I am pretty sure I am not alone in thinking there are more people out and about in Sandy Hill during these COVID times. Our neighbourhood parks have become popular destinations and are invaluable local assets as we stay close to home in our locked-down world. While parks are busier in the summer, their winter charm especially this winter has really taken off. Nowhere is this more evident than the Rideau Winter Trail! But first, a little history:
In early 2019, Rideau Sports Centre CEO, Nicki Bridgland, and Councillors Mathieu Fleury and Tobi Nussbaum arranged to groom a single cross-country ski trail along the Rideau River, starting near the Adàwe Crossing and running south. Some of you may remember it.
Last year, this group with Councillor Rawlson King replacing former Councillor Nussbaum, plus Overbrook resident Peter Nor ran a pilot of weekly grooming from mid-January to early March 2020. With the support of the City of Ottawa, this three-kilometre loop ran between the Rideau Sports Centre and Highway 417. It was well received by users.
This past November, the Rideau Winter Trail of Ottawa was established as a non-profit organization, with a board of directors that includes Nicki Bridgland, Councillors Fleury and King, Board Chair Peter Nor, and yours truly representing Sandy Hill. While the trail, or RWT for short, is not actually in Sandy Hill, it is on our virtual doorstep thanks to the Adàwe Crossing.
This year, the free expanded trail runs from Donald Street to Hurdman and offers nine kilometres of winter fun for cross-country skiing (skate and classic), snowshoeing, fat biking, and walking. (see www.rideauwintertrail.ca for the full map). There are a few hills around the Hurdman LRT station to give you a bit of a workout, should you want to test your skills! The section south of the 417 along the river is my favourite.
Sandy Hill skiers
Sandy Hill’s riverside park lives up to its reputation for year-round activity.
The long-term goal is to get the trail to Mooney’s Bay, but this will depend on funding and community support. The volunteer board is grateful this season for support from the National Capital Commission, City of Ottawa, and Councillors Fleury, King, and Menard. The RWT is also supported by Anna Belanger & Associates, local real estate agents John Gomes and Natalie Belovic, and the University of Ottawa. The board is hoping to welcome more contributors to support this initiative.
A successful GoFundMe campaign was launched this year to increase the frequency and distance of grooming, and the community’s contributions have exceeded expectations (editor’s note: as of Feb. 9 the campaign has raised $13,770 of the $12,000 goal). In early February we were pleased to purchase an ATV and are aiming to one day buy our own specialized grooming gear to be pulled behind. You can find updates or support the campaign at www.gofundme.com/f/Rideau-Winter-Trail-of-Ottawa.
With our current COVID-19 challenges, the Rideau Winter Trail offers local residents easy access to a beautiful recreational trail. Unfortunately, the current situation has put the organization of events and equipment rentals on hold, but there are lots of great ideas brewing for the future.
As Councillor Fleury says, “The Rideau Winter Trail green space and NCC pathway system provide a wonderful winter canvas for outdoor activities. Embrace winter, grab your skis and enjoy the trail for free!”
L’Université d’Ottawa est heureuse de soutenir la Piste d’hiver Rideau (PHR) et d’encourager de nombreuses activités de plein air amusantes pour les individus, les familles ou les groupes de notre communauté de la Côte-de-Sable. La proximité du sentier avec l’Université d’Ottawa permet également à ceux qui se trouvent sur notre campus d’accéder facilement au sentier pour profiter de la vie en plein air, que ce soit pour une promenade, du ski de fond, de la raquette ou d’autres activités. S’adonner en toute sécurité à des activités de plein air est essentiel pour la santé de tous et nous sommes heureux de faire partie d’un groupe de partenaires qui contribue à donner vie à ce projet communautaire au centre de la ville.
Eric Bercier, Vice-recteur associé, Affaires étudiantes