“It was amazing,” commented Old Ottawa East resident Jamie Brougham after skiing the new groomed trails on the east side of the Rideau River. “In areas that I’ve skied on for years too often with my tracks being the only ones, to having real trails is like a dream come true,” says Brougham.
In early January, the Rideau Winter Trail was extended from the Adàwe footbridge in Overbrook to a turn point just opposite the end of Centennial Boulevard in Old Ottawa East. The groomed trail network goes about three kilometres along the river but with numerous loops – especially in the wild area opposite Old Ottawa East – there is a total of about nine kilometers of trail.
The initiative is the result of a lot of hard work from dedicated volunteers and seed money from the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa, and donations from a number of politicians, businesses and individuals.
Although the trails do not yet run on the opposite side of the river from Old Ottawa South, the long-term goal is that the Rideau Winter Trail would run all the way to the Mooney’s Bay ski centre so that OOS residents would have a lovely, lengthy ski trail at their doorstep.
In 2019 Councillors Mathieu Fleury and Tobi Nussbaum and Nicki Bridgland, CEO of Rideau Sports Centre on Donald Street, initiated a single groomed track along the river north of the Queensway. Last winter, a full pilot with weekly grooms of the trails ran from mid-January to early March, supported by the City of Ottawa and Councillors Fleury and Rawlson King, who had replaced Tobi Nussbaum who had become CEO of the NCC.
In November, Rideau Winter Trail of Ottawa, a not-for-profit, was established and building on the success of the pilot, extended the trails south of the Queensway. The new trails include the “mountain” just to the southeast of Hurdman LRT station.
Once a week the trails will be groomed and this will be supplemented with grooming after heavy snowfalls. The trails are for all active winter enthusiasts: skiers, snow-shoers, walkers and fat-bike riders. The machine used for grooming flattens a wide swath of the trail for skate-skiers and others and also creates one track for classic skiers.
Peter Nor, a resident of Overbrook, is the chair of Rideau Winter Trail. Although he’s a coach at Nakkertok, eastern Canada's largest cross country ski club, he and his two children are enjoying having fine cross-country skiing now at their doorstep. He encourages people to give the central winter trail a try and consider contributing to the crowd-funding that will keep it going and eventually allow the purchase of a grooming machine. Currently, grooming is being done by the renowned Lafleur firm.
Nicki Bridgland, one of the trail’s founders, said in a CBC article that they drew inspiration from SJAM, the popular 16-kilometer winter trail in the west end of the city along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.
“We are so pleased to support the expansion of the groomed Rideau Winter Trail from the 417 into Capital Ward at Hurdman and Hospital Link road,” says Councillor Shawn Menard. “As we all stay close to home to limit the spread of COVID, it’s essential to have local spaces to ski, walk, and bike through the winter. This collaborative community-led effort is an exciting addition to the winter trails in our ward, and so important for mental and physical health.”
Details on the new winter trail can be found at: www.rideauwintertrail.ca.
John Dance is a resident of Old Ottawa East.