Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site Management Plan (11 of 20)

III.3 - Potential Planning Scenarios

The purpose of a management plan is to understand and strengthen the relationship between cultural landscape and cultural identity. In the case of the Central Experimental Farm, there is a need to either strengthen a single identity or develop a collection of identities that work together rather than in competition. From the analysis, it becomes clear that the first step in developing a basis for a management plan is to address this issue of identity.

Before developing some possible scenarios, a set of working principles was developed to guide the process and measure the outcomes.

The overall goal of the process, from the AAFC perspective, was defined as follows:

  • To provide AAFC with a framework for preserving and enhancing the cultural landscape of the Farm, while also sustaining the department's program requirements and policy objectives.

This vision statement was meant to respect the three fundamental values of the Farm as identified in the CEFAC Criteria Development Project: a nationally significant cultural landscape, a centre for continuing agricultural research, and an opportunity to demonstrate the conservation dynamic of landscape continuity and change.

More specific principles were defined as follows:

  • Strengthen identities, both individual and collective
  • Develop a more appropriate governance model
  • Develop clear rules of engagement for partnership agreements
  • Ensure the commemorative integrity of cultural resources, both static and dynamic
  • Ensure the ecological integrity of natural resources
  • Rationalize access, circulation, and open space patterns
  • Integrate programming activities on the site
  • Establish clearer relationships with adjacent urban neighbourhoods and corridors.



Given the findings, the following represent four possible directions for a management plan for the Central Experimental Farm, that were reviewed during the planning process.

Scenario 1: Multiple Identity

The first option would sustain a multiple identity. It accepts the fact that the site has been subdivided, that there are multiple site occupants with valid goals for their operations, and that occupants will continue to operate somewhat independently of each other.

This management plan option would leave the site in its current state as a place of many diverse interests represented by diverse agencies, organization, and NGOs. The purpose of the management plan would be to clarify the boundaries between these agencies, and to set out the management plan objectives within each boundary. It would also outline a management structure to coordinate these activities, including a possible covenant or agreement to respect the overall integrity of the site both physically and functionally. The management plan would also recommend appropriate development strategies for adjacent parcels within the larger urban community. Of the various options, this is the one with the most complex governance structure, although if well designed it could provide flexibility for imaginative partnerships. Over time, the overlapping leases and memorandums of understanding would lead to less and less direct control of site development by AAFC.


The access and circulation patterns would continue to be fragmented, as they are today. The management plan, however, would set out shared guidelines for the treatment of buildings, hard and soft landscape elements, and common spaces, in order to regain some of the original clarity of the site design and to make the historic patterns legible. Any shared identity would exist only at this physical level; at a functional level, the site would operate as a number of overlapping realities. In other words, the static qualities of the heritage resources would be protected and sustained; the more dynamic qualities of these resources as integral parts of a larger cultural landscape would be at risk.

The plan would address the funding responsibilities of all parties as they relate to overall site development in both capital funding and O&M funding. At present, these responsibilities are not clear, and by default AAFC tends to carry much of the financial burden without necessarily controlling the pattern of development.

Scenario 2: Museum-Without-Walls

In this option, restoring some unity, and a centralized vision for the site, would occur through an increased role for the museum and a redefinition of its function.

This option accepts the fact that the cultural significance of the site is now making people more self conscious about its history, and as reflective of its past as of its future. The Museum-without-Walls option aims to increase a sense of a unified cultural landscape, by presenting the site to the public in a coordinated fashion. The Agriculture Museum would be reformulated to become a larger interpretive centre for both the past history of the site and for the current research and policy initiatives of the Farm and of AAFC. Museums are in the communication business, and they have the potential to interpret places of cultural value in ways that are specific to a particular site. They are also an evolving institution, and the CEF is a powerful setting for a museum with a vision more aligned with eco-musées and other innovative museums without walls.

This approach would involve a redesign of the site circulation patterns to provide a central point of access to the core of the site, for the general public and for visitors to specific research functions of ECORC and others. A central visitor centre, operated by the museum institution, would orient people to the site and redirect them to the many different activity nodes. It would interpret not only the past, but the present and future of the site and of agriculture and agri-food more generally. It would develop a coordinated management strategy with the other partners on the site, a strategy that would have inherent flexibility to accommodate new partners, new policy initiatives, and new research programs.


In this model, the museum would also take on responsibility for the ornamental gardens and the Arboretum. These would be revived as primary sites for orientation, presentation and interpretation. As explained by a current arboretum director, a museum is a natural partner for arboretums - both require people with a curatorial perspective, who understand the importance of collections for research and awareness. Traditionally the collections of museums have been static rather than dynamic, but the underlying principles are similar. The museum would also take on responsibility for interpreting the observatory complex.

The museum in this approach would have line reporting responsibilities to the federal museum structure, but functional reporting responsibilities to AAFC and the other site custodians. The resourcing issues would have to be negotiated. A museum would be well placed to understand and deal with the concerns of Parks Canada and the cultural landscape designation.

Scenario 3: Research

In the research option, restoring unity and a centralized vision to the site would be achieved by introducing a more integrated research program across the site and into adjacent urban areas.

AAFC would retain and expand its overall mandate for the site, tied directly to its own research and development goals. It would use the history of the site, as an integrated and very public research centre, as a model for future development. In particular, it would emphasize the importance of tying larger policy objectives to the patterns of activity on the site, and develop a communications strategy for its research activities that would build directly on the iconic value of the site for Canadians from coast to coast.

There would again be an emphasis on redeveloping the core of the site, but in this case with the emphasis on research activity as a unifying and integrating force. This activity would be coordinated by AAFC but linked to research partners in Health Canada, NRCan, DFO, Environment Canada and others. A centre of excellence for agricultural policy research would evolve in the core area. Adjacent parcels such as Site 8 might be developed as compatible research parks for research not only in agriculture and agri-food but also in life sciences, health, and other related areas. Connections would also be established with Carleton University, both physical and functional, to emphasize the coordinating role of research. Within the site itself, the museum's role would be developed to support educational programs and in-house activities supportive of larger research goals.


The site would take advantage of its unique open land mass within a dense urban area to address issues of food, health and sustainability at the intersection of rural and urban cultures. The original design intentions of the site would be respected not in purely physical terms but in more abstract ways as well, including a commitment to experimentation and an interest in communicating key issues and attitudes with a broad public.

The overall idea of this approach is to make the site more Central, more Experimental, and more of a Farm, in the broader Canadian context.

Scenario 4: Public Park

In this option, creating a new overall identity for the site would result from encouraging public use of the site as an urban park. Public park activity would gradually expand west from the Dow's Lake area into the core of the site.

There is increasing public interest in the use of the site as a park, for both active and passive enjoyment and recreation. This option would use this momentum to create a dynamic set of public activities embracing more and more of the site. These activities would surround and intersect with the ongoing research activities, headquarter functions, and museum operations.

At the core of the site might develop a Centre for Dialogue - a public place in which AAFC and other agencies would interact with the larger public and interpret their roles to a large audience. This centre would have a clear public profile, and could develop its own public programming consistent with the history and values of the site.


The site would become increasingly integrated with the larger network of urban parks in the National Capital Region, and with the cultural landscape of the Rideau Canal. Its particular history would give it a very particular identity within the open space system, but it would also share resources, management strategies, and physical links.

Summary of Scenarios

All four options contain some shared implications for the site. These include a retention of the existing boundaries, a clearer relationship with adjacent urban realities, and a redesign of Prince of Wales and other site approaches to reinforce the federal identity of the site and the importance of the original layered design.

At the same time, they represent fundamentally different futures for the site. Each one suggests different governance models, different decision-making procedures, and different assumptions about value. Over time, these differences would show up in the physical and functional character of the Farm.

Evaluation of Options

Each scenario has been measured against evaluation criteria. This evaluation process provides a way of considering each option on its own merits but also comparing them to each other.

Given the intangible as well as tangible nature of cultural landscape resources, the evaluation of the scenarios is as much qualitative as quantitative. However, the comparative assessment does produce some important observations.

The Multiple Identity Option is very poor at recovering and sustaining a strong identity for the site. This Option could be designed to protect natural resources, but cultural resources, particularly those with a dynamic quality, would be at continual risk. Governance and partnership models are the most complex. It would be difficult to rationalize the access and circulation patterns, with multiple users. Visitor services would be fragmented. Perhaps most importantly, there would not be a strong overall identity within which decisions could be made to ensure continuity. Links with the surrounding urban context would be made on an ad hoc basis by the various participants in the governance of the site.


The Museum-without-Walls Option begins to establish an overarching identity for the site, albeit one that is somewhat new to the Farm. It provides a framework within which the governance model is still complex, but more logical and manageable. There would have to be a clear understanding of shared interests between AAFC and a new kind of Museum Board. Partnerships could then take place within this overall framework. A Museum-without-Walls approach could provide for excellent protection and recovery of the more static, architectural and landscape, components of the cultural landscape. The Commemorative Integrity Statement would play a central role in this process. The more dynamic research qualities of the site, however, might be in jeopardy. A new kind of relationship with the urban environment would be needed - this could be a successful reaching out to other federal institutions with a presentation and interpretation role.

The Research Option is the most straightforward because it builds on an identity that has been part of the site since its first design. The governance model works well because AAFC has a simple, overarching role. The dynamic qualities of the cultural landscape would thrive in a renewed commitment to a research identity. The more static cultural resources could be caught up in an evolving model of site development, but careful review and assessment of proposed changes could provide protection where appropriate. The treatment of natural resources would depend on the overall research agenda. This option would require careful and creative adaptation of the site to the ongoing demands, but could have the advantage of relatively stable funding models because of the central research mandate within AAFC. This could also make links with the urban context more sustainable over time.


The Park Option expands an identity that has already begun to take hold. It redefines the cultural landscape such that visual continuity can be maintained even while use patterns and functional continuity are being significantly altered. The core identity would move from federal to civic. Instead of this being a research landscape onto which the public is invited, it would become a public landscape within which research is allowed to happen. This public claim to the site would be a powerful determinant of future development. The picturesque qualities of the landscape, particularly in the entry zone and parts of the core, would support Park use. The more ordered parts of the site could be gradually adapted for active recreation.

In all of these options, other identities would continue to exist within the larger more dominant identity. The advantage of a dominant identity is that it provides the framework for decision-making and allows people to establish a long-term relationship with a place.