What was lost when the Hunt Club Forest was felled

Community members talk to the Lookout about what Hunt Club Forest meant to them, plus your guide to Canada Day events across town.

Good morning! 

I hope everyone is getting ready for the Canada Day long weekend. I know I am excited to sit back and take some time to relax. If I feel up to it, I may check out the ceremonies at LeBreton Flats or the festivities at Clarke Fields in Barrhaven.

In this issue of the Lookout I’m taking a deep dive into the clear-cutting of a forest on Hunt Club and what community advocates are doing to try and have it replanted with native species. You can stay tuned for part two in a few weeks. I also have a list of Canada Day activities and schedule changes. 

I’ve recently written an opinion piece for the Ottawa Citizen where I challenged Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre to take a walk in this year's Capital Pride Parade. I hope he will join me; I think he'll have a good time. At a time of increasing hate and polarisation, the LGBTQ2S+ community is on edge. His physical support would certainly be appreciated. You can read the article here.

Happy reading! 

— Charlie Senack, [email protected]

Editor’s note: A bit of housekeeping for next week, because of the long weekend, there will be no Monday issue. We’ll get back to our normal schedule on Wednesday. See you then!


Friday: 22 🌡️ 23 | ☀️

Saturday: 23 🌡️ 29 | 🌧

Sunday: 23 🌡️ 27 | 🌦

Monday: 24 🌡️ 26 | ☀️

Tuesday: 25 🌡️ 28 | 🌤


Advocates fight to save Ottawa’s declining tree canopy

From left to right: Romani Bays, Judie Boland, and Carolyn Ewers are members of ‘Save Hunt Club Forest.’ Photo by Charlie Senack.

The issue: The fight to save Ottawa’s tree canopy has been on the minds and hearts of environmental activists for decades. 

But when a rare derecho touched down in the capital on May 21, 2022, it whipped out more than 2,500 trees in city parks and greenspace. The National Capital Commission was dealt an even worse fate: Over 70% of the tree canopy in the Greenbelt were toppled over, reported the Ottawa Citizen.  

With wind gusts reaching nearly 100 km/h in some parts of the city, and branches being heavy from spring rainfall, they snapped like twigs, some falling on cars and houses. Its estimated damage across Ontario cost $720 million, with the city being handed a $50-million bill for cleanup efforts. 

But it’s not just storms threatening the city’s tree canopy. Development and intensification has also resulted in mature trees being lost. 

The Ottawa Lookout is doing a deep dive into how community members are responding, and what is being done to protect essential green space during a climate emergency. 

A once popular forest on Hunt Club has been cut down to make way for development. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Hunt Club Forest levelled for development 

For over half a century commuters who drove down Hunt Club Road were welcomed by the sights of towering pine trees which lined the street near Paul Anka Drive and Paul Benoit Driveway. 

The trees were planted in the 1960s to one day be used as lumber for utility poles, but their fate never came. Over the decades they became a beacon in the community, a place where children built forts and parents walked their dogs.  

In June 2021 community members were first altered to the news that the trees would be cut down to pave way for a parking lot to be used by a nearby car dealership, reported the CBC

But those plans were axed just weeks before the matter was to go before the city’s planning committee. A spokesperson for the Otto’s BMW dealership said it put the application on hold “as they continue to review the matter — ensuring the appropriate measures in regards to community and environmental processes,” reported the Ottawa Citizen

It was hoped that would mean a saved forest, but that wasn’t the case. 

The Ottawa Airport Authority, which operates the land on federally-owned property, said it was all about safety; the trees were very tall and thin and posed the risk of toppling over, reported the Ottawa Citizen

There was some confusion over how imminent the danger really was. Forester Fraser Smith, who’s consultancy firm was hired by the City of Ottawa to conduct an assessment of the Hunt Club greenspace, said he never made a recommendation to level all the trees. Instead, his direction was to do nothing or thin out the woodlands, according to CBC

Strangely enough, only about one percent of the Hunt Club Forest’s tree canopy was lost when the derecho hit despite severe damage nearby. The Hunt and Golf Club across the street lost more than 1,100 trees, reported the Ottawa Sun.

Some parts of the forest are reforesting itself. Photo by Charlie Senack.

A community in mourning

Community reaction: The cries from neighbours fell on deaf ears. Last November, the machinery moved in and one by one, the trees were cut. The area was bare within a week. Advocates from ‘Save the Hunt Club forest’ said the animals which inhabited the trees weren’t given any warning. One squirrel was still seen hanging onto a tree for dear life as the final strip was toppled. 

The Ottawa Lookout met with community activists at the now bare plantation on a sunny June day to hear their concerns and learn more about what the next steps are. 

“I loved this forest and called it home every morning. I’d walk the dog every afternoon. When I moved into the area there were big, tall, mature trees. Some fell over and rejuvenated the forest floor. They allowed animals to exist here. There were deer when we first came here. In the winter you’d see beautiful sunshine through the trees and tracks from animals in the snow. I was always at peace when you came here for rejuvenation,” Hunt Club resident Judie Boland told the Ottawa Lookout. 

Boland, who’s lived minutes from the forest since the 1970s, said since the trees were taken down, the neighbourhood has lost its natural sound buffer. The raging sound of traffic on Hunt Club is louder than ever and the engine noise from planes overhead is more noticeable. 

Carolyn Ewers, another local resident who was against the deforestation, said she joined the movement after thinking of her nine-year-old son who grew up in the bushy area. The Hunt Club resident said the COVID pandemic taught her the importance of green space on the body, mind, and soul. 

“This was murder. This was a healthy forest that had lots of wildlife. Coyotes, deer, woodpeckers, song birds. It’s been taken from them. I felt like I needed to watch every one of these trees cut down because they stood for us for over 70 years. They were there for our community and environment. We were not defeated by this. We don’t want this to ever happen again,” said Ewers. 

Development opportunities: The Ottawa International Airport has recently announced that three parcels of land — including the 10 acres on Hunt Club — “are opening up to help foster economic growth across the city,” reported the Ottawa Business Journal.

The other land development opportunities on the property include 30-acres located behind the EY Centre and 90 acres at the North Field Sector. 

Mike Vorobej surveys where 4,000 pine trees once stood off Hunt Club road. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Mike Vorobej, who’s lived in the south end of the city for almost his entire life, didn’t mince words when the Ottawa Lookout asked him for his reaction. He said a petition with 23,000 signatures is evidence that development is not welcomed on the site. 

“Right now the airport is actively marketing this land. I hope they are making it perfectly clear to prospective tenants that the community does not want them here; they are not welcome. We don’t want another store, cannabis shop or anything going in there. I don’t say this as a threat. I’m simply stating the facts,” said Vorobej. 

Next steps: The trees might be gone, but Save Hunt Club Forest members say they aren’t backing down. The land is still not paved over and remains hopeful it will be converted back into public green space. 

They are also requesting Pablo Rodriguez, the federal Minister of Transport, take a review of the land lease agreement with the Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Authority, and create a moratorium on any land clearing or development. 

“My hope really is that politically we can have some discussion. They seem to be totally immune to any contact; their ears are deaf. It’s been very frustrating to see politics at work here. Everybody wants to make money. Nobody cares about the health of humanity any more. Nobody cares when the oxygenators are cut down,” said Boland.

Hunt Club resident, artist, and musician Romani Bays wrote a song about the deforestation of her communities once popular greenspace.

Coming soon: In two weeks we’ll have Charlie’s second part of this feature exploring how the National Capital Commission is dealing with its bare forests, and a grassroots community group that is replanting an urban tree canopy.

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💰 $5 million: The amount of money Capital BioVentures is getting from the federal government to boost biotechnology startups. [Ottawa Business Journal]

💴 $45 million: The price of a loan Ottawa Train Yards defaulted on resulting in a judge placing the ownership group in receivership. [Ottawa Business Journal]

💊 $4 million: The total value of drugs stolen from an Ontario pharmacy. About 245,000 hydromorphone tablets were taken over an unspecified period of time. [CBC]

🚶‍♀️ 18.6M: The number of visits reported to the ByWard Market in 2023. That’s compared to 25.6 million visits in 2019. [CBC]


Take part in Canada Day celebrations this weekend!

Indigenous performances take to the main stage at Canada Day in Barrhaven on July 1, 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Capital party: There will be a sea of red and white across the Nation’s Capital on Monday as residents celebrate the country's 157th birthday. 

If you’re looking to take part in Canada’s biggest party, celebrations at LeBreton Flats Park begin with a daytime ceremony at 12 pm, including performances by Bedouin Soundclash and Marie-Mai, according to Heritage Canada

In the evening, a main stage performance will run from 8 pm to 10 pm Canadian talent includes performances by: Chromeo, Corneille, FouKi, Kanen, Kiesza, Maestro Fresh Wes, Metric, Neon Dreams, Notorious Cree, Qattuu, Sara Dufour and Willows.

The festivities will wrap up with a 15-minute firework display at 10 pm. They can also be seen from neighbouring streets in the area. There are no official celebrations at Parliament Hill again this year due to the ongoing restoration and construction.. 

Government of Canada

Note: Dogs are prohibited to enter. You also cannot bring alcohol, firearms, bombs, fireworks, scooters, or segways into the Canada Day festivities at LeBreton Flats. 

Look up: If you looked up to the skies on Wednesday, you might have seen and heard the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds squadron flying overhead. They were practicing for “Parade in the sky,” a 20-minute performance occurring on July 1, said the Ottawa Citizen

The “largest flypast” will take place at 1:00 p.m. It will travel from the city’s east end to to the west, starting near the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and continuing west over Parliament Hill and LeBreton Flats. You should be able to catch a glimpse from wherever you are in the city. 

Snowbirds do a flyover of Ottawa on June 26, 2024 ahead of Canada Day celebrations. This photo was taken near Cotter’s Cresent in Hunt Club. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Canada Day in Barrhaven: Despite financial pressures, Canada Day in Barrhaven has launched its biggest midway run yet, with the main festivities occurring all day on July 1. The day will start at Clarke Fields Park with a family breakfast and end with music and a firework show. There will also be a vendor village and KidsZone, reported the Barrhaven Independent

Canada Day in Kanata: On June 30 and July 1, over 30,000 people are expected at Walter Baker Park off Terry Fox Drive for the annual Canada Day party in Kanata. Live bands, a carnival, family fun zone, a beautiful display of fireworks are all part of the action. You can read more on the festival's website.

Other festivities are taking place in Dunrobin, Greely, Orleans, Osgoode, Riverside South, Stittsville, and Trend Arlington. The City of Ottawa has a full list here

Service changes: OC Transpo will run on a Sunday schedule with extra trips on busy routes. Service will be free all day on July 1. O-Train Line 1 will run between 6 am and 2 am. Garbage pickup will be delayed by a day all week. 

All City of Ottawa services including libraries, art centres, and municipal childcare centres will also be closed. Community centres will be closed but most arenas and sports facilities will be open. Lifeguards will be on duty at city beaches and pools. 

 Admission is free to all Ottawa museums which will be open on July 1. 

You can read all Canada Day service changes on the City of Ottawa website here

If you’re looking to go shopping at an Ottawa mall for some last-minute red and white gear, the Rideau Centre and Tanger Outlets will be open. The Rideau Centre Farm Boy and Whole Foods at Lansdowne will also be open for your grocery needs. 


🏥 Alex Munter, the longtime CEO of the CHEO, has announced he’s leaving the position after 13 years. The former politician and journalist was the longest serving person to sit in the role. Munter will begin a new job as CEO of the Canadian Medical Association. [CTV]

🎶 It’s sad news for music fans. Neil Young and Crazy Horse have cancelled an upcoming show at Ottawa Bluesfest due to illness. In their place, The Offspring will headline the RBC Stage with supporting acts Silverstein and Cancer Bats. [Ottawa Citizen]

👮‍♂️ Ottawa Police have charged a 48-year-old man for uttering threats against Coun. Stephanie Plante. The Rideau-Vanier representative said the “very scary” emails were sent to her because she’s francophone. It comes at a time politicians are being subjected to increased threats. [CBC] 

🏥 The province of Ontario has appointed a supervisor to oversee Renfrew's hospital after “concerning financial practices” were found during a review. The 55-bed hospital will be led by Altaf Stationwala who will "strengthen its governance, accountability, and ability to deliver the best possible care to Ontarians,” said the province's health ministry. [CTV]

🅿️ Residents who are looking to shop in Westboro or Wellington West will likely need to pay for parking come spring 2025. The city’s transportation committee approved a plan which will see a parking rate of $3 per hour. Kitchissippi Coun.Jeff Leiper urged the issue to be held until LRT was fully up and running. The full city council will still need to pass the measure. [CTV]

🏒 The Ottawa Senators have released a new team jersey that will be in rotation next season. The black-coloured jersey includes "new shoulder fabric" that "furnishes a sleeker look" and also has a new "NHL holographic shield on the front neck." [The Hockey News]

💡 Hydro Ottawa said a massive investment from all levels of government is needed in its grid to keep up with the demand for electricity. The group, owned by the city, will need to build a new substation every year compared to every five like before. The situation has become more dire after facing extensive damage from various storms in recent years. [CBC]

🇮🇱 Ottawa Police are investigating after a red triangle was painted on a sign outside of an Ottawa Jewish school. The upside down symbol is seen as a target to many in the Jewish community, but some counter protesters see it as a sign of resistance. From Oct. 7, 2023 until the end of that year, 71 hate-crimes have been reported in Ottawa. [Kitchissippi Times]

⚡ The Ontario government has announced it plans to spend $1 billion to refurbish eight hydro generating stations in eastern Ontario. During an announcement in Ottawa, Energy Minister Stephen Lecce said it will create over 500 jobs. [CTV]


What to do this weekend

🦖 Jurassic Park in Concert, Thursday to Saturday: Watch the classic blockbuster accompanied by a full orchestra. At the NAC. Tickets start at $15.

🏉 Canada vs Scotland | TD Place, Ottawa | July 6th, 5pm | Don't miss the biggest rugby battle of the summer! Scotland, the 6th best team in world rugby plays on home soil | Buy Now! [Sponsored]

🎭 An Act of Grace, until Saturday: The Ottawa Little Theatre presents this award-winning suspenseful dark comedy. At 400 King Edward Ave. Tickets $30

🎉 White Rabbit Block Party, Saturday to Sunday: Centretown Bank hosts an annual series of highly-acclaimed summer block parties on Bank Street, bringing Ottawa's underground dance community together in an exciting outdoor environment. At Snider Plaza at Bank & Slater St. Tickets start at $23.

🪁 Multicultural food and kite festival, Saturday:  Colourful kites will be flying in the sky all day long at this Kite and Food Festival, come celebrate Indian culture with lots of joy, energy and kites. Enjoy vegetarian food and music! At Wesley Clover Parks, 401 Corkstown Rd. Free.

☕️ Advanced - Latte Art & Milk Based Coffee, Saturday 11:30 am: Learn the techniques of latte art with experts from Little Victories Coffee. At Chef's Paradise, 1314 Bank St. Tickets $102.

💃 PDTO 40th Anniversary Showcase, Saturday 6:30 pm: Celebrate four decades of the Philippine Dance Troupe of Ottawa with an epic showcase. At Kailash Mital Theatre, 1125 Colonel By Dr. Tickets $35

🎷 Afro Jazz with the John Dapaah Quartet, Saturday 7:30 pm: A night of soulful rhythms and infectious beats. At First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, 30 Cleary Ave. Tickets $39.

🇨🇩 CongoFest, Sunday 12 pm: Enjoy great music, dance, delicious food and more, celebrating the richness of Congolese culture, all raising money for Mes Culottes Nita. At the Terry Fox Athletic Facility, 2960 Riverside Dr. Donations accepted.

  • Ottawa’s own Kathleen Edwards rocked the stage at Ottawa Jazz Fest. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • The Aurorean is a free publication delivering the most interesting science news directly to your inbox. Try it for free today. [Sponsored]

  • Here is a list of beaches where you can swim in Ottawa this summer [Ottawa Citizen]

  • Check out this private lake located in Rockcliffe Park. [CBC]

  • Here is a list of summertime activities you can do in Ottawa this summer. [Kitchissippi Times]

  • Local thrift stores reflect on the popularity of the sustainable trend. [Kitchissippi Times]

  • Want to have your announcement featured? Learn how here.


Congrats to Adam, Marc, Janet, Jennifer, and Myra who all knew this week’s Ottawa Guesser was of Our Lady of the Airways Chapel.

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