disappear back into the soil. We’ve got more information on spring ephemerals and lots more on our Facebook page. Or follow us on Twitter @CarlingtonHill.