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  #1321  
Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 10:03 AM
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Yes and frankly I am not even saying we should do this. But if removing trucks from King Edward was the real goal this might be a better option. You could sink the parkway like the 15 is in Montreal between Montreal Road and maybe Donald with each crossing over top. you would probably want a new bypass on the Quebec side so those bound for the 5 can skip the 50 traffic maybe. All this much cheaper but won't help those in Eastern Gatineau commute or land developers build new houses so isn't discussed.

I am all for linking Gatineu and Ottawa more but transit should be where we go with that. We have a lot of bridges already and no rapid or even semi rapid link unless you count the bus lane that quickly ends on the Ottawa side.
I would agree we probably don't need a new bridge.

The real problem is with the approaches from the 417 to the M-C on the Ontario side.
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  #1322  
Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 4:41 PM
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The east bridge is the one that is needed, not a replacement for Alexandria.

You have 175000 residents on the east side of Gatineau, and around 250,000 east of St-Laurent in Ottawa, there is no link between the 2 communities except for a downtown bridge, it's ridiculous, From Orleans to Gatineau is only 2-3 km away if you are a bird, but 40km by car

There is a lot of potential cross traffic between both communities, especially when you consider the French speaking population
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  #1323  
Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 4:43 PM
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Seems like a definitive argument for not living in eastern Gatineau if you need to be in Ottawa.
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  #1324  
Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 4:45 PM
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We are one metropolitan region
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  #1325  
Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 5:13 PM
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A bridge to Ottawa's past: Kettle Island saga isn't just a debate – it's a journey into history

Randy Boswell, Ottawa Citizen
Publishing date:
Oct 08, 2020 • Last Updated 1 hour ago • 18 minute read




A brief paddle from either the Ontario or Quebec side of the Ottawa River, a short distance below the mouths of the Rideau and Gatineau, will get you to Kettle Island. On a sweltering, late summer afternoon, I set off in my canoe from a sandy stretch of east-end Gatineau’s flood-prone waterfront — with three special passengers along for the ride, at least in spirit.

The 3.7-kilometre-long island, third biggest in the entire, 1,271-km Ottawa River system, is situated between Ottawa’s Manor Park neighbourhood and Gatineau’s Lac-Beauchamp district, about five kilometres downstream from Parliament Hill.

It is, today, an uninhabited, mosquito-infested, poison ivy-choked “alluvial swamp forest.” But two small west-end beaches, both within sight of the New Edinburgh boathouse, are lovely picnic spots for canoeists and boaters in the know.

Owned almost entirely by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Kettle Island has been an officially designated Quebec nature reserve since 2013. And despite the biting bugs and rash-inducing plants, the island is a rare oasis of river-bound urban greenery well-known to local birdwatchers, fish scientists and other naturalists.

Still, for such a large landform in the midst of a metropolis of more than 1.3 million people, it’s surprising how few 21st-century residents of Canada’s capital have ever set foot on Kettle Island, or even intentionally laid eyes on it.

Not so for my three companions — Emily O’Neill, Rocco Graziadei and Chief Luc-Antoine Pakinawatik. This place we’re approaching was an important part of the lives they lived long ago. I felt compelled to bring them with me on this Kettle Island reverie, across a few hundred metres of murky water and a few hundred years of local history.

And what an astonishing history Kettle Island has.

This place was a kind of Disney World more than a century ago for thousands of local families. It’s been a dreamscape for pioneers and entrepreneurs, cottagers and real estate schemers, entertainers and athletes. It’s been the backdrop to heart-rending tragedy and stirring acts of courage.

It was — and is — part of the unceded territory of the Algonquin people of Kitigan Zibi and Pikwakanagan, the two Anishnabek communities closest to Ottawa-Gatineau. But more than that, Kettle Island is a dark symbol of colonialism and Indigenous dispossession.

Why are we heading there now? Because the residents of Canada’s capital region will be hearing a lot about Kettle Island in the weeks and months to come, though its backstory is a mystery to almost everyone.

The island’s name — if not its wave-worn shore, its marshy woods or its richly layered past — is fairly well known to the present-day population of Ottawa-Gatineau. But “notorious” is perhaps a better way to frame this familiarity.

Kettle Island has been identified by generations of urban planners — going back more than a century — as the most logical route for the capital’s easternmost interprovincial bridge. However, calling that idea controversial doesn’t fully capture the enmity generated (especially on the Ontario side) by the on-again, off-again proposal to build a Kettle Island Bridge across the Ottawa.

Now, that idea is back. The 2019 federal budget, citing “the demonstrated need for an additional National Capital Region crossing,” directed the National Capital Commission to dust off a decade-old set of studies that led to the agency’s 2013 recommendation to proceed with a bridge over Kettle Island.

A public uprising, followed by the Ontario government’s abrupt pullout from the project, ensured the bridge went nowhere at that time — just as previous pushes in the 1950s, ’70s and ’90s all failed. But the idea didn’t die.

The NCC’s 47-page “refresh” of its earlier bridge reports, released this past June, set the stage for public consultations this fall on whether Kettle Island or two routes farther east would be best for a new crossing — or whether other transportation strategies and priorities, including potential changes to the existing five interprovincial bridges, should yet again nix the sixth.

Federal funding “should go into transit projects and active transportation projects, as opposed to building what could be a $1-billion bridge,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the NCC in June. Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin has similarly panned the sixth-bridge proposal. Yet Gatineau MP Steven MacKinnon and fellow Liberal Catherine McKenna — MP for Ottawa Centre and federal minister of infrastructure and communities — have trumpeted the need for a new crossing.

It has also emerged that Kettle Island’s newly won status as a nature reserve, as well as the nearby presence of populations of the threatened western chorus frog, will complicate any plans to erect a crossing at that location.



In short, the Kettle Island Bridge issue, on a low simmer for the past seven years, is back on the boil.

The first time there was talk of a bridge across Kettle Island was 132 years ago. A March 1888 Citizen story headlined “A Big Scheme” revealed a $500,000 plan for a combination railway and horse-and-buggy bridge that would “cross the Ottawa River at the head of Kettle Island.” Setting a pattern for future proposals, the big scheme never materialized.

A Kettle Island Bridge for the automobile age was first envisioned by the Holt Report of 1915, a seminal planning document for the capital that recommended a new Ottawa River crossing “just below the mouth of the Gatineau River.”

Why build it? The main reason to construct an east-end bridge has always been to divert heavy truck traffic from beleaguered King Edward Avenue. Yet communities to the east along the proposed Kettle Island corridor, particularly the well-organized and influential residents of Manor Park and Rockcliffe, have adamantly opposed the bridge and its planned link to the NCC’s scenic parkways near the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

During the 2014 municipal election campaign, not long after the last major round of controversy over the island, a contender for the Ottawa Council seat in Rideau-Rockcliffe ward summed up the frustration over his community’s incessant battles against the proposed bridge. “Kettle Island is a bit like the whack-a-mole game,” said Tobi Nussbaum, a federal diplomat who went on to win the councillor’s job. “You hit it and it pops up somewhere else.”

In February 2019, Nussbaum resigned his council seat to become the chief executive officer of the NCC — the main driver, over the decades, of the oft-proposed but never realized Kettle Island Bridge. A month later, when the Trudeau government delivered its 2019 budget, a certain mole popped its head up on Nussbaum’s desk at NCC headquarters.



We are hugging Kettle Island’s north shore now, occasionally buffeted by waves from passing motorboats. My three spectral companions provide no stabilizing ballast, but their presence — and perhaps the heat — help fire the imagination. As our canoe drifts along, the gnarly wilderness is momentarily transformed into farmland with grazing cattle and barnyard pigs.

The island was part of the Ottawa Valley hunting and fishing grounds of First Nations for at least 6,000 years before the arrival of European settlers 220 years ago. But soon after the 1800 arrival of Philemon Wright, the founding figure of white settlement in the region, the island was earmarked for agriculture by the pioneers of Bytown and Hull.

In fact, Wright himself petitioned the government of Lower Canada in 1802 to be granted ownership of Kettle Island for a hemp-growing operation — a lucrative crop at the time because of the Royal Navy’s insatiable need for sail-rigging rope. The Quebec City-based colonial administration rejected Wright’s petition because it knew that control of the major islands in the great river to Canada’s interior would prove complicated.

At the time, Algonquin leaders along the Ottawa continued to exercise much of their traditional authority over the territory, collecting rent from many settlers for their use of certain lands.

In 1818, a pioneer farmer named Eleazar Gillson held such a lease on Kettle Island. Twenty years later, two other settlers sought permission from Lower Canada to take over Gillson’s arrangement with his Indigenous landlords — and the government’s decision in the case became a landmark ruling with far-reaching implications for the Algonquin people of the Ottawa Valley.

There is more to say about this thread of history, as my distinguished passenger, Chief Pakinawatik, knows well.

But here, for a moment, we must time-travel forward — or at least peer into a potential future.

This spot along the island’s shore — where a turtle is sunning itself on a log stranded in the shallows — is about where the Kettle Island Bridge would come through, if it ever does. It’s straight across from Gatineau’s Tecumseh Golf Club and 400 metres east of our destination, Duval Point, the official name of the island’s sandy western tip.



This will be a homecoming for Emily O’Neill. She lived on the point with her family in the 1870s and ’80s, when she was a young woman. Her father, Edward O’Neill, had been Ottawa’s leading police investigator for many years — most famously as the detective who arrested Fenian radical Patrick James Whelan for the 1868 assassination of Father of Confederation Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

As he approached retirement, Det. O’Neill’s summer home at the upstream head of Kettle Island evolved into a family-run vacation lodge called Island Park, with guests delivered by the O’Neill-owned ferry, Edie May. It’s unclear how successful the O’Neill family business became, but it was during this time that Emily gained fame in Ottawa and well beyond for her courageous rescues of imperilled swimmers, skaters, boaters and buggy drivers — a young heroine for all seasons.

She was once described by Harper’s magazine as “the Canadian Grace Darling,” a reference to the 22-year-old Englishwoman, daughter of a Northumberland lighthouse keeper, who became an international icon of courage for her 1838 rescue of survivors of a North Sea shipwreck.

“Her family inhabits a snug little house facing the south channel of the river,” a Toronto World scribe reported in 1883. “Miss Emily has been instrumental in saving from drowning no less than seven human lives at various times, and yet this gentle heroine has not as yet been honoured with the medals of the humane society, which she so richly deserves.”

Rescue attempts around Kettle Island weren’t always successful. The well-known statue of Sir Galahad on Parliament Hill recalls an ill-fated act of valour in December 1901, when the young civil servant Henry Harper — a close friend of future prime minister Mackenzie King — leapt into a patch of open water in a dangerous bid to rescue fellow skater Bessie Blair, who had broken through the ice just off the island’s shore.

Both Harper and Blair drowned, and King later spearheaded efforts to erect the downtown monument honouring his friend’s courage.

Emily O’Neill somehow defied the odds — over and over again — to build her sterling reputation as a life-saver.

In one instance, when five boys fell through thin ice while skating near Kettle Island, “Miss O’Neill heard their cries for help and putting out in a boat, she made her way through the rotten ice — and after a hard struggle managed to land all the youngsters safely on shore.”

It isn’t clear whether Emily O’Neill ever received the full recognition she deserved for her repeated acts of heroism, or how long she continued to live on Kettle Island after her father’s death in 1887. But as we coast the canoe to a gentle stop at the beach, I’m aware of one more intriguing fact that may bookend Emily’s story.

In 1912, some 30 years after her heyday as the heroine of the Ottawa River and during a fleeting era when Kettle Island was known as Belle Isle, the Citizen published a brief classified ad: “LOST — OTTAWA HUMANE SOCIETY silver medal at Belle Isle, between wharf and park. Return to Citizen.”



The spectacularly mustachioed Rocco Graziadei is wearing a tuxedo in my mind’s eye. He’s a little overdressed for a canoe trip and a beach visit on this piping hot day, but we shouldn’t expect less from a man who performed regularly at the posh Russell House hotel in late-Victorian Ottawa.

Graziadei’s 1935 Citizen obituary, a glowing tribute, would describe him as one of Ottawa’s first Italian immigrants (he settled here in 1884) and “one of the best known professional musicians of the Capital.” An especially talented harpist, he could also play flute, violin, piano and cello.



And as maestro of the city’s popular Italian Orchestra, Graziadei was briefly the entertainment king of Kettle Island in the years just before the First World War — band leader, manager of the moving pictures cinema, the impresario who booked singers, comedians and vaudeville acts.

This is perhaps the most mind-bending phase of Kettle Island’s history, when the place was breathlessly touted as “Ottawa’s Coney Island” and was served hourly on summer weekends by a 300-passenger steamer, the Quinte Queen, a former Lake Ontario ferry.

The amusement park concept had been attempted on the island in more rudimentary ways before. Just as the O’Neills had envisioned a Kettle Island resort, the Laverdure family followed in the 1890s.

But their “pleasure island” attraction didn’t last into the 20th century. When a more ambitious plan for a new Kettle Island amusement park was announced in January 1912, it had the backing of a prominent group of investors.

Renamed “Belle Isle Park” and promoted as a summertime “amusement resort,” the island’s west end featured carnival games and a merry-go-round, as well as concerts, song-and-dance shows and silent movies at the Graziadei-run Gaiety Theatre.

Nature walks, bathing at the beach, jugglers and other buskers were all part of the package. There was also a full-service restaurant, a “grand hotel” and dance hall, along with a new baseball field and a boxing ring with seating for hundreds of spectators.

It’s extraordinary that our quiet canoe landing in the 21st century was the scene of such energy and excitement in the early 20th. All of those sights and sounds are surely rushing back to Maestro Graziadei at this moment.

The June 1912 launch of Belle Isle Park was bound up in a development scheme aimed at convincing 300 Ottawa-Hull businessmen to buy cottage properties east of the fun zone. “Over 100 acres have been set aside for cosy, quiet little summer homes. Just the place for the wife and kiddies,” enticed newspaper ads that offered building lots for between $100 and $450.



But there were dark omens.

Just weeks before the Belle Isle developers travelled to Napanee to take possession of the Quinte Queen, the Titanic went down in April 1912 with more than 1,500 lives lost. So while the park promoters tried to make a splash when their steamer reached Ottawa in early May, the company’s messaging was clearly geared to a potential customer base spooked by the epic Titanic tragedy.

“The Quinte Queen is fitted up with a more than sufficient supply of life saving apparatus for the number of passengers it will carry,” the Citizen noted, “having three lifeboats, in addition to hundreds of life belts.”

The day of the park’s grand opening, Saturday, June 15, 1912, featured prominent ads in all local papers, with inset photos of the hotel, theatre and ferry. But a hard rain fell all day, and the expected thousands of visitors amounted to just 800. Soon, there were rumblings of financial trouble in the local papers.

Graziadei was a hard-working, lifelong musician and music teacher. He was 53 in the summer of 1912. Belle Isle Park, perhaps, was his best shot at getting off the musical treadmill and becoming a local entertainment mogul.

“You will get your money’s worth at Belle Isle’s Gaiety Theater,” the Citizen reported in early August 1912. “Prof. Graziadei has assumed management of the above popular summer playhouse — and has secured all new features in the amusement line.”

Whatever dreams Rocco Graziadei might have had for his future on Kettle Island, they soon fizzled.

In April 1913, after just a year in business, the Belle Isle Park Co. declared bankruptcy. Belle Isle was sold and rebranded as “Capital Park” for the summer of 1913. Perhaps Graziadei got another year or two as the island’s music man, but Ottawa-Gatineau’s early attempt at a Disneyesque dreamland appears to have drifted into oblivion during the First World War.



Kettle Island remained a cottage haven for a small number of property owners until the 1960s. It gradually faded from public consciousness, except for occasional news stories about city mosquito-control operations, which typically involved dousing the island’s swampy interior with thousands of gallons of a larvae-killing oil mixture.

There were a few other sporadic moments in the spotlight. In 1959, a Cold War training exercise was organized around “a simulated explosion of a five megaton H-bomb at 7,000 feet over Kettle Island.” And in 1963, Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton suggested Kettle Island would be a perfect site for a national aquarium.



Then the 1964 completion of the Carillon Dam, 100 kilometres downstream of Ottawa, raised river levels by about three metres in the capital region and ended the era of human habitation on Kettle Island.

More than a half-century later, Mother Nature has reasserted her dominion over Kettle Island. Her emissaries — the turtle, frog and mosquito, an overhead osprey and two wild turkeys that must have crossed the ice from mainland Gatineau last winter — were all there to greet our canoe party on the afternoon of our recent visit.

A fire pit full of half-burnt beer cans, and a discarded pair of broken sunglasses on the sand nearby, indicated the presence of other visitors before us. Broken bits of brick further inland — where the sand yields to soil at the back of the beach — were traces of a much earlier, more substantial, eerily vanished presence. Emily and Rocco would remember that time; Chief Pakinawatik would recall a far deeper past.



A 2008 archaeological study found no traces of prehistoric Indigenous remains on Kettle Island, but concluded the potential for such finds is very strong. In fact, according to an 1880 article in the Toronto Globe, a number of ancient “Indian relics” — “bones, flint arrow-heads” and more — “have been discovered on Kettle Island, a few miles down the Ottawa River” from Parliament.

Born in 1803, Pakinawatik would have known the island well — as many generations of his ancestors surely did — from countless canoe journeys up and down the Ottawa and Gatineau. These rivers had been integral to Algonquin life in the region “since time immemorial,” as the title of a published history of Kitigan Zibi puts it.

But the 19th century brought hard times for Pakinawatik and his people along the Ottawa. The 1839 bid to transfer Gillson’s 1818 lease for Kettle Island proved to be a pivotal moment in Algonquin history in the Ottawa Valley. In response to the application, all such leases granted by Indigenous leaders were abruptly and arbitrarily scrapped — declared “null and void” by the Lower Canada government.

Though the Kettle Island ruling also stipulated that First Nations should be granted fair compensation for their loss of revenue from the Ottawa River islands and adjacent lands, the ruling set in motion an era of intensified dispossession and displacement.

It was Pakinawatik — great-great-grandfather of another renowned Algonquin leader in the Ottawa Valley, the late Chief William Commanda — who spearheaded the local battle for Indigenous rights throughout the mid-1800s. He is credited with eventually securing the land base that would become the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community near Maniwaki, Que.

We are paddling back toward the Gatineau shore now. Kettle Island has evolved over the past two centuries from a wilderness hunting and fishing ground to farmland to resort destination to public playground to cottage retreat and back to wilderness.

The looming debate over its next incarnation will determine whether the island is also destined to become, finally, the stepping stone for a new bridge connecting the two sides of Canada’s capital.


Randy Boswell is an Ottawa writer and journalism professor at Carleton University.

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/a-bri...y-into-history
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  #1326  
Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 5:23 PM
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Originally Posted by rocketphish View Post
A bridge to Ottawa's past: Kettle Island saga isn't just a debate – it's a journey into history

Randy Boswell, Ottawa Citizen
Publishing date:
Oct 08, 2020 • Last Updated 1 hour ago • 18 minute read




A brief paddle from either the Ontario or Quebec side of the Ottawa River, a short distance below the mouths of the Rideau and Gatineau, will get you to Kettle Island. On a sweltering, late summer afternoon, I set off in my canoe from a sandy stretch of east-end Gatineau’s flood-prone waterfront — with three special passengers along for the ride, at least in spirit.

The 3.7-kilometre-long island, third biggest in the entire, 1,271-km Ottawa River system, is situated between Ottawa’s Manor Park neighbourhood and Gatineau’s Lac-Beauchamp district, about five kilometres downstream from Parliament Hill.

It is, today, an uninhabited, mosquito-infested, poison ivy-choked “alluvial swamp forest.” But two small west-end beaches, both within sight of the New Edinburgh boathouse, are lovely picnic spots for canoeists and boaters in the know.

Owned almost entirely by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Kettle Island has been an officially designated Quebec nature reserve since 2013. And despite the biting bugs and rash-inducing plants, the island is a rare oasis of river-bound urban greenery well-known to local birdwatchers, fish scientists and other naturalists.

Still, for such a large landform in the midst of a metropolis of more than 1.3 million people, it’s surprising how few 21st-century residents of Canada’s capital have ever set foot on Kettle Island, or even intentionally laid eyes on it.

Not so for my three companions — Emily O’Neill, Rocco Graziadei and Chief Luc-Antoine Pakinawatik. This place we’re approaching was an important part of the lives they lived long ago. I felt compelled to bring them with me on this Kettle Island reverie, across a few hundred metres of murky water and a few hundred years of local history.

And what an astonishing history Kettle Island has.

This place was a kind of Disney World more than a century ago for thousands of local families. It’s been a dreamscape for pioneers and entrepreneurs, cottagers and real estate schemers, entertainers and athletes. It’s been the backdrop to heart-rending tragedy and stirring acts of courage.

It was — and is — part of the unceded territory of the Algonquin people of Kitigan Zibi and Pikwakanagan, the two Anishnabek communities closest to Ottawa-Gatineau. But more than that, Kettle Island is a dark symbol of colonialism and Indigenous dispossession.

Why are we heading there now? Because the residents of Canada’s capital region will be hearing a lot about Kettle Island in the weeks and months to come, though its backstory is a mystery to almost everyone.

The island’s name — if not its wave-worn shore, its marshy woods or its richly layered past — is fairly well known to the present-day population of Ottawa-Gatineau. But “notorious” is perhaps a better way to frame this familiarity.

Kettle Island has been identified by generations of urban planners — going back more than a century — as the most logical route for the capital’s easternmost interprovincial bridge. However, calling that idea controversial doesn’t fully capture the enmity generated (especially on the Ontario side) by the on-again, off-again proposal to build a Kettle Island Bridge across the Ottawa.

Now, that idea is back. The 2019 federal budget, citing “the demonstrated need for an additional National Capital Region crossing,” directed the National Capital Commission to dust off a decade-old set of studies that led to the agency’s 2013 recommendation to proceed with a bridge over Kettle Island.

A public uprising, followed by the Ontario government’s abrupt pullout from the project, ensured the bridge went nowhere at that time — just as previous pushes in the 1950s, ’70s and ’90s all failed. But the idea didn’t die.

The NCC’s 47-page “refresh” of its earlier bridge reports, released this past June, set the stage for public consultations this fall on whether Kettle Island or two routes farther east would be best for a new crossing — or whether other transportation strategies and priorities, including potential changes to the existing five interprovincial bridges, should yet again nix the sixth.

Federal funding “should go into transit projects and active transportation projects, as opposed to building what could be a $1-billion bridge,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the NCC in June. Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin has similarly panned the sixth-bridge proposal. Yet Gatineau MP Steven MacKinnon and fellow Liberal Catherine McKenna — MP for Ottawa Centre and federal minister of infrastructure and communities — have trumpeted the need for a new crossing.

It has also emerged that Kettle Island’s newly won status as a nature reserve, as well as the nearby presence of populations of the threatened western chorus frog, will complicate any plans to erect a crossing at that location.



In short, the Kettle Island Bridge issue, on a low simmer for the past seven years, is back on the boil.

The first time there was talk of a bridge across Kettle Island was 132 years ago. A March 1888 Citizen story headlined “A Big Scheme” revealed a $500,000 plan for a combination railway and horse-and-buggy bridge that would “cross the Ottawa River at the head of Kettle Island.” Setting a pattern for future proposals, the big scheme never materialized.

A Kettle Island Bridge for the automobile age was first envisioned by the Holt Report of 1915, a seminal planning document for the capital that recommended a new Ottawa River crossing “just below the mouth of the Gatineau River.”

Why build it? The main reason to construct an east-end bridge has always been to divert heavy truck traffic from beleaguered King Edward Avenue. Yet communities to the east along the proposed Kettle Island corridor, particularly the well-organized and influential residents of Manor Park and Rockcliffe, have adamantly opposed the bridge and its planned link to the NCC’s scenic parkways near the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

During the 2014 municipal election campaign, not long after the last major round of controversy over the island, a contender for the Ottawa Council seat in Rideau-Rockcliffe ward summed up the frustration over his community’s incessant battles against the proposed bridge. “Kettle Island is a bit like the whack-a-mole game,” said Tobi Nussbaum, a federal diplomat who went on to win the councillor’s job. “You hit it and it pops up somewhere else.”

In February 2019, Nussbaum resigned his council seat to become the chief executive officer of the NCC — the main driver, over the decades, of the oft-proposed but never realized Kettle Island Bridge. A month later, when the Trudeau government delivered its 2019 budget, a certain mole popped its head up on Nussbaum’s desk at NCC headquarters.



We are hugging Kettle Island’s north shore now, occasionally buffeted by waves from passing motorboats. My three spectral companions provide no stabilizing ballast, but their presence — and perhaps the heat — help fire the imagination. As our canoe drifts along, the gnarly wilderness is momentarily transformed into farmland with grazing cattle and barnyard pigs.

The island was part of the Ottawa Valley hunting and fishing grounds of First Nations for at least 6,000 years before the arrival of European settlers 220 years ago. But soon after the 1800 arrival of Philemon Wright, the founding figure of white settlement in the region, the island was earmarked for agriculture by the pioneers of Bytown and Hull.

In fact, Wright himself petitioned the government of Lower Canada in 1802 to be granted ownership of Kettle Island for a hemp-growing operation — a lucrative crop at the time because of the Royal Navy’s insatiable need for sail-rigging rope. The Quebec City-based colonial administration rejected Wright’s petition because it knew that control of the major islands in the great river to Canada’s interior would prove complicated.

At the time, Algonquin leaders along the Ottawa continued to exercise much of their traditional authority over the territory, collecting rent from many settlers for their use of certain lands.

In 1818, a pioneer farmer named Eleazar Gillson held such a lease on Kettle Island. Twenty years later, two other settlers sought permission from Lower Canada to take over Gillson’s arrangement with his Indigenous landlords — and the government’s decision in the case became a landmark ruling with far-reaching implications for the Algonquin people of the Ottawa Valley.

There is more to say about this thread of history, as my distinguished passenger, Chief Pakinawatik, knows well.

But here, for a moment, we must time-travel forward — or at least peer into a potential future.

This spot along the island’s shore — where a turtle is sunning itself on a log stranded in the shallows — is about where the Kettle Island Bridge would come through, if it ever does. It’s straight across from Gatineau’s Tecumseh Golf Club and 400 metres east of our destination, Duval Point, the official name of the island’s sandy western tip.



This will be a homecoming for Emily O’Neill. She lived on the point with her family in the 1870s and ’80s, when she was a young woman. Her father, Edward O’Neill, had been Ottawa’s leading police investigator for many years — most famously as the detective who arrested Fenian radical Patrick James Whelan for the 1868 assassination of Father of Confederation Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

As he approached retirement, Det. O’Neill’s summer home at the upstream head of Kettle Island evolved into a family-run vacation lodge called Island Park, with guests delivered by the O’Neill-owned ferry, Edie May. It’s unclear how successful the O’Neill family business became, but it was during this time that Emily gained fame in Ottawa and well beyond for her courageous rescues of imperilled swimmers, skaters, boaters and buggy drivers — a young heroine for all seasons.

She was once described by Harper’s magazine as “the Canadian Grace Darling,” a reference to the 22-year-old Englishwoman, daughter of a Northumberland lighthouse keeper, who became an international icon of courage for her 1838 rescue of survivors of a North Sea shipwreck.

“Her family inhabits a snug little house facing the south channel of the river,” a Toronto World scribe reported in 1883. “Miss Emily has been instrumental in saving from drowning no less than seven human lives at various times, and yet this gentle heroine has not as yet been honoured with the medals of the humane society, which she so richly deserves.”

Rescue attempts around Kettle Island weren’t always successful. The well-known statue of Sir Galahad on Parliament Hill recalls an ill-fated act of valour in December 1901, when the young civil servant Henry Harper — a close friend of future prime minister Mackenzie King — leapt into a patch of open water in a dangerous bid to rescue fellow skater Bessie Blair, who had broken through the ice just off the island’s shore.

Both Harper and Blair drowned, and King later spearheaded efforts to erect the downtown monument honouring his friend’s courage.

Emily O’Neill somehow defied the odds — over and over again — to build her sterling reputation as a life-saver.

In one instance, when five boys fell through thin ice while skating near Kettle Island, “Miss O’Neill heard their cries for help and putting out in a boat, she made her way through the rotten ice — and after a hard struggle managed to land all the youngsters safely on shore.”

It isn’t clear whether Emily O’Neill ever received the full recognition she deserved for her repeated acts of heroism, or how long she continued to live on Kettle Island after her father’s death in 1887. But as we coast the canoe to a gentle stop at the beach, I’m aware of one more intriguing fact that may bookend Emily’s story.

In 1912, some 30 years after her heyday as the heroine of the Ottawa River and during a fleeting era when Kettle Island was known as Belle Isle, the Citizen published a brief classified ad: “LOST — OTTAWA HUMANE SOCIETY silver medal at Belle Isle, between wharf and park. Return to Citizen.”



The spectacularly mustachioed Rocco Graziadei is wearing a tuxedo in my mind’s eye. He’s a little overdressed for a canoe trip and a beach visit on this piping hot day, but we shouldn’t expect less from a man who performed regularly at the posh Russell House hotel in late-Victorian Ottawa.

Graziadei’s 1935 Citizen obituary, a glowing tribute, would describe him as one of Ottawa’s first Italian immigrants (he settled here in 1884) and “one of the best known professional musicians of the Capital.” An especially talented harpist, he could also play flute, violin, piano and cello.



And as maestro of the city’s popular Italian Orchestra, Graziadei was briefly the entertainment king of Kettle Island in the years just before the First World War — band leader, manager of the moving pictures cinema, the impresario who booked singers, comedians and vaudeville acts.

This is perhaps the most mind-bending phase of Kettle Island’s history, when the place was breathlessly touted as “Ottawa’s Coney Island” and was served hourly on summer weekends by a 300-passenger steamer, the Quinte Queen, a former Lake Ontario ferry.

The amusement park concept had been attempted on the island in more rudimentary ways before. Just as the O’Neills had envisioned a Kettle Island resort, the Laverdure family followed in the 1890s.

But their “pleasure island” attraction didn’t last into the 20th century. When a more ambitious plan for a new Kettle Island amusement park was announced in January 1912, it had the backing of a prominent group of investors.

Renamed “Belle Isle Park” and promoted as a summertime “amusement resort,” the island’s west end featured carnival games and a merry-go-round, as well as concerts, song-and-dance shows and silent movies at the Graziadei-run Gaiety Theatre.

Nature walks, bathing at the beach, jugglers and other buskers were all part of the package. There was also a full-service restaurant, a “grand hotel” and dance hall, along with a new baseball field and a boxing ring with seating for hundreds of spectators.

It’s extraordinary that our quiet canoe landing in the 21st century was the scene of such energy and excitement in the early 20th. All of those sights and sounds are surely rushing back to Maestro Graziadei at this moment.

The June 1912 launch of Belle Isle Park was bound up in a development scheme aimed at convincing 300 Ottawa-Hull businessmen to buy cottage properties east of the fun zone. “Over 100 acres have been set aside for cosy, quiet little summer homes. Just the place for the wife and kiddies,” enticed newspaper ads that offered building lots for between $100 and $450.



But there were dark omens.

Just weeks before the Belle Isle developers travelled to Napanee to take possession of the Quinte Queen, the Titanic went down in April 1912 with more than 1,500 lives lost. So while the park promoters tried to make a splash when their steamer reached Ottawa in early May, the company’s messaging was clearly geared to a potential customer base spooked by the epic Titanic tragedy.

“The Quinte Queen is fitted up with a more than sufficient supply of life saving apparatus for the number of passengers it will carry,” the Citizen noted, “having three lifeboats, in addition to hundreds of life belts.”

The day of the park’s grand opening, Saturday, June 15, 1912, featured prominent ads in all local papers, with inset photos of the hotel, theatre and ferry. But a hard rain fell all day, and the expected thousands of visitors amounted to just 800. Soon, there were rumblings of financial trouble in the local papers.

Graziadei was a hard-working, lifelong musician and music teacher. He was 53 in the summer of 1912. Belle Isle Park, perhaps, was his best shot at getting off the musical treadmill and becoming a local entertainment mogul.

“You will get your money’s worth at Belle Isle’s Gaiety Theater,” the Citizen reported in early August 1912. “Prof. Graziadei has assumed management of the above popular summer playhouse — and has secured all new features in the amusement line.”

Whatever dreams Rocco Graziadei might have had for his future on Kettle Island, they soon fizzled.

In April 1913, after just a year in business, the Belle Isle Park Co. declared bankruptcy. Belle Isle was sold and rebranded as “Capital Park” for the summer of 1913. Perhaps Graziadei got another year or two as the island’s music man, but Ottawa-Gatineau’s early attempt at a Disneyesque dreamland appears to have drifted into oblivion during the First World War.



Kettle Island remained a cottage haven for a small number of property owners until the 1960s. It gradually faded from public consciousness, except for occasional news stories about city mosquito-control operations, which typically involved dousing the island’s swampy interior with thousands of gallons of a larvae-killing oil mixture.

There were a few other sporadic moments in the spotlight. In 1959, a Cold War training exercise was organized around “a simulated explosion of a five megaton H-bomb at 7,000 feet over Kettle Island.” And in 1963, Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton suggested Kettle Island would be a perfect site for a national aquarium.



Then the 1964 completion of the Carillon Dam, 100 kilometres downstream of Ottawa, raised river levels by about three metres in the capital region and ended the era of human habitation on Kettle Island.

More than a half-century later, Mother Nature has reasserted her dominion over Kettle Island. Her emissaries — the turtle, frog and mosquito, an overhead osprey and two wild turkeys that must have crossed the ice from mainland Gatineau last winter — were all there to greet our canoe party on the afternoon of our recent visit.

A fire pit full of half-burnt beer cans, and a discarded pair of broken sunglasses on the sand nearby, indicated the presence of other visitors before us. Broken bits of brick further inland — where the sand yields to soil at the back of the beach — were traces of a much earlier, more substantial, eerily vanished presence. Emily and Rocco would remember that time; Chief Pakinawatik would recall a far deeper past.



A 2008 archaeological study found no traces of prehistoric Indigenous remains on Kettle Island, but concluded the potential for such finds is very strong. In fact, according to an 1880 article in the Toronto Globe, a number of ancient “Indian relics” — “bones, flint arrow-heads” and more — “have been discovered on Kettle Island, a few miles down the Ottawa River” from Parliament.

Born in 1803, Pakinawatik would have known the island well — as many generations of his ancestors surely did — from countless canoe journeys up and down the Ottawa and Gatineau. These rivers had been integral to Algonquin life in the region “since time immemorial,” as the title of a published history of Kitigan Zibi puts it.

But the 19th century brought hard times for Pakinawatik and his people along the Ottawa. The 1839 bid to transfer Gillson’s 1818 lease for Kettle Island proved to be a pivotal moment in Algonquin history in the Ottawa Valley. In response to the application, all such leases granted by Indigenous leaders were abruptly and arbitrarily scrapped — declared “null and void” by the Lower Canada government.

Though the Kettle Island ruling also stipulated that First Nations should be granted fair compensation for their loss of revenue from the Ottawa River islands and adjacent lands, the ruling set in motion an era of intensified dispossession and displacement.

It was Pakinawatik — great-great-grandfather of another renowned Algonquin leader in the Ottawa Valley, the late Chief William Commanda — who spearheaded the local battle for Indigenous rights throughout the mid-1800s. He is credited with eventually securing the land base that would become the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community near Maniwaki, Que.

We are paddling back toward the Gatineau shore now. Kettle Island has evolved over the past two centuries from a wilderness hunting and fishing ground to farmland to resort destination to public playground to cottage retreat and back to wilderness.

The looming debate over its next incarnation will determine whether the island is also destined to become, finally, the stepping stone for a new bridge connecting the two sides of Canada’s capital.


Randy Boswell is an Ottawa writer and journalism professor at Carleton University.

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/a-bri...y-into-history
What a great piece of writing! Thank you for sharing.
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*An assembly of shareholders that likes to pretend it is a close-knit family, in order to maintain access to grandpa's inheritance.

Still a really nice group of people to spend Christmas dinner with, though.
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Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 5:30 PM
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Seems like a definitive argument for not living in eastern Gatineau if you need to be in Ottawa.
Perhaps, but living in Kemptville or Casselman and working in downtown Ottawa or Hull is not logical either and plenty of people do it.

I am not hell-bent on an east end bridge but I don't see this as a convincing argument against one.

There is one in the inner west at Champlain, so it's not illogical that there be one in the inner east somewhere around Kettle.

This would be a nice to have under normal circumstances but the mess around King Edward also bumps it up a notch or two, ISTM.
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Still a really nice group of people to spend Christmas dinner with, though.
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Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 5:46 PM
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Perhaps, but living in Kemptville or Casselman and working in downtown Ottawa or Hull is not logical either and plenty of people do it.

I am not hell-bent on an east end bridge but I don't see this as a convincing argument against one.

There is one in the inner west at Champlain, so it's not illogical that there be one in the inner east somewhere around Kettle.

This would be a nice to have under normal circumstances but the mess around King Edward also bumps it up a notch or two, ISTM.
This!!!

People on this forum talk like you should move every time you change jobs and you should get a divorce if your spouse doesn't work in the same part of town that you do. Then there is the issue of where do you friends and family live. Not all trips are to/from work.
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Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 5:50 PM
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This!!!

People on this forum talk like you should move every time you change jobs and you should get a divorce if your spouse doesn't work in the same part of town that you do. Then there is the issue of where do you friends and family live. Not all trips are to/from work.
Thanks. There is sometimes this weird vision here that a metropolitan transportation system should be a barrier or a stopgap instead of an "enabler".

Some cities (especially in the U.S.) have gone too far with highways and due to that and other factors their cores got hollowed out.

But generally speaking, having people being able to easily access jobs, shopping and other activities all over the metro area, regardless of where they live, is actually a *good* thing, not a bad one.
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Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 5:58 PM
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Thanks. There is something this weird vision here that a metropolitan transportation system should be a barrier or a stopgap instead of an "enabler".

Some cities (especially in the U.S.) have gone too far with highways and due to that and other factors their cores got hollowed out.

But generally speaking, having people being able to easily access jobs, shopping and other activities all over the metro area, regardless of where they live, is actually a *good* thing, not a bad one.
Plus, funneling all interprovincial vehicle traffic through the downtown core does nothing to revitalize it. The vast majority don't stop downtown but just use King Edward as a highway. Detouring a large percentage of those vehicles (be they trucks or cars) away from downtown would be a good thing for central Ottawa.
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Old Posted Oct 8, 2020, 6:20 PM
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I very much agree with Acajack and roger1818.
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Old Posted Oct 19, 2020, 6:23 PM
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Interprovincial transportation survey.

https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/projects/long-...f-0050568ece72
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