Whitewater urged to establish public access to Ottawa River

·3 min read

Whitewater Region – Those who paddle the whitewater in the Ottawa River are hopeful Whitewater Region council will help establish a public access to that section of the river right at the township’s border.

Dave Gillespie, Shawna Babcock and Dan Kirvan, all of Whitewater Ontario, the Provincial Kayak and Canoe Association, spoke to council at its June 16 ZOOM meeting, about the importance of public access.

­­­­­­There are numerous people, along with national groups, who want to access the whitewater or rapids of the Ottawa River without having to pay, Mr. Gillespie said.

“We are not coming here with our hands out for financial help,” he said. “We come here with options on the table.”

Whitewater Ontario is hopeful the township will establish a 20-foot wide, gravelled, municipal right-of-way off Grants Settlement Road by McCoy Road extension.

Mr. Gillespie explained recreational users do not have “reasonable, public access to Rocher-Fendu Rapids.”

In hopes of gaining council support, he said the proposal contributes to the recreation and economic development of the township’s strategic plan. In the recreation objectives, the objectives are to provide safe, efficient and renewed recreation facilities, trails and parks; support existing and new partnerships with regard to shared use and programming and to provide safe access to water for recreational purposes, Mr. Gillespie pointed out. As for economic development, he noted the objectives include support the retention and expansion of existing business and attract new development along with continuing to make Whitewater Region a destination for visitors.

Mr. Gillespie pointed out estimates of those who paddle the Ottawa River, including local paddlers, as well as tourism paddlers, which come from 20 to 2,000 kilometres away, show the number could be as high as 1,500 paddlers a month.

“You have a great opportunity here,” he said. “You don’t want to miss the economic boom as it relates to people coming in or locals picking up the sport.”

Using a map, Mr. Kirvan showed council the proposed public access on the township’s right-of-way. Along with providing public access not only for paddlers, it would be for those who enjoy fishing and swimming. There is also the importance of providing an emergency access, he stated.

Ms. Babcock explained how the right-of-way would be funded as well as maintained over the years. She said there are joint program funds the organization has access to, contributions from memberships, as well as fundraising events. There is also the National Sport Trust Fund, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Community Economic Development Fund and the Tourism Economic Development and Recovery Fund.

Mr. Kirvan said paddlers are “all passionate” about the sport, noting there are probably 300 stories or more published on the website each week.

“If not for the river, many of our lives would be dramatically different and less enriched,” he said.

Mayor Mike Moore thanked them, noting council will review the idea and see what transpires.

Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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