If we build a boathouse: A vision for a community cottage

By Jamie Brougham

What if we built a boathouse – or as I like to think of it, a community cottage – on the bank of the Rideau River at Brantwood Park?

While there is no formal community endorsement yet, everyone I’ve spoken to seems supportive of the idea.

When I reached the commodore of the Rideau Canoe Club, he suggested the RCC would love to run programs from Brantwood. The Community Activities Group and the RCC did such great job last summer organizing a kayaking camp. On one hot July day I saw kids at Brantwood beach having practiced getting in and falling out of kayaks, all wet and happy. In order for such programming to continue, they could use a boathouse to store boats.

Think of this another way. Why not have canoe and kayak classes for adults? It’s never too late for a happy childhood! Grown-ups could better know the river, thanks to canoes and kayaks available for one-time rental or with a season’s pass.

A boathouse could also store simple row boats. A summer student could provide rides to the other side of the river for a fee that would cover his or her cost. On the other side there could be a bell to call for a ride back. The forest on the other side could use some stewardship but as it is, it’s a great place to explore.

Not everyone will embrace a plan to have more people going out on the river. So, beyond the two or three bays for boats, a new boathouse could include a pub or restaurant with a deck extending towards the water. It could have windows overlooking the river and Brantwood Park.

In this way, users could command views of boaters, ball players, even skiers in winter or a snowstorm blowing up the river. Imagine the ‘community cottage’ deck on a summer evening: people having a beer or a coffee with their neighbours. The deck could cover an area above the dock where boaters carry their crafts out to the water.

Our ‘cottage’ might become a great spot to have a party after the boating’s done or a shaded place to meet for those who steward the river and shoreline or cyclists using nearby paths. In winter, I would love to see the first neighbourhood skiing event take place from there.

In order to discuss what’s needed in our community, we have to have a vision. We have to imagine how we see it in the future. We need a clear statement about what we are looking for. This gets rid of a lot of effort on projects that take the wrong direction.

Anyone can have a vision of what their neighbourhood should be. It just takes creativity and leadership to realize.

My ideal community is made for people. It is made with facilities that allow people to meet and enjoy each other’s company. It is a place that supports the physical and mental health of all residents regardless of their stage in life or economic status. It encourages participation and offers institutions to educate everyone.

Old Ottawa East has the canal, a world heritage site, on one flank that provides a unique social and physically healthy facility, particularly during skating season. On the other side it has the wilds of the city and the beauty of nature. There is a need for more facilities. Now is the time.

We have always heard that being in nature is good for the soul. It is good for mental and physical health. We are in the middle of a city where people drive to cottages to be on a deck by the water, to go for a boat ride, or go for a swim. But we have the beautiful Rideau River right here. For many who live by the Rideau, a cottage seems redundant.

Nothing would be better for the river than more people engaged with it, loving it and realizing what they’re protecting is precious. A unique community cottage would increase property values. It would support a vision for excellence in community development.

If you can help with a business plan or know about how to initiate this kind of development, please contact me.

I hope to see you at the river!

Jamie Brougham is an OOE resident and long-time Rideau River paddler.


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