He­ri­tage trea­sure

The Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver looms large in the his­to­ry and he­ri­tage of Cla­rence-Ro­ck­land and other com­mu­ni­ties lo­ca­ted along its shores. Now the On­ta­rio side of the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver has of­fi­cial de­si­gna­tion as a Ca­na­dian He­ri­tage Ri­ver.

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It has been a key part of Ca­na­da’s his­to­ry for cen­tu­ries, for the First Na­tions people who li­ved along its shores, and the Eu­ro­pean co­lo­nists who la­ter came see­king furs and tim­ber. Now the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver has of­fi­cial de­si­gna­tion as a Ca­na­dian He­ri­tage Ri­ver.

Ca­the­rine McKen­na, fe­de­ral mi­nis­ter of En­vi­ron­ment res­pon­sible for Parks Ca­na­da, and Ka­thryn McGar­ry, On­ta­rio’s Na­tu­ral Re­sources mi­nis­ter, is­sued a joint an­noun­ce­ment on Ju­ly 28, that the On­ta­rio side of the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver is now de­si­gna­ted a Ca­na­dian He­ri­tage Ri­ver “for its outs­tan­ding cultu­ral he­ri­tage va­lues.”

The de­si­gna­tion ap­plies just to the On­ta­rio por­tion of the ri­ver. The fe­de­ral go­vern­ment is still tal­king with Que­bec about fu­ture he­ri­tage de­si­gna­tion for the eas­tern shore por­tion of the ri­ver. McKen­na ex­pres­sed confi­dence du­ring a me­dia scrum ses­sion that will hap­pen at some fu­ture date.

“We have a good re­la­tion­ship with Que­bec,” McKen­na said, “and I think we’ll be able to get it done soon.”

“I think it’s good news,” said Guy Des­jar­dins, mayor for the Ci­ty of Cla­ren­ceRo­ck­land and cur­rent war­den for the Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell (UCPR), du­ring a Thurs­day mor­ning phone in­ter­view.

Des­jar­dins no­ted that he­ri­tage de­si­gna­tion for the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver has been a fe­de­ral concern since 2003, un­der the Chré­tien Li­be­ral go­vern­ment.

The new he­ri­tage de­si­gna­tion for the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver ap­plies to the 590-ki­lo­metre length of the ri­ver on the On­ta­rio side, from the head of Lake Te­mis­ka­ming down to East Haw­kes­bu­ry Town­ship.

This por­tion of the ri­ver now falls un­der the Ca­na­dian He­ri­tage Ri­vers Sys­tem (CHRS). There is a 681-ki­lo­metre por­tion of the ri­ver which flows en­ti­re­ly through Qué­bec.

In­cor­po­ra­tion in­to the CHRS conser­va­tion pro­gram does not take away any exis­ting res­pon­si­bi­li­ties and rights that exist for se­nior and lo­cal go­vern­ments and lan­dow­ners which in­volve the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver.

The Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver is known as “the ori­gi­nal Trans-Ca­na­da high­way” for its his­to­ri­cal role in the ear­ly set­tle­ment of the re­gion, du­ring both, First Na­tions times when the Al­gon­quin people first ar­ri­ved in the area and the la­ter co­lo­nial per­iod when French, En­glish and other im­mi­grants came in search of land and li­ve­li­hoods.

The ri­ver pro­vides ha­bi­tat for more than 300 spe­cies of birds and is an im­por­tant mi­gra­to­ry fly­way for the North American conti­nent. It is al­so well-known as a world-class padd­ling and whi­te­wa­ter raf­ting des­ti­na­tion for re­crea­tio­nal tou­rism.

The ri­ver was the fo­cus for both eco­no­mic and po­li­ti­cal growth in the re­gion du­ring the fur and tim­ber trade eras.

For the town of Ro­ck­land and other com­mu­ni­ties in what is now the Pres­cott-Rus­sell re­gion, the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver was the li­fe­blood of their own ear­ly eco­no­mic growth through es­ta­blish­ment of saw­mil­ls and other in­dus­tries, which used the ri­ver for trans­por­ta­tion.

The an­nual Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver Fes­ti­val, now ce­le­bra­ted each year in ri­ver­side towns and vil­lages like Ro­ck­land, Haw­kes­bu­ry, Wen­do­ver, L’Ori­gnal and others in the UCPR, high­lights the his­to­ric and he­ri­tage va­lue of the ri­ver.

—pho­tos Gregg Cham­ber­lain

The Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver is an im­por­tant part of the his­to­ry and he­ri­tage of com­mu­ni­ties in Pres­cott-Rus­sell and other re­gions lo­ca­ted along its shores. The ri­ver now has of­fi­cial de­si­gna­tion as a Ca­na­dian He­ri­tage Ri­ver.

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