Manotick, the River and Tourism
by Pat Drummond (2002)
According to a report released by the city of Ottawa in spring 2003, the Ottawa River has been cut off from the heart of the city. This report could have been easily written about the Rideau River cut off from the village of Manotick. To be fair, the federally-owned Rideau dam and Watson's Mill both provide a view of the river, and A.Y Jackson Park provides river access, but there is no other village or town from Ottawa to Kingston that provides so little for tourists cruising in boats along this historic waterway.There is no public dock, no marina and only an anchorage in Mahogany Harbour within easy walking distance of stores and restaurants. Most boats pass by, spending the night in Ottawa or at Burritt's Rapids where they can eat out and stay overnight.
Travelling boaters are always looking for a good place to stop for supplies, restaurants pharmacies and clinics. They do not usually carry anything larger than a bicycle so location of docks and transportation are important. Town leaders have spent years talking about installing a dock in Mahogany harbour, a side channel of the Rideau within steps of shopping and restaurants, but nothing has been done. The city and village and local business community should all work together to attract tourists, but don't forget tourists who travel in boats.
Village planning studies painted a picture of a village with waterfront pathways, docks and a main street that would delight tourists. A decade later, street lamps, flowers and signs have been completed - the tourism has yet to be addressed. Where do visitors stay? What will they do? Where can cruisers dock?
As a boater and waterfront landowner, I can see both sides of dock, so to speak. Any fears expressed by neighbours are overblown and easily addressed. If local homes and businesses want a quiet, attractive dock, all they have to do is build the dock in Mahogany Harbour (where Rideau Valley Drive meets a side-channel of the Rideau River), the only location close to stores and restaurants. Then form a committee to welcome boaters, accept fees or donations, provide tourist information or even transport and delivery. Trouble around public docks is rare in my experience, but the tourism potential is enormous.
In many years of cruising in both powerboats and sailboats, I have yet to see a waterfront town that does not have a dock to attract travelling boaters to eat out or buy supplies. On the east coast, the Intracoastal Waterway, has many towns that supply overnight docks, picnic tables, welcome parties and even the use of a car - news about this town spread like wildfire among the snowbirds travelling south! These community leaders know that boaters are generally well-heeled so they actively encourage them to stop and stay.
Merrickville is a good example of how a small village has thrived by catering to tourists, in cars and boats, with a variety of shops and restaurants close to their waterfront. Boats from all over the continent pass through and many stay overnight in this delightful village. In fact, the village is so well-known, many of the visitors who arrive in cars come from Ottawa! Go to Kingston and see what a people-focused city harbour looks like. Boaters on holiday love the waterfront with its outdoor markets, crafts, music, festivals, shops, eateries, tour-trains, tour boats, and hundreds of visiting boats -- and free day docks to stop for a few hours to shop or eat. I hope local business owners and community leaders are taking notes...
Pat Drummond is the creator of the Manotick Index in 1996 and The Manotick Directory in March 2000. She operated PDQ Web Design from 2000 to 2010.