Artist's view of the planned Regatta Centre

There is a very busy and creative group of people working hard to make big and positive changes in North Grenville. NLCC Assiniboine, the Kemptville Navy League Cadets Corps, has been active for a long time already renovating the old Armoury, now the Blake Williamson Memorial Hall, in Riverside Park in Kemptville. The work of preserving this historic building and bringing it back into daily use, is a major undertaking and the Navy League, along with RCSCC Defiant, the Kemptville Sea Cadets, are bringing purpose and life to the century-old landmark.

But now, a wider dream is taking shape within those walls, an idea to reclaim the South Branch of the Rideau River, and restore life and energy to the waterway also. Beginning in this 150th year of the Dominion of Canada, a nation founded on the rivers and streams of the land, the Navy League have drawn up plans for what they are calling the “Regatta Centre and Community River Concept”.

The rehabilitation of the Williamson Hall is phase I of this project, and phase 2 will be a real Legacy project for Canada 150. The plan is to build a Regatta and Recreation Centre between the Memorial Hall and the Swimming Pool in Riverside Park. This facility will be used as a boat house and possibly the clubhouse for a North Grenville Canoe and Kayak Club, as well as being made available to the Scouts, Guides, Kemptville Youth Centre, and others.

The Centre will link Riverside Park to the South Branch, provide a launching place for boats right downtown in Kemptville, and be the base of operations on the river for regattas, canoe and kayak races, and a whole range of water activities. The Centre will be built with private funds, not tax dollars, and fund raising for the project will begin over the coming months.

When Mike McIntosh, President of the Navy League in Kemptville, and Donovan Arnaud, Councillor and founding member of the League in North Grenville, heard about the South Wind Brigade’s plans to travel the Rideau River in June, they immediately joined with the NG Times in inviting the Brigade to visit Kemptville. It will be a perfect kick-off to the future reclamation of the South Branch.

This will be only the beginning of a long-term plan to reclaim the river for the people of North Grenville and beyond. It has been the dream of many over the years, men like Ralph Raina, for example, to see the river bustling with canoes, kayaks and all kinds of boats once more. Tied in to the Waterfront Trail that will link Anniversary Park to Prescott Street bridge, it is time that the South Branch regained its proper name and was restored to its natural condition. Generations of mills and shipping have changed the size and depth of the river, and much work needs to be done to bring it back to its original state.

But that is a dream for the future. For now, the Navy League , the NG Times and the Canada 150 Community Committee are looking forward to a great day for North Grenville on June 29.


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