2020: Year of Covid
2020 the Year of Covid gave me a new appreciation of the pleasures offered at of the Rideau Canal lock stations. Because of the unavailability of normal meeting locations my two sisters and I opted to meet every two weeks for a picnic, choosing as our locations the various Rideau Canal sites. Each occasion meant a different setting, allowing us the opportunity to experience the diversity of this magnificent system. To a large extent these oases of tranquillity were overlooked by other open air seekers; thus we had this special part of the world almost exclusively to ourselves and were able to set alongside the locks themselves.
Alas, the lock station which has the most emotional attachment for us was largely inaccessible: Newboro. This was not due to any particular work being undertaken there, but because of the public inapproachability of that particular lock station as determined by Parks Canada.
In the 1950s/60s we grew up in the village of Newboro where our parents operated a summer resort. Afternoons were a time of relaxation away from work, time spent at the Locks, of course: a place to meet our friends, to swim and pass away the time until work beckoned us. The summer also offered the excitement of the annual Water Carnival and its attendant games, races, evening entertainment and fun. The lock area was a centre for summer enjoyment.
Gone is this pleasant summery, fun filled atmosphere. The Newboro lock area is a sad shadow of what it once was: instead of a busy happening joyful place it appears as a largely isolated lock station with few visitors. Gone is the swimming area, community use of the large acreage, no opportunities for people to drive to the locks, sit in their cars to watch the boats and boaters (as many older and not so old residents liked to do). This is now no place to visit with your friends and neighbours.
The blockhouse, one of the distinguishing features of Newboro’s military past, with its magnificent view overlooking Newboro Lake, sits unused, virtually inaccessible given the small amount of parking available.
What a use could be made of this location as the site of a future Rideau Lakes Township Museum.
The history of Newboro is bound inextricably with that of the Rideau Canal. To enter the village from the east one observes the forlorn original lock house in private hands, ignored and neglected by Parks Canada, giving one a perception of the insensitivity of Parks Canada to the heritage of this community. Within the village there is no indication that what could be an extraordinary lock area awaits the visitor. The essence of the Newboro narrative, the lock tract, lies neglected, with no interpretation, no explanation of its storied past, with little value placed upon the community and tourist accessibility.
The Newboro Lock area calls for a a reappraisal by Parks Canada to consider how this jewel of the village can be treasured as part of Newboro’s chronicle and returned to public usage.