PRESCOTT – It’s something that happens once in a generation and Mayor Brett Todd was happy to mark a “generational” change on the town’s waterfront.
In a lavishly dressed ceremony – including the ladies from the Grenville County Historical Society in period costume and town crier Lawrence Levere – Todd and other dignitaries unveiled a plaque marking RiverWalk Park on the St. Lawrence River at the foot of Centre Street.
There are several other plaques around the park that detail the settlement history of Prescott.
“I’ve always called it a generational project because it is something that does come along here in Prescott about once a generation, something that has this sort of impact on the community,” Todd told the audience of roughly 60.
The mayor said RiverWalk Park, decorated with pear and lilac trees and a child’s play structure, is the “capstone” on the waterfront vision hatched in the 1970s and 80s.
The $2.5 million project has been a decade in the making and marks the final chapter for Prescott’s waterfront.
“Other communities that have built up their waterfront with development and, while there is a place for that, I think it’s very important that we continue that connection that goes back to the time of Edward Jessup,” Todd said.
The open coincided with Founder’s Day, the 280th birthday of Col. Edward Jessup, who settled the Town of Prescott in 1810. Jessup had been awarded 1,200 acres of land by King George of England in 1784.
“All they (the settlers) got was land, an ax and some seed to plant crops and they were a hearty lot and they prospered and today we see the legacy of what they left us and it’s a wonderful legacy,” Coun. Fraser Laschinger said.
Some of the speeches were kept brief as attendees bundled up against a biting wind.
“I always want to thank people for sharing our culture and our history and our heritage. As someone who has a bit of U.L. (Upper Canada Loyalist) blood running through his veins, I think it’s great that we have so many people here celebrating,” said Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark.
Clark presented Todd with a scroll to recognize Founder’s Day and RiverWalk Park.
The ceremony included a prayer by Rev. Ian MacLean and a poem recital by 6th- and 7th-graders at St. Lawrence Academy.
In an interview with Brockville Newswatch, Todd said the park will cement the town’s ties to the river.
The park was to be completed in the summer. But the mayor said the delays were “short term pain for long term gain. The biggest issue was this was a brownfield site. There was some salt contamination under the soil (which) made it a more expensive site to develop. So, that was probably the only real frustration. But again, the end result, we reclaimed an ugly, old asphalt dilapidated parking lot and turned it into one of the most beautiful parks on the St. Lawrence River.”
On the suggestion of Coun. Laschinger, Todd said the ceremony in December made a nice addition to celebrate the town’s founder and also “something to celebrate before Christmas, nice addition to the calendar.”
While this is seen as the last chapter of developing Prescott’s waterfront, Todd said there’s still more work. “It’s always evolving, the story goes on. This was sort of the last portion. The harbour was done in the 80s and Centennial Park was done in the 60s. This really is the third major phase of waterfront development. This (RiverWalk Park), another 20 years down the line. This was the last real area on the river that needed that sort of attention.”
And what would Todd like to see in the next 20 years?
“It’s hard to envision. We are looking at it right now with council, some more development in Centennial Park including a splash pad, potential enlargement of the beach. There is the possibility we can expand down here with the harbour and, of course, there’s the condo-hotel lands adjacent to it where there should be some development there at some point,” the mayor told Brockville Newswatch.
Back at the ceremony, Todd said the name “RiverWalk Park” was chosen with great care and consideration. “We wanted to make sure that this park wasn’t about any one person … it was about Prescott … this is for all of us.”
The town is planning a party in the spring and early summer, when the weather is warmer, to recognize RiverWalk Park.
“It’s part of who we all are. It’s a big part of Prescott’s history. It’s going to be a big part of Prescott’s future, of course, and this is something that reaffirms our ties,” the mayor said.
Click on a photo below to open a gallery of pictures from the ceremony.