Plan­ning for Is­land Park be­gan seven decades ago

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BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL

Staff Seventy years ago this sum­mer, the ground­work was laid for the cre­ation of one of Alexandria’s most pop­u­lar sea­sonal venues.

“Ottawa au­thor­ity likes the is­land” boasted a head­line on the front page of the June 17, 1949 edi­tion of

The ac­com­pa­ny­ing ar­ti­cle went on to ex­plain that J.A. Du­lude, the City of Ottawa’s com­mis­sioner of parks and play­grounds – speak­ing to coun­cil and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from lo­cal ser­vice clubs at a re­cent en­gage­ment in Alexandria – “highly rec­om­mends the Is­land site for a play­ground and park in Alexandria.”

Mr. Du­lude added that if “this body of wa­ter and ad­ja­cent land was near Ottawa it would be worth a hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars” – equiv­a­lent to ap­prox­i­mately $1.1 mil­lion in 2019.

He was ap­par­ently so im­pressed with the spot’s po­ten­tial that he even of­fered to re­turn to town “to as­sist in lay­ing out the grounds af­ter a sur­vey had been made.”

Of course, the val­ued par­cel of prop­erty to which Mr. Du­lude was re­fer­ring is what came to be known as Is­land Park.

And while the files of don’t seem to of­fer up any ev­i­dence that Com­mis­sioner Du­lude ever ful­filled his prom­ise to pro­vide as­sis­tance with the park de­vel­op­ment project, his com­ments def­i­nitely ap­peared to light a fire un­der lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers.

By the mid­dle of the fol­low­ing month, coun­cil had es­tab­lished a com­mit­tee to ne­go­ti­ate the pur­chase of the Is­land prop­erty from the es­tate of A.G.F. Mac­don­ald, which coun­cil ul­ti­mately agreed to do at the end of Au­gust, at a cost of $2,100.

The July 29 is­sue of stated that the afore­men­tioned com­mit­tee would “meet al­most at once to start a plan” on the park/play­ground project.

Dur­ing a spe­cial (bud­get) meet­ing of coun­cil in April 1950, build­ing a road (via Derby Street) to, as well as the land­scap­ing of, the park and play­ground – at a to­tal cost of $4,000 – was among the cap­i­tal projects in­tro­duced for the up­com­ing year. By early sum­mer, work on the project was un­der­way in earnest, with re­port­ing on July 7 that “many of our ci­ti­zens spent the Mon­day hol­i­day” – Do­min­ion Day had fallen on Satur­day that year – watch­ing a Me­nard Con­struc­tion Com­pany dragline ex­ca­va­tor in op­er­a­tion at the site, clean­ing up the shore­line and removing stumps and other de­bris.

Fur­ther de­tails re­gard­ing how the park was go­ing to take shape were also pre­sented, as read­ers learned that “two small is­lands will be raised above the nor­mal wa­ter line, a sandy beach will be laid off the park shore­line,” and that a bull­dozer was to be used to “cut down pro­trud­ing hillocks and fill de­pres­sions.”

Work on the road con­nect­ing the park to Derby Street – a project in­volv­ing the re­use of ex­ca­vated stone and earth from the western shore­line of the park prop­erty – was also well un­der­way. And even though “an old­fash­ioned ston­ing bee” held on July 19 to aid in smooth­ing the grounds and clear­ing the site of stones failed to at­tract the man­power or­ga­niz­ers had hoped it would, “some twenty men worked through­out the af­ter­noon and quite a few loads of stone went into the area to be filled.”

On July 28, re­ported that the of­fi­cial open­ing of the park and play­ground was set for Labour Day (Septem­ber 4) and that plans were be­ing de­vel­oped for “a big af­ter­noon.”

When that day ar­rived, ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 peo­ple turned out – de­spite colder than usual tem­per­a­tures and heavy rain show­ers in both the af­ter­noon and evening – to par­tic­i­pate in, or watch, a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing mo­tor boat races, div­ing and swim­ming ex­hi­bi­tions, fire­works, and a chicken race.

Hu­man par­tic­i­pants in the poul­try dash had to “drive or per­suade their” re­spec­tive fowl over a 100yard course – a com­pe­ti­tion in which Kenyon town­ship Reeve John D. MacLean “proved the warm­est per­suader.”

Among the throng on hand for the park’s of­fi­cial open­ing was On­tario Min­is­ter of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Ge­orge Dun­bar who de­liv­ered the “prin­ci­pal ad­dress” and also as­sisted Alexandria Mayor R.J. Graham in the oblig­a­tory rib­bon­cut­ting cer­e­mony. Mr. Dun­bar was quite im­pressed with the park, stat­ing that it was “in­deed an honor and a priv­i­lege to see the good work which has been ac­com­plished by this won­der­ful lit­tle town.”

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