Already a favourite location for a pit stop along the Cataraqui Trail, Chaffey’s Lock is now home to a specially constructed rest stop that not only incorporates a sheltered place to sit and admire the beauty of the surrounding natural environment, but also learn about the unique and compelling heritage and current amenities of the local community.
On June 2, representatives from the Chaffey’s Lock & Area Heritage Society, Cataraqui Conservation (owners and managers of the Cataraqui Trail) and the Township of Rideau Lakes officially opened the Chaffey’s Lock Rest Stop, which was constructed at the very site where the Chaffey’s Lock train station used to stand.
“This rest stop has come to serve as an excellent example of how partnerships can work between community organizations and the Township of Rideau Lakes to improve our public spaces and reinvigorate understanding of our local heritage,” said Arie Hoogenboom, Mayor of the Township of Rideau Lakes in addressing the gathering, calling the project “a living homage to the local history of the Chaffeys Lock Train Station, that also provides the users of the Cataraqui Trail a quiet and beautiful looking rest stop while hiking or cycling in the area.”
“I’m a firm believer that great communities don’t happen overnight, but only through small steps, with committed stakeholders and volunteers over decades, all keeping their eye on the future and what we can do if we just take that first step and put our minds to it – and keep pushing forward,” said Dave Brown at the event, representing the Chaffey’s Lock & Area Heritage Society.
“This rest stop is a wonderful addition towards that goal, and all of us here believe that this trail system hasn’t come close to realizing its full potential in the future. But it’s steps like this, that build upon previous successes towards that goal.”
As well as a sheltered spot for trail users to take a break or meet up with other travelers, the site also features interpretive signage outlining the history of the station and railway lines, and a Heritage Walking Trail through the surrounding community, including 15 sites of local interest and several local businesses.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was the culmination of three years of planning and negotiations between all the partners. The result is a collaborative effort that will be of benefit to all involved for many years to come.
“I want to thank you all for being here with us today to acknowledge and celebrate a three-year partnership project between the Chaffey’s Lock Heritage Society, the Township of Rideau Lakes and Cataraqui Conservation to create this new feature along the Cataraqui Trail,” said Cataraqui Conservation Full Authority Board Chairperson Gary Oosterhof.
“This is a great example of collaboration and will be an excellent space for the community to celebrate the local heritage, take a break on the Trail and learn about the surrounding community in our watershed. Well done, everyone.”
The project was spearheaded by Heritage Society board member and area resident Cathy Penny, who helped shape the idea through various stages and between the partner organizations since late 2020.
She said that a combination of tenacity, patience and partnership building between individuals and organizations helped create what is now a significant addition to the already culturally rich Chaffey’s Lock area.
“After getting the Heritage Society to commit to a third of the funding for the project that gave us some momentum and allowed me to have some leverage when I next went to talk to Cataraqui Conservation and eventually the Township of Rideau Lakes,” Penny said, adding that Cataraqui Conservation bought in, with the added bonus of being able to provide all of the design work for the signage and other graphic elements.
The next group to get on side was the Rideau Lakes Community Enhancement Committee, who approved the idea and forwarded it to the Municipal Services Committee. Discussion about the nature of the shelter at the rest stop resulted in the development of the current 10 foot by 10-foot structure, which met parameters within local building regulations, allowing the structure to actually be built by Township staff, saving costs and speeding up the approval process. So now the three primary partners were all rowing the boat in the same direction.
“Throughout this process, we all learned how important it was to be flexible, to be patient and to have good communications between all parties. There was a lot of what I called ‘socializing’ behind the scenes to get people to understand what the goals of the project were, so when it was presented to the various organizations, there was already a certain level of buy in,” Penny said.
“And the people who did the work, there was a real sense of accomplishment for them. They just want to do good work and feel good about the work – it gives them, and really everyone involved, a sense of ownership. Ultimately this is not just good for Chaffey’s Lock but also for the Cataraqui Trail. It’s a wonderful feature, so let’s use it and value it and preserve it and celebrate it.”
The Heritage Society was formed more than four decades ago, with the focal point being a museum and interpretive center located within the confines of what used to be the former lockmaster’s home. Within its walls, visitors can learn about the daily life of the residents, visitors and industries along these picturesque shores of the Rideau Lakes Region.
According to the Society’s page at www.chaffeyslock.ca, “from the swing bridge at Chaffey’s Lock one can easily visualize the history of our quiet lock station. For over a century, steamers passed through the lock gates towing barges loaded with cordwood, cheese and grain.”
Originally constructed in 1844, the lockmaster’s house was occupied continuously until 1967 by just five families in all over that 123-year span. For a good portion of its history, it was the literal hub of the community, housing the local post office, and later the only telephone in the village. It was a place where the community congregated for special occasions, and where visitors and workers travelling through the waterway would come for a nice home cooked mail and a delectable array of home baked goods.
When it was abandoned in the late 1960s, it lay dormant and in danger of possible demolition until the local Women’s Institute and newly formed Heritage Society, alongside other community groups and legacy-minded residents, decided to turn the building into a museum for the enrichment of locals and tourists alike.
As well as the new rest stop and museum, there is also the Memory Wall and Outdoor Chapel that are part of the grounds of the historic Chaffey’s Lock Cemetery. These were created to honour the memory of the first residents of the area, as well as those who helped construct the Rideau Canal. Like the rest stop, it is an example of the benefits of partnerships, as the Heritage Society works with Parks Canada to maintain the site.
The Cataraqui Trail is owned and operated by Cataraqui Conservation. It is a 104-kilometre year-round, shared-use recreation trail running from Strathcona to Smiths Falls.
Cataraqui Conservation is a community-based environmental protection and advisory agency, created in 1964 by the Province of Ontario at the request of municipalities within the Cataraqui watershed. Its core mandate is to work in partnership with local municipalities, provincial and federal government agencies, environmental organizations and the general public to monitor and protect water, natural habitats, shorelines, and promote sustainable living in our community.
For more information, visit www.cataraquiconservation.ca.
To learn more about the history and amenities available at Chaffey’s Lock are available by visiting www.chaffeyslock.ca.