I wrote this in response to a comment by Ottawa Bike Guy on Eric Darwin’s most excellent West Side Action blog

Really? The best thing about Ottawa is the NCC Parks? Ottawa is thrice blessed by having three waterways run straight through it’s centre (4, if you count the Gatineau). Yet, with the terrible exceptions of the NAC’s Le Cafe (terribly expensive), and the Canal Ritz (just awful), there is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Every other city that is similarly blessed has vibrant waterfront promenades that are enlivened by patios, shops, restaurants, promenades, and life! What do we get? Parks. Miles and miles of parks.

To add insult to that particular injury, these are not nice parks, they’re not the secluded hideaways from urban life that parks should be. No, they have stupid “Parkways” running through them. The intent was to have people be able to do scenic Sunday drives on them. If there was ever an idea that is both backwards and stupid, that’s it.

Those “Parkways” have become yet another way for drivers to get from point A to point B 5 seconds faster than some other useless road. Even the proprietor here calls the Ottawa River Parkway, the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. Nobody’s done a “Scenic Drive on them since about 10 minutes after they ripped out the trees and laid asphalt down.

“But,” you say “what about the greenbelt?” To which I respond, “Oh, you mean those farms that were meant to reign in urban sprawl?” from my desk in Kanata. Yeah, that was a HUGE success. Now we’re ripping up ecologically sensitive forests, and much needed farmland outside of the city limits, so that the NCC can play landlord, badly I might add, to a bunch of ignorant city people who want to run a farm downtown.

But, you’re absolutely right. Kingsmere and Gatineau park was a good idea.

UPDATE: Dennis Van Staalduinen also tried to defend the NCC, and earned my wrath 

“Real public space”, like Lebreton Flats (moonscape), or Moffat Farm(suburban subdivision), or The Daly building (condos), or Sparks St (No comment necessary, really)? Really the successes of the NCC almost seem like accidents compared to the astounding failures we see around us every day.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the NCC. I’m able to bike 24 kms to work almost exclusively on NCC pathways from downtown to Kanata, but every time I travel to another city, I see the shortcomings of Ottawa, and when I see more of the same old bureaucratic nonsense here, I just want to weep.

Parks especially make me turn into URBAN PLANNING HULK! In Ottawa, the default solution for any urban planning problem seems to be “More Parks! We should put a park there”, even though Ottawa already has a ton of parks, and they’re all terrible.

Prospect Park and Central Park in NYC, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Hyde Park in London, Villa Borghese and Villa Ada in Rome. Those are parks. What has the NCC got? Major’s Hill? The Garden of the Provinces? Useless. Absolutely useless.

Along my daily commute there are vast areas which *could* be nice, except for the huge four lane expressway running through it. Oddly enough, the nicest area, and the area where I usually stop if I’m so inclined is the city-run Britannia park.

Even Gatineau Park pales in comparison to the GGNRA, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

The NCC has been screwing up for 50 or 60 years now. Why do we keep banging our head up against that wall, hoping for them to do something right for once?

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09 July 2012