The Carlington Summit

Dear Editor:

Eric Moore's letter (Carlington Summit, March 2001) contains many factual errors that will confuse your readers.

1. In the first place, he implies that the Central Experimental Farm was never a botanic garden. Yet William Saunders and W.T. Macoun, writing in a government report in 1899 “When the Central Experimental Farm was established at Ottawa in 1886, it was decided that a portion of the land purchased, consisting of sixty-five acres out of a total of four hundred and sixty-five, should be devoted to the purposes of an Arboretum and Botanic Garden,....” Since 1886, annual reports of the department document the development of the Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

In other words, a botanic garden is embedded in the heritage of the Farm.

2. The Commemorative Integrity Statement, the basis on which the Farm received Historic Site designation, calls for programmes to promote the heritage nature of the area. To date, little has been done. Our proposal takes up this challenge and proposes three such programmes. We are in the process of printing a consultant study on the heritage of the area which will go into more detail.

3. The Society is criticized for not taking an active part in the maintenance of the arboretum and the Ornamental Gardens. The Society itself has no legal right to interfere in the activity of the Friends of the Farm but individual members are actively involved as members of both societies or through the Ottawa Valley Rock Garden Society which maintains the rock garden, part of the Ornamental Garden.

We admire the effort the Friends are making to preserve the arboretum and the ornamental garden but are advised by professionals in the field that the task is far beyond the resources available to a volunteer organization.

4. Eric Moore is well aware that his statement “the botanic garden is proposing $30 million of construction on the Farm” is incorrect. Such expenditure is planned for land off the Farm property.

5. Again, the statement that we will be constructing parking “lots” is untrue as only one new one in our proposal and that is replacing the garbage tip. [It should be noted the Friends' 1996 proposal included three new parking lots.]

6. Finally, he claims that we would charge admission but does not point out two factors. Firstly, in our proposal the arboretum would remain free to the public as it is now and secondly, the government has called for “financially viable” proposals which means the funds for maintaining the arboretum and gardens must be generated from somewhere other than the government's coffers. We propose generating most of those funds off the Farm site in addition to some seasonal gate fees for the new botanic garden area.

We have responded to the government's request by a rational analysis of the issues and the preparation of a financially viable botanic garden proposal. We have then published this proposal and discussed it in over 140 public meetings. Eric Moore has attended many of these sessions but, when given time to make a presentation, he criticizes our proposal but never mentions what he sees as the alternative. Where is a more detailed presentation of the Friends' 1999 proposal to establish “an Arboretum and Botanic Garden of national and international prominence”? That proposal is only four pages but differs little from our more detailed proposal, except in that it lacks any financial analysis.

We have always held the view that the activities of the Friends of the Farm and our Society complement each other and are not in conflict. Individuals reflect this by being members of both societies. It is unfortunate that the Executive of the Friends maintain an adversary position despite the efforts of two independent negotiators who have tried to establish a cooperative relationship. We remain open to such cooperation and know that it will come with time.

Ian E. Efford.
Ottawa Botanical Garden Society.