Improving the grounds of Parliament Hill
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About the grounds of Parliament Hill
As the centre of our democracy, the Parliamentary Precinct is a national treasure and a tourist destination. Its buildings and grounds must continue to be a safe, welcoming and meaningful place for Canadians and visitors.
The Parliament Hill grounds are the setting for national celebrations, demonstrations and public ceremonies. More than 1.5 million visitors enjoy the grounds every year.
Parliament Hill escarpment project
The escarpment is one of Parliament Hill's most visible and significant heritage assets. The steep slope behind Parliament Hill was once made up of a healthy mixed forest of:
- white pine
- sugar maple
Over time, fast-growing invasive plants with large canopies filled the space. These invasive plants prevented local trees and shrubs from growing. As a result of this imbalance, the barren slope allowed the soil to erode and made the ground unstable. This caused serious health and safety concerns and increased the risk of landslides onto public pathways. As a result, we are restoring the Parliament Hill escarpment to its natural forested state.
Restoring the North Slope
In 2021, we revitalized the forest of the North Slope to make it more diverse with local trees and shrubs. This helps to:
- stabilize the soil
- restore lost colours and contrasts
- improve the forest’s chances of survival against disease and insect infestation
- make it safer for all Parliament Hill visitors
Working with experts in forestry, geology and environmental biology, we carried out a successful pilot project in 2015 to reforest the eastern section of the escarpment. Following the success of the pilot project, we extended the work to the remainder of the slope.
The new plantings provide benefits to the escarpment and will serve to stabilize the soil. The plantings also diversify the ecosystem and help conserve escarpment wildlife. Mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians live on the escarpment and will benefit from the native plants.
- addressed potential health and safety issues due to soil erosion
- protected and preserved the natural forested state of the escarpment
- preserved the last section of the remnants of Lovers’ Walk
- stabilized the section of the retaining wall near the new public washroom on the plateau
The project was done in 2 phases.
The first phase of the project was planned around the nesting season. Work was completed in March 2021. In this phase, we:
- pruned the canopies of some invasive trees, such as Norway maple, which have aggressive roots and big canopies that produce shade and make it difficult for other plants to grow; and,
- removed dead trees and some invasive vegetation such as Japanese Knotweed, and Common Buckthorn, which spread rapidly and threaten native plant communities.
The second phase was completed in 2021. In this phase, we:
- removed invasive shrubs and smaller plants
- planted about 36,500 new trees, shrubs and plants
- stabilized the remnants of the Lovers’ Walk on the Parliament Hill slope
Of the 36,500 plants, approximately 2,500 are deciduous trees, 2,900 are coniferous trees, 5,900 are large shrubs and the balance are small shrubs and plants. Native plant species were selected for their suitability to the slopes growing conditions. For example, white cedar trees have shallow root systems specially adapted to grow on slopes; and, low bush honeysuckle establishes very quickly, which also helps to stabilize the slope.
In future years, we will maintain and monitor the slope to ensure the long-term success of the reforestation.
Video: Restoring the escarpment for future generations
Watch this video to learn how we reforested the north slope behind Parliament Hill.
Other completed projects
The Parliament Hill grounds have undergone several changes since Confederation. In the last decade, we also:
- rebuilt the Victoria Lookout, behind the Parliament buildings, to give visitors a bird's-eye view of the Ottawa River
- improved security features, such as installing bollards and infilling the heritage wall at the east and west gates
- cleaned the stone wall and repaired the walkway that runs along the edge of Parliament Hill
- renewed the west slope stairs, thereby beautifying the grounds of the Parliamentary Precinct and making it safer
Landscaping will be improved as part of the construction projects currently underway. Although the grounds are accessible to everyone, some areas may become unreachable as these projects continue.
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