Trent-Severn Waterway

Connecting people and places
For those who love to fish, swim, boat, or walk along shoreline trails, the Trent-Severn Waterway, a 386-kilometre stretch of rivers and lakes that runs through central Ontario, has always been a valued treasure. Leading from Lake Huron to Lake Ontario, the waterway once served as an important trading route for fur and later timber. Stewarded by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, these waters have connected people and places for generations. In 1615, Samuel de Champlain travelled this route, and two centuries later it became the focus of settlers who developed one of the largest systems of canals and locks in the province.

A boat travels down the Trent Severn

Thriving community
Construction began on the Trent-Severn Waterway’s first lockstation, Lock 32 – Bobcaygeon, over 160 years ago. In the time since, Bobcaygeon has become a thriving tourist and cottage destination within the City of Kawartha Lakes. Thousands of people pass through Lock 32 each year, part of the 1.3 million visitors to region, who are crucial to the economy.

The Lieutenant Governor holds a sign of welcome along with

A site of celebration and community building
Now popular for its Canada Day fireworks celebration, the beach alongside Lock 32 has become a central gathering place for the community. The year 2017 was an opportunity for local government to reconsider how the waterfront was being used and put forward a plan to redevelop the waterfront with a more inclusive and sustainable design. The redevelopment will incorporate space for more docking and motorized watercrafts, kayaks, canoes, and rowboats, all of which are available for rent by local business owners. The plans also feature an outdoor pavilion that will allow families to stay and enjoy a full day at the waterfront. With the increasing ways in which the area can be used, and with a wider and more diverse range of visitors, there is potential for new businesses to flourish. The community sees itself as a steward of the rivers and lakes of the Trent-Severn Waterway – ensuring places like Bobcaygeon can be enjoyed by generations to come.

July in Ontario feels like a month-long celebration, with barbecues, swimming and paddling, family games, and neighbourhood gatherings. When I visited Lock 32 in July 2018, it was apparent that Kawartha Lakes’ visitors and residents alike took great joy in this natural playground found their backyard.

But there was much more to be seen. In conversations with civic leaders and citizens I saw firsthand how sustainability was central to the plans for the redevelopment of the area. For some, they were returning at mid-career to the place of their childhood memories, creating new “lifestyle” businesses.  This was a place where they belonged. It was part of their identity. The people I met with during my visit saw an enhanced tourism industry as a critical part of their future and that would mean maintaining the health of the rivers and lakes. So whether or not they actually used the word sustainability the community understood the intersections between environmental stewardship, economic prosperity, and social cohesion.

As Ontarians we actively seek to build just and sustainable communities – ones in which we share economic opportunity, we safeguard the environment on which we depend, and we embrace all with empathy and with open hearts and minds. My visit to the Kawartha Lakes will continue to remind that when we gather in a spirit of togetherness, something very powerful can happen.