The Rideau Winter Trail is a Recreational Gem That’s Right On Our Community’s Doorstep

TERRY & PEGGY WEST

There’s excitement in the air as outdoor enthusiasts in Old Ottawa East (OOE) discover that when it comes to winter activities, far away fields aren’t always greener. The recent exhilaration, and what some are calling a post-Christmas gift, stems from the Rideau Winter Trail.

Newly opened, and similar to the cross-country skiing trail along the Sir John A.MacDonald Parkway, this initiative brings grade A trail grooming to our community’s doorstep. Those who have already tasted it—skate and classic cross-country skiers, hikers, big-wheeled bikers, snowshoers—are delighted.

The Rideau Winter Trail now stretches nine kilometres ending opposite Centennial Boulevard in OOE. Map Supplied

The Rideau Winter Trail now
stretches nine kilometres ending
opposite Centennial Boulevard in
OOE. Map Supplied

The same outdoor enthusiasts who began grooming trails last year in neighbouring Overbrook have extended the network south of the Queensway, to a point opposite the end of Centennial Boulevard in OOE. This new extension runs along the river with extra loops—especially, in the wild area opposite OOE—for a total of close to nine kilometres of trail. The trail is appealingly wide with tracks set along the edges separated by a machine-packed pathway for skate-skiers, walkers, snowshoers and fat bikers. The long-term goal is to have the Rideau Winter Trail run all the way to the Mooney’s Bay ski centre, offering residents a lovely, lengthy ski trail at their doorstep.

For cross-country skiers, whether you are a beginner or more advanced, there’s something here for you. The flatter sections close to the river present the option of a leisurely ski or a heavier workout. Those interested in hill and dale terrain can take the loop that begins under the hydro line close to the McIlraith Bridge (Main Street) over to the “mountain” southeast of Hurdman and back down to the river.

The winter trail is the result of a lot of hard work by dedicated volunteers and seed money from the National Capital Commission (NCC), the City of Ottawa, and from donations from a number of politicians, businesses and individuals. In 2019 Councillors Mathieu Fleury and Tobi Nussbaum and Nicki Bridgeland, the CEO of Rideau Sports Centre on Donald St., initiated a single groomed track along the river north of the Queensway. Last year, Rawlson King, who had replaced Nussbaum (now CEO of the NCC), began a pilot with weekly trail groomings. Overbrook resident Peter Nor is the volunteer chair. In addition to coaching at Nakkertok, Eastern Canada’s largest x-country ski club, Nor and his two children now enjoy having fine skiing at their doorstep.

Hired professionals groom the trails once a week, with supplemental grooming after heavy snowfalls. This comes with a cost. Although seed money has been provided by the City of Ottawa and the NCC, it has been necessary to appeal to the public for support. Those interested in making a contribution Rideau Winter Trail – GoFund-Me.

Photo Supplied

Photo Supplied

For many residents of OOE, having fine skiing this close to home is an answer to a prayer. To quote OOE resident Jamie Brougham: “It was amazing. In areas I’ve skied on for years, from my tracks too often being the only ones, to having real trails, is a dream come true?”

While excited, Brougham expressed concern for what might lie ahead. He wonders if this gem in the heart of the city, having been overlooked by outdoor enthusiasts for so long, might already have caught the eye of high-rise developers who see it as unused terrain.

Assuming that this could possibly be the case, what is the best course for outdoor enthusiasts to take? The old adage, “use it or lose it,” comes to mind. The more it is recognized as a people place, the greater the chances of it remaining so. Sharing something that’s treasured isn’t always easy to do. It’s human nature to hush-hush a good thing. In this case, it may be in the best interest of the community to spread the word.

Old Ottawa East residents can access the trail by crossing the river on either the LRT bridge or the McIlraith bridge. Some of the more adventurous, reassured by the presence of people out ice fishing, have taken to crossing over on the ice. Anyone attempting this should exercise extreme caution.

As The Mainstreeter went to press, the trail was in good shape having benefitted from several snowfalls in February. Let’s hope that mother nature continues to deliver more powder. Viva winter!

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