A Brief History of The Rockcliffe Park Foundation

The Rockcliffe Park Foundation had its start in the summer of 1996 when, after two community meetings to address the likelihood that Rockcliffe Park would lose its independence and be amalgamated into the City of Ottawa. It began as an ad hoc committee called Rockcliffe 2001, which pursued two initiatives: to apply for heritage conservation district status under the Ontario Heritage Act, which was ultimately successful; and to establish an independent foundation aimed at protecting and nurturing the unique environment and community of Rockcliffe in the event of amalgamation.

The village council and administration provided start-up funding for the Foundation to cover legal and other expenses. This process was completed in January 1997, retroactive to December 23, 1996. 

Being designated a registered charity was a longer and more complicated process. The founding board was asked to prepare a further statement on how it would support the preservation of the environment, natural and built heritage. This resulted in a list of fourteen questions from Revenue Canada, Charities Division, which wanted assurances that Friends of the Village of Rockcliffe Park would not play a partisan role in municipal politics.

After a long wait, the application was approved and on December 9, 1997, The Rockcliffe Park Foundation was granted charitable status. The village council offered to match funds raised in the community up to $50,000 and with that, the Foundation’s fund-raising efforts were born. A team of almost 40 volunteers distributed letters addressed to the village's 720 households, resulting in 104 donations.

Meanwhile the founding directors set up a nominating committee to establish a permanent, more democratic procedure for providing for the governance of the Foundation and to propose 10 directors for 1998-99. The retiring founding directors were asked to nominate, from among those 10, the officers for the year.

In 1998, the idea of a book chronicling and celebrating the history of the Village of Rockcliffe Park was proposed as a means to raise both funds and community awareness. The village also received official heritage designation, which opened the possibility of qualifying for a grant to help with the book project, as  it was thought a history would be an acceptable millennium project. With the approval of the Village LACAC (Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee) a committee began working on the book.

From first steps to publication, the road was considerably longer than expected. But the millennial grant of $20,000 was ultimately received and Rockcliffe Park: A History of the Village, by Martha Edmond, was launched on December 5, 2005. It was immediately hailed as both beautiful and authoritative. Sales have long since repaid the initial investment and now generate modest revenues for the Foundation’s endowment fund.

Rockcliffe Park: A History of the Village by Martha Edmond, a village resident, spans the 200-year period from the first land grant in 1799 to the village’s amalgamation into the City of Ottawa in 2001. It may be purchased from Books on Beechwood www.booksonbeechwood.ca for $49.50 plus tax.

Just prior to amalgamation in 1998, the Rockcliffe Park Foundation set a fund-raising goal of $300,000, and a Rockcliffe Park Residents Association (RPRA) was created. The RPRA has a mandate to provide and/or improve the following:

  • communications, including the original newsletter which has become our indispensable Rockcliffe News, and the 2008 Welcome to Rockcliffe Park booklet;
  • tree planting on the street verges and green spaces;
  • protection of the natural environment;
  • children’s sports and recreation;
  • heritage and planning;
  • special events, including the Christmas Tree Lighting and September Garden and Croquet Party, as well as the pilot season of the Speakers Program.

Several generous major gifts for community projects and the continuing grants and final grant from the Village Council contributed to an active pre-amalgamation period at the close of which the assets of the Foundation had reached $430,000.

Seeking an ongoing source of revenue without the need for major campaigns, the board launched the Dining with the Ambassadors event, the first of which was held in the autumn of 1999, a second in the autumn of 2000, and four more times since then.

The year 2000 was a very active period for the Foundation as the Village supported the Foundation’s initiatives, including the construction of the Pavilion, the development of the book, and the planting of trees. An important step toward the preservation of the environment of the Village was the approval by the Village Council of the McKay Lake Management Plan, partially funded by the Foundation. Before the Village of Rockcliffe Park was dissolved, the Council passed on to the Foundation a substantial Trust Fund for the Village History Project and the Rockcliffe Park Library turned over to the Foundation its endowment fund as well as its accumulated restricted operating funds. The Foundation had become, in effect, the community banker.

With amalgamation, which officially occurred on January 1, 2001, it became necessary to reexamine how funds from the Foundation might flow to the RPRA for community purposes and projects. It took a little time, as the new, much expanded City of Ottawa found its feet dealing with the legacies of the 10 formerly independent municipalities, and as the RPRA defined its own priorities for protecting and enhancing the Village environment and community. In due course, however, the City agreed to accept funds from the Foundation to pass on to the RPRA for specified categories of expenses.

The new modus operandi was tested in June 2001 with the payment to the City of the remaining funds raised through the Foundation for the Sports Field and again at the end of the year with the transfer of $1,950 for the RPRA’s communications budget. The following year, a further $3,000 was paid out in this way. In the ensuing six years, a total of $125,680 flowed from the Foundation through the City to support community purposes managed by the RPRA that match the Foundation’s own objectives.

In 2004, the operating mandate of the Rockcliffe Park Foundation was broadened and simplified:

"to make cumulative annual distributions to ‘qualified donees’ (as defined in the Income Tax Act) of amounts not less than the minimum annual disbursement quota applicable to charitable foundations, for the purpose of assisting the donees of such funds to perform activities within the scope of their own objects and mandates which take place in or have a substantial connection with the heritage district of the Village of Rockcliffe Park."

The Foundation is guided by this object and by the mission and policies that have been enunciated and confirmed by the directors.



Making a Difference in the Community

The Rockcliffe Park Foundation has raised money for both an endowment fund and special projects. Before amalgamation, grants from The Village of Rockcliffe Park augmented the donations of residents and friends.

Residents are encouraged to make annual donations to the Foundation, and the proceeds of the Dining with the Ambassadors fundraiser are added to the endowment fund. There have been other fundraising events, including a tennis round-robin and a bridge party.

Four major gifts in the first couple of years were designated for signal community initiatives:

1. the Pavilion in the restored Jubilee Gardens, opened in October 2000
2. the Library’s science collection for children
3. tree planting on Village lands, carried out over a number of years
4. the protection of the MacKay Lake area as a conservation zone and wildlife sanctuary. In 2000, the Foundation paid for the Mackay Lake Management Plan, which established principles for the guidance of the new City of Ottawa administration.

The book project, Martha Edmond’s elegant, authoritative and very readable Rockcliffe Park: A History of the Village, was another early initiative of the Foundation and its sales continue to contribute to the Foundation's efforts.

A project in which the Foundation played an important role was the rebuilding of the Sports Field on the grounds of Rockcliffe Park Public School. All donations were made through the Foundation, which held and invested them, then paid them out to cover the expenses of the project, which was completed in the summer of 2001.

An endowment established in 2001 by Murray MacLean, the long-serving and last Clerk of the Village of Rockcliffe Park, is administered by the Foundation and pays for annual prizes for poetry writing by elementary students at each of the three schools located in the Village.

The Foundation contributed to the RPRA’s project to restore and relocate, to the Buchan Road entrance to Jubilee Gardens, the handsome and historic Birkenfels Gates. These gates, re-erected in 2008, originally graced the entrance to one of the first houses built in the Village of Rockcliffe Park, in 1864.

In all, over the years since the Village of Rockcliffe Park ceased to be an independent municipality, the Foundation has contributed to RPRA community enterprises over $132,000 from its revenues.

Currently, the Foundation is also assisting the “Rockcliffe Hosers” to build a Fieldhouse Fund, which one day will dramatically improve recreational facilities for our community.