Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site Management Plan (10 of 20)
III.2 - Current Conditions
The Farm has become more complex in both physical and operational terms. Although agricultural research activity continues to be the dominant use, the site also provides a separate headquarters function for AAFC, a public setting for an agricultural museum, a public park function as part of an interconnected urban greenway, a site for non-governmental investments in plant experimentation, and a setting for interpretation of the history of the Geological Survey of Canada's endeavour's in astronomy, surveying, seismology and geology. It is also a recognized National Historic Site as a cultural landscape of national significance. Many of these identities have created increased public interest in the Farm and it faces questions of public accessibility from diverse communities of interest.
Even within this complex set of identities, the ongoing significance of the Farm is unquestioned.
The past legacy of the CEF is evident in the settlement patterns on the Prairies, the plant materials available to people in cities and rural areas across the country, and in the actual shape of farm operations. The research program at the CEF and some of its supporting collections continue to be essential to agricultural science in Canada. The headquarters function provides national policy direction that further contributes to the site's importance.
Loss of Coherence
Too many competing identities are threatening the long-term future of the site. In the current situation, the centre of the site has become a void. None of the various identities is strong enough to provide an organizing set of principles for the whole site, or to ensure the continuity of its underlying structure. Each of the individual cultural landscapes has established its own centres of activity around the periphery. When one maps out the various zones of influence, the core area is not on anyone's map. Ironically, this is the central lawn area that used to be the key point of interaction between the various communities of scientific interest, and between the scientists and the public.
This is not to say that these various identities do not have validity. The recent Kirby consultations indicated the importance of a layered understanding of the site, and its overlapping values. However, each set of values has different implications for how the site might develop. And if there is no shared focus of concern, and if the development is not coordinated, then the core values of the site, on which everything else depends, will be at risk.
Other problems arise from multiple identities within a complex associative landscape. Jurisdictional roles and responsibilities can become fragmented. In the short term, this is inefficient and redundant. In the long term, it begins to modify the site itself, and the logic of the design begins to suffer. This is when the cultural values of the place can become seriously at risk.
Already there have been indications of this problem. At the planning level, there are separate management plan recommendations for the site and its adjacent parcels from AAFC, the Agricultural Museum, Natural Resources Canada, the National Capital Commission, Parks Canada, Public Works Canada, National Defence, and the City of Ottawa. The complexity of land ownership and leasing makes the situation complicated. New initiatives such as that put forward by the Ottawa Botanical Garden Society become very difficult to assess against a set of shifting identities. There are no clear rules of engagement for new partners.
Without clear governance structures, revenue-generating options are very limited. Increasing the revenue-generation options for the CEF has been a long-standing concern for AAFC and other federal departments. While the whole site should have an investment strategy that makes sense to government, partners and Canadians, economic sustainability is a complex formula for the CEF. It may be unwise to apply expectations equally across the site. Nothing can be done without an overall identity policy and an appropriate governance model.
Programming and Operations
In a situation of multiple identities, there are further problems in terms of day-to-day management of the site. Presentation of the site to the public becomes confused by independent messaging and sometimes conflicting interventions. Several layers of public signage have begun to appear, uncoordinated in either form or content. Different maintenance regimes have resulted in the gradual loss of consistent detailing in either hard or soft landscape elements. New plantings appear in an uncoordinated fashion. The controversy about the recent paving of bicycle paths by the NCC highlighted the confusion in the public mind about the identity of the Farm landscape.
Conflicts between research activities and public park activities have become a significant issue. There is heightened awareness of the need to understand the relationship between natural and cultural resource protection. In terms of programming, the Agricultural Museum's objectives for collection, interpretation and overall program direction are not necessarily consistent with the larger site development and interpretation goals of AAFC. There are also unresolved issues between these two agencies in terms of a possible expansion of the Museum function and a related increase in land and building occupancy.
The CEF collections of cultural and scientific value include the Arbetum and Ornamental Gardens plant materials and associated records, the scientific collections currently housed in the Sir William Saunders Building, artifacts, libraries and archival collections. Some of these collections and many components of each of them have been moved off site or lost. Studies are currently underway regarding the housing of some of these items on-site. Most of these collections have value from both scientific and cultural perspectives, but without a careful assessment of their potential and value, there may be a tendency towards freezing some collections in time, hereby diminishing their scientific value. As a result, there is a need to proceed slowly towards an understanding of the intimate relationships on this site between natural, cultural, and scientific understandings of resources and resource management.
Circulation, Access, and Open Space Patterns
With overlapping identities and competing jurisdictions, it has been very difficult to arrange clear access patterns into the site. The headquarters function is both independent of and integrated into the older road network in the core. Separate parking arrangements have been made for most of the different stakeholders, and many of these are signed and managed separately. Through traffic and local traffic are often in conflict. Prince of Wales as a historic parkway is currently subject to competing visions from civic and federal perspectives. With inappropriate treatment, it has become a divider rather than a connector. Overall, the underlying logic of the site is diminished.
The Agriculture Museum has proposed changes to parking arrangements and circulation patterns for both vehicles and pedestrians. A separate request for expanded and reconfigured parking in the core area has been received by AAFC during the course of this study. These pressures are further complicated by vehicles using Farm roads as through traffic corridors.
Adjacent Land Use
Development on adjacent land parcels, including Carleton University, the Civic Hospital, and City of Ottawa neighbourhoods, could have an important effect on the site's identity but the City of Ottawa's Draft Official Plan does not recognize the importance of adjacent sites to the heritage value of the Farm.
Cultural Landscape Conservation
Although different jurisdictions can deal with their individual heritage buildings and landscape parcels, it is much more difficult for them to manage heritage resources collectively. The original designed landscape of the Farm was marked by careful coordination and continuity of both the architectural and landscape components. Both were part of a sustainable research agenda. Now there are many agendas operating concurrently. This leads inevitably to inconsistent treatment of both cultural and natural resources. At a visual level, there is a loss of aesthetic appeal and a physical risk to individual elements from decay and neglect. At a deeper level, the lack of an overall identity threatens the role of the cultural landscape as a source of identity for the larger community, not only in Ottawa but across the country. The strong historical associations with the site cannot be sustained if the original cultural landscape qualities are no longer legible.
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