Pinecrest Creek Project

City of Ottawa map of Pinecrest Creek


Imagine your community discussing design options for its future – options that could meet both its natural and human needs – well before any development proposals have been made. That is exactly what happened in the Britannia – Lincoln Fields area of Ottawa in a project that was the brainchild of the Azrieli School of Architecture at Carleton University.

OBEC supported Carleton in the ‘Pinecrest Creek Project’, with help from the City of Ottawa and Algonquin College. The results were:

  • an engaging public meeting where community residents spent time ‘living in a sustainable future’;
  • Thoughtful ideas for development and remediation of natural problems.

Pinecrest Creek flows north from near Algonquin College, along the Western Parkway Corridor and on to the Ottawa River at the Britannia Conservation Area. Near Woodroffe High School it enters a culvert to pass under Carling Avenue and Lincoln Fields Bus Terminal to continue the rest of its flow underground. Residential areas along the upper half of the creek create storm water problems in the creek with their surface runoff.


Lincoln Fields will become a Light Rapid Transit (LRT) Station and this will bring intensive development with it. But the natural elements of Pinecrest Creek and the needs of the community must be considered in this development.

After five months of preparation, 15 architecture students shared ideas on community design at a public meeting at Regina Public School on 20 April 2016. Elementary students and local seniors were well represented at that meeting. In parallel to this, Civil engineering students at Algonquin College wrote proposals for remediation of Pinecrest Creek. These activities accomplished several things:

  • Architecture students got to focus their talents on a complex local issue;
  • Local residents learned much and provided input to the future of their area;
  • City officials got ideas for development and natural resource management;
  • Regina Public School added to its role as a school focused on nature, a role that later allowed it to avoid being closed despite its low population.

Highlights of the ‘Pinecrest Creek Project’ are described below.


The Sustainability Theme of Design addresses the built environment. As Leanne Kane wrote in OBEC’s discussion paper (

Woodroffe High School – OBEC photo

“How we design and build our roads, bridges, homes, institutional buildings, transportation systems and agricultural systems influence whether Ottawa becomes a sustainable city.”

All of these elements were addressed by the Carleton and Algonquin students in the ‘Pinecrest Creek Project’. Proposals addressed intensification and service needs around the future LRT Station at Lincoln Fields.

Although Design was the key Theme, the other nine Biosphere Eco-City Themes also came into play. They are included in the Vision for Pinecrest Creek summary (below).


Ottawa River by mouth of Pinecrest Creek – Photo: Ottawa Citizen

Brigitte Desrocher of the Azrieli School of Architecture approached OBEC with the following idea (paraphrased):

“Pinecrest Creek, is far from its natural state and needs to be rehabilitated all the way to its outlet at the Ottawa River. At the same time, a Light Rapid Transit (LRT) Station at Lincoln Fields will lead to intense development. We need to reconcile natural and human elements and prepare for the future. My students produce designs and your organization promotes public discussion on the Theme of Design. Let’s help the public consider options, before any development proposals have been made.”

Elina Elnione, an urban planner, led an OBEC team to support Brigitte and her students. Soon the City of Ottawa and Algonquin College were also part of the project. City Planner, Alain Miguelez hosted meetings on planning and engineering aspects of Pinecrest Creek. Professor Eslam Alhogaraty gave a term assignment to his Water and Wastewater Treatment class to find storm water management solutions for Pinecrest Creek (solutions summarized below).


  • Pinecrest Creek runs several km Northwest to the Ottawa River
  • It drains an area of 1920 ha, which contains 20 residential neighbourhoods
  • It is the most urbanized watershed in Ottawa
  • Rapid storm water runoff overwhelms stream capacity
  • From Lincoln Fields it runs underground, and has lost its natural qualities


  • Areas around LRT stations will have intensive development
  • The majority of residents are seniors and low-income families
  • Seniors like the idea of “aging in place” and want to stay
  • Children will need local recreational opportunities
  • Access to nature will be needed for the area’s expected population
  • Creating a sense of place here will be important too


Regina Street School children at Mud Lake – Ottawa Citizen photo

Principal Robert James welcomed everyone to Regina Public School, which is focused on nature and provides stewardship for the adjoining Mud Lake and Britannia Conservation Area. The Carleton University architecture students then used slides and models to propose development options for the area. Almost all of their proposals were well liked by the audience, and lively discussion followed.

Design was the key Theme But the other nine Biosphere Eco-City Themes also came into play. Here is a summary of presentations and comments, by Theme:


  • Build a green-roofed seniors residence with walking & bird viewing areas
  • Plant trees throughout for human health and animal habitat
  • Put stores and services on first floors of high-rise accommodation
  • Create a futuristic high-rise shopping centre (concern about size)
  • Create an Algonquin Health Science Complex with student and senior mixed residences (seniors liked the idea);
  • Build a viewing area, shaped like a comma, by the Ottawa River
  • Give community associations access to plans & drawings (audience idea)
  • Include the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority in planning
  • Have Ottawa Riverkeeper promote the design (audience idea)

Natural Capital

  • Daylight the creek (bring it all to the surface) and make it more natural
  • Create green space along the creek
  • Bring people to the edge of the natural environment to view nature
  • Put wheelchair accessible viewing platforms at Mud Lake (audience idea)
  • Keep the neighbourhood green (audience idea)


  • Maintain Pinecrest Creek and the Ottawa River for wildlife habitat
  • Make ponds more natural (audience idea)
  • Make Pinecrest Creek a meandering stream to increase species diversity


  • Put a walking path under Carling Ave and along the Pinecrest Creek
  • Separate pathways for high speed and slower cycling


  • Build a large recreation centre between the high school & creek
  • Ensure children have easy access to the outdoors


  • Put rooftop gardens on commercial & residential buildings
  • Plant community gardens near the creek
  • Enable small scale commercial farming in green space


  • Install swales to clean and absorb surface water
  • Manage garbage in neighbourhood better (audience idea)


  • Provide opportunities to spend time in natural settings improving health
  • Separate vehicle & pedestrian traffic for greater safety


  • Have all services available locally to reduce time and energy needs
  • Reduce intensity of street lighting (audience idea)

Sense of Place

  • Make it a nice place to visit to attract people to the area
  • Create more play areas to help children feel they belong (audience idea)


Architecture students – Azrieli School of Architecture at Carleton University

While the architectural presentations to the public were taking place, students from Algonquin College’s Water and Wastewater Treatment class were handing in their term assignments on ways to improve storm water management for Pinecrest Creek. Their proposals, included the following remedies:

1. Building solutions

  • Permeable pavers to allow rainfall to soak into the ground
  • Downspout redirection to allow rainfall to soak into the ground
  • Green Roofs to reduce water runoff
  • Lawn & fertilizer management to keep water clean
  • Rain barrels and rain gardens to reduce runoff

2. Public water management solutions

  • Street narrowing to reduce water runoff
  • Infiltration trenches to allow rainfall to soak into ground
  • Grass swales to allow rainfall to soak into ground
  • Street cleaning to reduce pollutants going into the creek
  • Oil and grit separators at places of inflow to the creek
  • Trees to stabilize the banks of the creek
  • Natural grass beside creek to slow water runoff
  • Rocks along the creek to protect it from erosion
  • Ponds to slow water speed and improve water quality

    Algonquin College – green roof on ACCE Building


The ‘Pinecrest Creek Project’ was an innovative idea. Here are some possible ways to build on it.

  • Use the vision presented in the project to plan for development by 2015
  • Return Pinecrest Creek to a more natural form
  • Encourage public and private improvements for storm water management
  • Make Pinecrest Creek an example of harmony of people and nature
  • Apply this process for long range integrated planning to other areas