I like my neighbourhood. Built during the post-war boom in the 1940’s, Manor Park is a fairly typical urban community, with nice tree-lined streets and an interesting mix of single-family homes, green space, and lower-income community housing.
There are a lot of cool things about my part of town. It’s just a five minute walk down to the RCMP stables, where the boys can go visit the horses after dinner. We can walk over to the Canadian Aviation Museum to explore the collection and watch planes take off. There are a number of paths that offer easy access to the Ottawa River, and the nearby Rockcliffe Parkway is closed on Sunday mornings for family bike outings.
I like walking down to Manor Park Grocery, where Nick has manned the counter for 40 years. The Dairy Queen turns 50 this year, and you can usually run into someone you know while waiting for a cookie dough blizzard. The strip mall around the corner has changed – the adult video store and the bingo hall moved out, and The Works and a children’s consignment store moved in. Whether that’s an improvement is a matter of personal opinion.
But do you know what this idyllic neighbourhood really needs?
Trucks. Thousands and thousands of big, loud, carbon monoxide-spewing 18-wheelers. The city wants to build a four-lane bridge and highway on the edge of Manor Park that would become the new truck route for goods traveling between Ontario and Quebec. According to the experts, who looked at about ten sites along the river, Kettle Island and our neighbourhood is the best place to build it. In fact, it’s the only location now being considered.
While the highway would literally run through our backyard, my disbelief about the proposal is not a “Not in My Backyard” reaction. I just don’t understand how 1,800 trucks a day fit into our urban environment. I don’t understand why citizens should have to sacrifice the best aspects of our community – cultural institutions, parks, wetlands – when other, less-destructive options are available. As one urban planning expert said, “This is almost the least appropriate place to take a major vehicle thoroughfare through the urban fabric”.
I recognize Ottawa has a major transportation issue. It’s insane that huge trucks have to navigate our downtown streets to get to the highway, and it’s a problem that has required a solution for decades. However, inflicting this problem on another community four kilometres down the street appears incredibly short-sighted and frankly, more than a little cruel.
So, the next phase of the process begins. The environmental assessments will take place over the next two years. Letters are being written, protests are being planned, and intense lobbying will take place. Perhaps a rare species of frog will be found in the wetland bordering the proposed corridor and the bridge will be shelved. Perhaps the politicians will remember that great cities put people first, not industry.
Or, perhaps I should have my realtor’s phone number on speed dial.
For more information on this issue, you can visit www.stopthebridge.org