A natural feature located in Cardinal Creek has been granted provincial safeguards against development following a two-year campaign by a local community association.
The southern section of the Cardinal Creek karst – a geological formation established when water runs over or through rocks and sediment for a long period of time, creating openings – has officially been recognized as an area of natural and scientific interest by Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
"We're delighted it's been finally recognized," says Sean Crossan, the Cardinal Creek Community Association's (CCCA) planning director. "We're hoping to teach kids in the community and use it as a teaching tool to show kids different types of earth science features that are there."
News of the designation came late last month, he recounts, noting MNR officials also indicated the karst is home to the province's 12th-longest cave, measuring roughly 340 metres.
After first writing the province at the beginning of last year, the community association met with MNR staff last April, Crossan continues, who visited the karst throughout last summer before making the official announcement in recent weeks.
According to ministry staff, there are two different classifications for ANSIs – earth science and life science – that can be considered significant on a local, regional or provincial level.
Cardinal Creek's karst, which is comprised of caves and streams and is likely the remnants of the former Champlain Sea, was originally taken on for a provincially-significant designation given its size and location. The area has been on the map for several years, with reports dating back to 1991 from the former township of Cumberland expressing the value of the area. "We're pleased to see the first portion, the southern portion, of the karst has been designated," continues Crossan, explaining the next step will be MNR liaising with the city and private landowners to extend that protection to the feature's northern section. "It's a two-step process."
As for the necessity of having the provincial label in place, he points to one section of east-end lands where the karst “goes into and under” that is proposed for inclusion in the urban boundary. With the boundary debate ongoing, "we believe city staff have considered that" and will potentially add a buffer area of at least 150 metres, Crossan suggests. "Any planning authority, for example the City of Ottawa, has the mandate to be consistent with provincial policies," continues Jolanta Kowalski, MNR spokesperson, of what the protection means. In the future, she explains, any site-specific development will have to adhere to the designation.
While Kowalski couldn't confirm what prompted the timing of the designation's announcement, she adds that "it usually takes around two years for the development of something like this, so I believe this one has been happening much more quickly."
After two years of work by the CCCA on the file, receiving the designation "is long-awaited good news," adds Crossan, extending his thanks to the Wright family for their long-term protection of the feature, as well as other members of the community association for their commitment to the initiative. "It was truly a team effort. Everybody did something to contribute, to make this happen."