Riverside Park, c. 1908

In 1902, the Kemptville Council bought Riverside Park from the Bottom family, who had owned it for decades. It was decided that the Village and the Agricultural Society would share the cost of building a grandstand, accommodating 500 people, and would share also in the proceeds over the years. In return for running an Agricultural Exhibition for at least three years, the Society were granted a 30-year lease on the Park.

The purchase of Riverside Park by Kemptville caused a great deal of annoyance in Oxford-on-Rideau, where the Council demanded that the Village pay them full property taxes on the land, which was located in the Township and not the Village. Arguments were raised on both sides, and it was even considered that the Park might be annexed to Kemptville. The solution was found in 1905, when, by a public vote of taxpayers in Kemptville, a Parks Commission was established under the Public Parks Act, whose mandate was to operate the park for the community, with a strict limit on expenditures of tax money. This also helped to settle disputes between the Village and the Agricultural Society over profit sharing from the Grandstand. Kemptville also agreed to pay property taxes on the Park to the Township of Oxford-on-Rideau, and the future of the Park was put on a firm foundation. Riverside Park was the venue for so many events in the following decades. Trap racing was extremely popular and the regional schools, agricultural societies, and social organisations used it for their activities. Dominion Day celebrations were centred on the Park, and all co-operated in running Fairs and Parades and Band Concerts there.

The Park continued to be developed, with a covered ice rink and landscaping added to the facilities. In 1921, a Tennis and Bowling Club was organised in Kemptville, and new tennis courts and a bowling green was laid out in the Park. In June, 1931, Reeve R. A. Patterson pointed out to the Kemptville Council that a newly established grant was available from the Ontario Government to support Community Parks in the Province. The grants were established, and probably brought to Patterson’s attention, by one of his predecessors as Reeve: Premier G. Howard Ferguson. With the added financial input, a new running track was laid out in the Park, as well as other improvements. The old stables and sheds were replaced by new stables and a kitchen, and a judge’s stand was built near the main grandstand, which was extended. That same year a sign was set up at the corner of Prescott and Reuben (then Victoria) Streets to direct visitors to the Park, where a new entrance was built.

Riverside Park has now been at the centre of public celebrations in North Grenville for more than a century. One hundred and fifteen years ago, it was purchased for the use and benefit of the people of Kemptville. Symbolically, it was located in Oxford. Dominion Days, Canada Days, Kemptville Fairs, Tournaments, Concerts, Fireworks and Races: Riverside Park has seen them all.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here