by Paul Cormier

Anyone visiting the Municipal dock across from the Library will have noticed some huge improvements to the downtown’s Waterfront at the Rideau Reach (aka the Reach, the South Branch, the Basin, but never the Kemptville Creek, by the way). All of these improvements were designed to ensure the safety of citizens and visitors – young and old – spending some quality time in downtown Kemptville.

First, metal guards have been installed along the top of the concrete abutment leading down to the Reach. It had always been a nightmare for folks living or working in the area that a child might fall over into the water during the spring water peak, meaning certain death by drowning or, come summer and low water season, a fall on the stones below. While someone who is determined could still defeat the purpose of guards by misbehaving, the very presence of these safety features provides a constant reminder to exercise care next to the water. The Reach has the unfortunate reputation of having claimed the lives of both children and adults in past years but, hopefully, never again. By the way, someone did their homework right: the guards match the metal bannister coming down the long stairs from Clothier Street to the waterfront. Not only do we now have an important safety feature installed where it should, but we also have a fine example of downtown beautification.

The same principle seems to have been applied to another safety feature: a matching metal bannister that provides security along the stone pathway to the water where the Municipal dock is located during the warmer seasons. This addition is also both functional and very pleasing to the eye. Prior to this enhancement, getting onto the dock was a non-starter for anyone elderly, or with any kind of physical challenge.

These safety features have been enhanced even further by the provision of emergency rescue equipment in close proximity to the dock. While the water in the area is not particularly deep, there is a current that can be treacherous at times, and the bottom of the Reach is strewn with large stones. So, it’s possible that if one of the town kids jumped off the dock to cool off during the summer and made an error of judgment, a tragedy might take place. Just the fact that we now have a safety line and buoy available to throw out to someone in trouble tells everyone to be doubly careful with the water in the Reach.

By the way, one of the safety features that the general public might not notice is a curb easement at the entrance to the dock area. This is a huge improvement to access, since it allows for limited usage by municipal and building service vehicles needed to provide upkeep to the area and also for emergency vehicles such as ambulances. Three ambulances have been called to Salamanders over the years, and one ambulance received structural damage to its undercarriage when there was an attempt to drive it over the curb and down to the hill to provide help to a person in distress.

So, kudos to the Municipality, to Council Members John Barclay and Doreen O’Sullivan for acting as champions for these important projects. And many thanks to Karen Dunlop, Director of Public Works and Mark Guy, Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture for providing the necessary operational support and acting on behalf of improved safety in the downtown.

Since the improvements have taken place, we have noticed increased foot traffic to the area. Let’s now hope that this is a harbinger for the much-anticipated Waterfront Trail.

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