You have to hand it to the folks in Kanata for not allowing themselves to be easily bulldozed by proposed plans to transform their wide-open golf course greens into new housing.
They instead organized a fundraising gala, held Wednesday at the Brookstreet Hotel, as part of their dedicated efforts to preserve as urban greenspace the 175-acre Kanata Golf and Country Club.
The sold-out evening was held in support of the Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition (KGPC), a citizens action group formed last year and chaired by retired businesswoman Barbara Ramsay. The gala was led by the head of the coalition’s events committee, Jenna Fyfe.
The dinner attracted 430 people, including neighbours, friends and work colleagues, who broke bread together at tables decorated with young seedlings as their centrepieces and named after neighbourhood streets. Corks were successfully sold as part of a wine wall that gave away 100 donated bottles, including a few high-end vintages.
The evening won the support of local businesses through their donation of prizes, silent and live auctions, and the buying of corporate tables. Among the items up for grabs were a one-week stay at a sweet pad in the Alsace region of France, an oil painting done by the late John Mlacak, vacation time at a luxury oceanfront condo in Costa Rica, and tickets for a primo night at a Senators' game.
“It’s been amazing to see how supportive everyone has been,” Fyfe told OBJ.social. “As much as you would never wish to have a situation like this, it's certainly brought the community together.”
Added Ramsay: “We’re absolutely thrilled and grateful, but we’re not surprised. The community is passionate about the issue. I see and hear the passion every day.”
One of the evening's special guests was tech titan Terry Matthews, a man who could live anywhere in the world but chooses to make his home in Kanata.
Matthews, who is the founder and chairman of Wesley Clover International, has started about 150 tech companies during his 50-odd years in Ottawa. He also owns the Brookstreet Hotel, along with The Marshes Golf Club located nearby.
"Greenspace matters to me. It was my original decision to come here. I will continue to promote it, drive it, do what I have to do."
The Wales-born entrepreneur reflected back to when he first came to Canada, and was offered a job in Ottawa at a brand new company called Microsystems International. "Do you know what really hooked me in," he asked his audience before launching into a story that involved him cruising along the Ottawa River Parkway (now called the Sir John A. MacDonald) and soaking up the summertime views. "That was it. It wasn't about the money; it was about the greenspace. It was about the environment that was around me. I decided I would take the job, and I did."
Matthews shared with his audience how he's responsible for the planting of more than 1,000 trees a year. Everyone applauded in gratitude. "Greenspace matters to me," said Matthews. "It was my original decision to come here. I will continue to promote it, drive it, do what I have to do."
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who created 10 new national parks back when he was a Liberal cabinet minister in the late '60s and early '70s, was supposed to attend and deliver some remarks on the importance of parks and greenspace in Canada. Unfortunately, he was held back in Montreal on a personal matter.
Jean Teron served as honourary co-chair of the gala with son Chris Teron, president of Teron Inc. Her husband and his father was the late Bill Teron, a well-known Ottawa developer who played a central role in shaping the community of Kanata, with a particular focus on greenspace. He passed away in 2018.
"It hardly needs to be said that Bill would be outraged at any risk to the greenspace in Kanata, his beloved Kanata," said Jean at the podium. "If news of this threat reached Bill in his grave, his shaking bones would rattle the coffin.
"Bill loved to say that nature humanizes people, nature humanizes cities."
In the audience were former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who used to live in Kanata, and his former hockey teammate Chris Phillips, who still does. Also seen was Kanata North Coun. Jenna Sudds, who has been a major champion of the coalition's cause (she received extra loud applause and cheers from the audience during the usual introduction of VIPs in the room).
In her riding, more than 50 percent of the residents work in the nearby Kanata North Tech Park, where 500-plus companies are doing business and contributing more than $13 billion to Canada’s GDP.
"I think that the greenspace in Kanata North, and the golf course in particular, is central to our community and it was planned to be that way," she told OBJ.social. "The notion of taking that away — when it was planned, and people made life decisions around it being there — is just unthinkable."
You’d have to have your head buried in the sand trap not to be aware by now of the application by ClubLink and its partner developers to create an infill subdivision in the Kanata golf course, adding 1,500 new residential units.
The City of Ottawa has turned to the courts to try and sink the development plans, based on a legal agreement from the 1980s. The coalition has received permission to participate in the litigation and is now raising money to help with legal fees.
The proposal is as popular as a weed on a putting green for the tens of thousands of residents living in Kanata Lakes and Beaverbrook. Concerns include: loss of accessible green and open spaces, environmental damage, plummeting property values, a lengthy and disruptive construction period, and an increased strain on public infrastructure.
Out to show her support was Jamie Petten, president and executive director of the Kanata North Business Association, with two of her board members: chair Vicki Coughey (Fidus Systems) and Tracy King (Martello Technologies). Spotted From BlackBerry QNX were John Wall and Grant Courville. Mayor Jim Watson arrived a little later but west-end councillors Allan Hubley, Glen Gower and Eli El-Chantiry were there, as were Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon, Conservative MPP Merrilee Fullerton, and former long-time Ottawa politician Bob Chiarelli. Retired Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson volunteered as a fundraising coordinator with the ForeverGreen Gala committee.
CazaSaikaley was among the businesses to buy a corporate table. The law firm is representing the coalition in court. Seen from the firm was its senior partner Ron Caza.
Matthews' daughter, Karen Sparks, who runs Wesley Clover Parks, was also in the crowd.
The evening's keynote speaker was world-recognized author and scientist Diana Beresford-Kroeger.
The gala was emceed by former TV personality Kurt Stoodley, who's now with RE/MAX Affiliates Realty and one of the many realtors in the room supporting the cause by buying tickets and corporate tables. "The message isn't just about Kanata North; this resonates across the capital and everywhere," Stoodley said at the podium. "We want to hang on to our greenspace, and that's what this is all about."
Fyfe says she and her husband bought their Kanata Lakes home 12 years ago because it offered them a quiet neighbourhood to raise a family. Their home backs onto the golf course, which serves as a de facto park for area residents.
“This isn’t just a square parcel of land at the edge of town,” said Fyfe. “We’re an existing community that they’re trying to blow up by putting 1,500 homes scattered throughout it.
“We absolutely love it here and we don’t want to have to move because they’re going to start blasting behind our house and destroying the neighbourhood."
Fyfe is also chairing an upcoming golf tournament in support of the KGPC. It’s taking place May 26th at The Marshes Golf Club.
“There’s no way I couldn’t help out and do what I can to try and stop this from happening,” Fyfe explained of her continued volunteer involvement. “It’s our home, it’s where we live, it’s such an important issue to us.”