Ottawa’s Best Park?

Stephen Brathwaites hauntingly beautiful play structure in Strathcona Park.

Stephen Brathwaite's hauntingly beautiful play structure in Strathcona Park.

It’s May 1st today, often regarded as being the unofficial start of summer and warm weather, especially for postsecondary students such as myself, for whom today marks the beginning of the period between the winter and fall semesters.

With that in mind, I thought today would be a great time to launch the search for Ottawa’s best park (or parks). I’m going to leave this post open to nominations for a few weeks, and then I’ll go around to as many of them as I can, take pictures and write about them—if I get a lot of nominees, some will have to be dropped, because I only have so much time!

So please, tell me: what are your favourite parks in Ottawa? It can be a well-known one, like Strathcona, Dundonald or Major’s Hill, or it can be something a little more obscure, like Cathcart Square Park, a beautiful little bit of green space tucked on the northern end of Cumberland Street. Suburban or urban, I want to hear about them all.

I’m going to leave nominations open until May 22nd, so please, comment and let me know what you think.

11 Responses to “Ottawa’s Best Park?”

  1. May 1, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    i’m calling shenanigans … i SWEAR i’ve read this post before LOL

    • 2 David McClelland
      May 1, 2009 at 5:15 pm

      I can’t say I’ve heard of that particular park… :p

      Seriously, though, similar things have been done by others (David Reevely at the Citizen did this sort of thing to find Ottawa’s worst bus route and worst intersection), but so far as I know no one has done this kind of thing for Ottawa’s parks. And if someone has, well… I’ll just run my own version!

  2. May 1, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    This park process is a good one. I personally feel a bit sad each time I go by Strathcona Park because it reminds me of the lost opportunities over on my side of town. About 27 years ago the city was reconstructing the Somerset Viaduct over the (now)O-Train track. The railings on the side of the road were beautiful cash aggregate arched openings under a heavy top rail. The city insisted on replacing them with steel pipes. I suggested that they be relocated to Primrose Park, which was still in the planning stages then, to be used as an animating feature, play structure, balance beams, tot lot walls, or whatever. A bit like an outdoor architectural museum, or Kingsmere follies. The Alderman at the time, Rolf Hassenack, was horrified. The City protested they would be unsafe. Instead we got a fairly interesting park concept, albeit with a pond feature that never worked and still collects garbage and is a mess, and a the city has consistently shown its inability to maintain the park & its function the way the original designer planned it.

    Since then, the City replaced similar but rather ugly poured in place concrete railings on the Bank Street bridge over the canal, and gave itself an award for heritage preservation. And in Strathcona Park – architectural ruins were put in place and the City once again gave itself an award. For the 35 years I have lived here, the City has always shown its class bias: active, affluent neighborhoods get neat things, poorer neighborhoods get leftovers. This is as true for parks as for schools, roads, tree planting, etc.

  3. 4 Chris B
    May 3, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    To veer off topic, I am not sure which is more important – active or affluent… (and of course the two feed into each other to a certain extent) I heard that they wanted to replace the Bank Street bridge, but it was sustained community pressure that forced the city to keep it aesthetically pleasing. Whereas if it is just Eric arguing something, well, he can be dismissed because he is only one vote. And activity and affluence are no help in trying to get a second footbridge across the canal (at a tenth the price of the Strandherd bridge)

    Back to parks. I find the question very hard, but visually my favourite park is Dundonald Park. It is the most “east-coast” city park, and just gives me such a nice feeling whenever I see it.

  4. May 3, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    haha no, i seriously thought i read this post on this blog before. i ALSO feel as though i dreamed it before. i’m likely becoming psychic.

  5. May 4, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I’ve always been a big fan of the Park of the Provinces, across from the National Library and Archives. It’s water/light features are beautiful and the trees give just the right shade giving a fantastic atmosphere to the park. It also sits at the perch of the hill so it has a nice view to the west. It might not be the best for all types of park recreation but then again it doesn’t have a whole lot of residential around it either. The failure of lebreton flats to the west of it has made the park something much more isolated and idyllic then it originally was supposed to be I think (since it’s been there for over 3 decades waiting for the NCC to give it some neighbours). This can be a good and a bad thing.

    I also like the rear courtyard of the old city hall on green island as well for the exact same reasons. Beautiful water/light features, very isolated, unfulfilled plans, etc but stunning in the day and nighttime regardless.

    Also I think the open lawn/empty lot at the corner of bronson and queen(the one that really over looks onto the west) would be a phenomenal place for a contemporary park. Anyone know the status of that site? Right now it seems like it might be designated as some kind of park because it’s just grass with a fence along the cliff and 1 or 2 benches looking west.

  6. May 4, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I’d like to add also that at the other end of the scale, Lansdowne park and Central park both have the potential to be among Ottawa’s best parks. Both however have been entirely neglected and under-appreciated for decades despite their frequent use, excellent locations and deep history. Central park could become a principle hub of the centertown bike path network and begin to reanimate/reunite the entire neighboorhood from dow’s like directly accross to old Ottawa-east.(given another pedestrian bridge[unlikely])

  7. 10 WJM
    May 23, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    The tiny parkette down the stairs behind the Supreme Court. Seating! Shade! Seclusion! A VIEW! Made out of awesome.

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