So if you live south of Riverdale and east of Avenue Road do you live in Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East or Rideau Garden(s)? While it’s a question that has no importance in terms of passport requirements, taxes, or services, it is a question that gets raised periodically.
“Constitutionally speaking” − in terms of community associations but not of the Constitution Act of 1982 − the answer seems pretty straightforward. The Old Ottawa East Community Association constitution defines OOE as including the triangle bounded by Riverdale, Avenue, and Main.
And the OSCA bylaws are similar except they specifically note, “Residents of the area bounded by Avenue Road, Riverdale Avenue and Main Street are deemed to reside in Old Ottawa South upon the payment of Association membership fees,” which is to say OOS residency is readily available to those in the “triangle below Riverdale.” Indeed, now, OSCA membership is free unlike that of OOECA which costs an exorbitant $3 a year.
Historically speaking − at least as OOE historian Rick Wallace documents it − the disputed territory (or the “DMZ” − demilitarized zone − for those who push the humour on this issue) − was part of the original Ottawa East. But over time with the conversion of farmland to Ottawa’s first suburbs the linkages to Ottawa South were built.
At one point Avenue Road served as the boundary between the wards that subsequently included Old Ottawa East and Old Ottawa South and this boundary was kept in the initial formulations of the two community associations.
However, during the development of the Old Ottawa East community design plan the disputed triangle was excluded without protest from OOE residents. “The Avenue Road separation seemed very artificial as a boundary,” says OOE resident and long-time community association treasurer Don Fugler. “At the time of the Community Development Plan (CDP) I think the consensus was to recognize the reality of the south of Riverdale indifference to the OOECA and let them be part of the Ottawa South community if that were their preference.”
OOECA does not conduct its annual membership drive in the triangle below Riverdale so that there are few members from this area. Also, the OOE Mainstreeter is delivered to only three of the seven streets in the disputed territory while the OSCAR goes to all of them.
Michael Jenkin, president of OSCA for many years, notes, “Since I was on the Board (1998) we have more or less assumed that most people in the area affiliated with OOS … The reason we assumed this, I think, is the relative proximity of the area to the Firehall, relative to OOE’s centre [Old Town Hall at Hawthorne and Main], and the fact that most people if they were going to drive, ride or walk somewhere would be encouraged by the street network/pattern to go west to Bank Street, which is the closest concentration of retail and services for that section of the neighbourhood.”
However, the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study (ONS) which provides demographic detail on Ottawa’s communities, further complicated the boundary issue. ONS originally set the boundary at Clegg Street meaning that the new footbridge would not just be of use to OOS residents but would actually be in OOS.
For the last four years OOECA has been attempting to have the ONS boundary fixed and recently ONS seems to have adjusted its map so that the boundary is consistent with the community associations’ constitution and bylaws. That said, the related demographic data appear to be still determined by Census tracts 15 and 16 which are split by Clegg Street.
Then there is the question of just how “Rideau Garden” fits into the geography. Originally, Rideau Garden (not “Gardens”!) was the Williams family’s very productive 39 acre garden to the west of Main Street and south of what is now Riverdale. When the property was subdivided for residential lots it kept the name Rideau Garden.
Now, with an “s” added, Rideau Gardens is a real estate term and, as per information from local real estate agent Jeff Hooper, the boundaries are shown as south of Riverdale, with Bank to the west and Main on the east.
Mr. Hooper notes that from a real estate perspective he also includes the Brantwood Park neighbourhood of OOE as part of Rideau Gardens. And, interestingly, “Rideau Garden Drive” is east of Main even though the original Rideau Garden was strictly on the west side of Main.
In the end the boundaries don’t matter because there is no legal status attached to them. And the 400 or so residents in the disputed territory can readily participate in programs run by OOE’s Community Activities Group or OSCA.
Perhaps one day somebody will have the energy to run a referendum to determine once and for all what community the disputed territory should belong to. In the meantime the residents there can keep their dual citizenship.
Or, as humorously suggested by OOS resident Kathy Krywicki, “If we'd amalgamate we could be Old Ottawa, no cardinal points required, and rival the great and mighty Glebe!”
John Dance is an OOE resident according to the OOECA constitution but an OOS resident according to the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study’s original boundaries.
Originally published in the January 2018 OSCAR.