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Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

Principles for Good Waterfront Development

Introduction

The Rideau Canal is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Site, and a Canadian Heritage River because of its cultural, recreational, scenic and natural heritage values.

Stemming from the 2012 Rideau Corridor Landscape Character Assessment and Planning and Management Recommendations Report, the following principles provide guidance on how waterfront and shoreline development and redevelopment can respect, protect and enhance these values, through property owner’s actions and municipal decision making.

Applying these principles will support the long term conservation of the Rideau and Tay Canal corridor’s unique, valued landscapes, so that all Canadians can enjoy this legacy into the future. Please contact your local municipality to discuss how these principles can apply to your property.

  1. Understand and respect the local landscape character
    The Canal’s varied landscapes include rocky forested uplands, wetlands, rural and agricultural landscapes, historic villages and developed urban landscapes. The highest quality development is consistent with this diversity, blends with or enhances the canal’s landscape character and supports its cultural, ecological and economic value. See the Landscape Character Assessment Report to learn about the landscape types in your area.
    The landscape character of the Canal changes with the topography and geology of the shore land.
    The landscape character of the Canal changes with the topography and geology of the shore land.
    ©Parks Canada

  2. Conserve historic buildings and cultural heritage features
    It is particularly important to conserve and reuse historic houses and cottages, lodges, mills, barns, fences and other cultural heritage features to preserve the landscape character of the Rideau corridor. Aboriginal communities share a long history and relationship with the pre and post canal landscape. Archaeological resources found along the corridor shed light on this history.

    Merrickville's historic downtown along the Canal.
    Merrickville's historic downtown along the Canal.
    ©Parks Canada 

  3. Conserve, protect and enhance wetlands
    Wetlands are one of the most important and vulnerable natural resources on the Rideau Canal. Loss of wetlands results in the decline of wildlife and natural vegetation, water quality, recreation and education opportunities.

    We can enhance degraded shorelines with native trees, shrubs, grasses and aquatic plants.
    We can enhance degraded shorelines with native trees, shrubs, grasses and aquatic plants.
    ©Parks Canada

  4. Maintain and retain natural shoreline
    Naturalized shorelines reduce visual impact of buildings, maintain the landscape’s natural character, control erosion, filter run‐off, reduce sediment transfer and provide habitat for wildlife, including species at risk. They can also provide privacy and reduce maintenance costs for property owners. A buffer of natural shoreline extending to the water also discourages Canada Geese from wandering onto open lawns and the invasion of noxious weeds.


    A natural shoreline is a healthy one.
    ©Parks Canada

  5. Locate development back from the shoreline
    Generally, new development must be set back a minimum of 30 metres from the shoreline. This aligns with the 30 metre buffer zone extending from the boundary of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site. Development setbacks help to maintain landscape character, protect water quality, maintain ecological functions along shorelines and wetlands and help prevent property damage.

    Generally traditional, natural construction materials and colors that blend with the landscape are recommended. Cantilevered, pipe or floating docks are also better than solid crib docks.
    Generally traditional, natural construction materials and colors that blend with the landscape are recommended. Cantilevered, pipe or floating docks are also better than solid crib docks.
    ©Parks Canada

  6. Work with the landscape, not against it
    New buildings and associated services should be located within existing open areas on the site. The remainder of the site should be maintained in its natural state, or re-established with native plants. This helps to blend buildings into their natural surroundings and the canal setting.


    Locate new buildings, paths, driveways, lawns and septic tank systems within existing site clearings to avoid removal of natural vegetation as much as possible.
    ©Parks Canada

  7. Design buildings to complement the site
    New buildings should be designed to complement the landscape character and architectural style of the surrounding area. Buildings should be in proportion to the size and frontage of the property and fit in with the surrounding built environment. Throughout most of the waterway, buildings should be low profile and not exceed the height of the tree canopy. Taller buildings may be appropriate in more urbanized areas.


    New buildings should be designed to complement the landscape character.
    © City of Ottawa

  8. Design residential docks and boathouses for low impact
    Docks, water access and boathouses, where permitted, must adhere to Parks Canada’s Policies for In-Water and Shoreline Works and Related Activities and require a permit from Parks Canada before work can begin. Such activities must avoid negative impacts to fish, wildlife, navigation and the natural and visual qualities of the shoreline. Other provisions may apply to non-residential water-based facilities.  


    Generally traditional, natural construction materials and colours that blend with the landscape are recommended. Cantilevered, pipe or floating docks are also better than solid crib docks.
    © Parks Canada

  9. Protect water quality
    Storm water and septic tank effluent (for example lawn fertilizer and pesticides) should be directed away from the canal to protect water quality, fish habitat and prevent algae blooms. Use septic-safe and phosphate-free products only. Use of lawn fertilizers and pesticides should be avoided.

    Locate new buildings, paths, driveways, lawns and septic tank systems within existing site clearings to avoid removal of natural vegetation as much as possible.
    Locate new buildings, paths, driveways, lawns and septic tank systems within existing site clearings to avoid removal of natural vegetation as much as possible.
    ©Parks Canada

  10. Prevent hazards and property damage
    Shoreline development can result in hazards such as flooding, erosion, and slope instability which can threaten property and human safety. Shoreline development should not aggravate these natural hazards or create new hazardous conditions. Hardened, artificial shorelines may transfer erosion to neighbouring areas by deflecting waves and ice.


    Naturalized shorelines help prevent property damage.
    ©Parks Canada

Principles for Good Waterfront Development (PDF 2.3 MB)


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Further information can be found in these references: