Beaverbrook at 50: Toward a more sustainable future
Beaverbrook is turning 50 this year. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Beaverbrook is a community in Kanata well-known for its parks, tall trees, lush greenery, and exciting outcrops of the Canadian Shield. The founder of Beaverbrook, Bill Teron, was always a great lover of nature, which he featured prominently in the design of the community.
Bill Teron designed Beaverbrook around what today would be recognized as core principles of environmental, social, and financial sustainability. The heart of Beaverbrook was the Beaverbrook Mall, which housed a grocery store, pharmacy, bank, restaurant, medical offices, community centre, outdoor pool, and a beer store--all the needs of the residents were met in the core of the community. The Mall was connected to a network of paths trailing through parks and along residential streets. Mr. Teron dubbed this the "tricycle model"--everything was accessible and safe for a tricycle-riding child, and others of all ages and abilities.
Today, Kanata is home to thousands of well-paying jobs in hi-tech, clean-tech, bio-tech, and business services. When Kanata was started, Teron and local politicians actively encouraged businesses to locate in Kanata's business park. They understood the quality-of-life benefits that come with being able to live and work in the same community. This idea was counter to the trends in the mid-1960's, when bed-room communities connected by highways and arterials were the norm.
A park in Beaverbrook. EnviroCentre
Sustainability concepts are deeply engrained in Beaverbrook, which has a rich history of environmental stewardship. The first roadside collection of recyclable material in North America was started by a small group of Beaverbrook residents sitting at a kitchen table. In fact, Beaverbrook is the birthplace of the Blue Box. Kanata Pollution Probe was founded by a Beaverbrook resident in 1973. Later, Kanata Environmental Network (KEN) formed and was an early and effective proponent for the ban on cosmetic pesticides. Volunteers from KEN also worked hard to promote sustainable living in Kanata through workshops on topics like solar panels, local food, and energy conservation.
In the 50 years since Beaverbrook was established, Kanata has grown up around it, and Beaverbrook is facing some challenges. The grocery store and most services moved away 15 years ago. They are now located across six-lane roads or in big box malls like Kanata Centrum, and are difficult to access without a car. Even the Ottawa Public Library moved from the centre to the periphery, where it is disconnected from the pathways used by those living in Beaverbrook. Many older Beaverbrook residents miss the Mall, not only for its convenience, but also because it was the place where one would bump into neighbours and friends to have a chat.
Another challenge facing Beaverbrook is that the houses are aging, and care needs to be taken to upgrade their energy efficiency. In addition to single family homes, there are many low-income rental units, seniors' residences, high rises, older condo townhomes, and a housing co-op. Most of these homes are in need of insulation and other energy conservation upgrades.
All communities have their challenges, but luckily strong communities are surprisingly resilient. As Beaverbrook residents celebrate the 50-year anniversary, they have lots of reasons to feel proud and to look forward. Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association is planning a big celebration called Mayfair for Victoria Day. This golden anniversary is a time of renewal and reconnection.
EnviroCentre's initiative called "Sustain Your Community" is pleased to come to Beaverbrook this year and join in the efforts to rekindle the community spirit of sustainability. A Sustain Beaverbrook Action Committee of local residents has very recently formed, and a number of projects are already in the early stages, with the help of the Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association. So far, they have chosen to focus on three themes of environmental sustainability: Energy, Food, and Transportation.
One of these projects centres on energy conservation in homes. The action committee is planning to organize 10 free Home Energy Audits of various models of homes. The audits will be conducted by qualified professionals contracted by the EnviroCentre. The results of the free audits will be shared with all residents.
The committee additionally plans to support backyard vegetable growing, garden sharing, and tree fruit harvesting. The group is seeking a local farmer with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to establish a weekly drop-off location at Beaverbrook Mall. Sustain Beaverbrook is also considering a pop-up Farmers' Market at the Mall, to bring some food back to the heart of Beaverbrook.
With the rapid expansion of Kanata and the aging pathway system, walking and cycling has become challenging for Beaverbrook residents. The Sustain Beaverbrook Action Committee is working with a local volunteer group to promote safe cycling at the Mayfair celebration and provide information about recommended cycling routes.
Many of the original property owners still live in their houses or have moved within the community. As Beaverbrook residents celebrate the fiftieth year, they will surely consider the next 50 years. What do the current residents wish for Beaverbrook in 50 years time? Perhaps some of the great-grandchildren of the original owners will be living here.
Julie Gourley is Coordinator of Sustain Beaverbrook.