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Brantwood Beach - A Summer Memory
by Vicki Davis - Mainstreeter - August 1990

Ottawa East once had its own beach. Brantwood Beach was a welcome retreat from -scorching summer days - a place where children learned to swim and canoe and where war canoe races provided fun for all. The park today, while welcome, ends at the water's edge, where swans visit and turtles lay their eggs in the sand.

Brantwood Beach Aquatic Club

Brantwood Beach existed long before the area was officially a City of Ottawa Park.
Art Humphries grew up on Clegg Street. "I remember learning to swim and to handle a canoe in the Rideau at Brantwood," he says. Art's father, Harry was on the executive of the Brantwood Beach Aquatic Club in the 1920s and early 1930s. Harry Millar, Madge Blakely, Chick Haddleton, Wib Landymore, Red Graham and Vern and Jim Williams are some of the people who were also involved. The club held summer long aquatic events that included swimming, life saving tests and instruction, diving and canoeing.

"Competitive events were held annually with other clubs such as Strathcona, New Edinburgh, Britannia and Brighton," says Art Humphries. "The War Canoe races were usually the highlight of any competition. I have a silver spoon' engraved 'B.B.A.C. 1926' in my memorabilia of Ottawa East," he says.

Life guards and change house attendants were paid nominal salaries by the City of Ottawa Playgrounds Department. Brighton Beach, at the foot of Fentiman Avenue, was another popular beach on the Rideau. It was maintained by area residents there was a membership fee and a nominal admission charge.

Closure of the Rideau River beaches

U se of the Rideau River beaches continued well into the 1960's. In the early 1960's, 7 beaches hired 84 summer employees -- as life - guards, check-room staff and first aid attendantants.

In the late 1960's, low water levels and the resultant stagnation led to the closure of Dutchy's
Hole (Strathcona Park), Brighton and Brantwood Beaches and Brewer Pond. There was a pollution scare in 1969 - the Regional Municipality of OttawaCarleton's Public Health Department and Pollution Probe began analyzing water samples. The fecal coliform count was often higher than acceptable maximum contamination should be no more than 100 fecal coliform parts per 100 ml. of water for human safety. The surface water has continued to be monitored every year. In 1989, the fecal coliform count at Brantwood Beach area averaged 106 parts per 100 ml. of water.

New housing developments in Nepean were blamed at first newspaper reports charged that sanitary waste was being connected to storm sewers instead of the sewage system. Pet waste was also considered a pollution factor. Problems developed particularly after heavy rainfalls.

Beaches on the Rideau opened and closed sporadically during the 1970's, determined by the water quality. By 1980, Mooney's Bay was the only beach remaining open - and today even that closes after heavy rains. Normally, the average fecal coliform count at Mooney's Bay is 20 parts in 100 ml. of water. "Presently the Region is engaged in the Rideau River Storm Management Study' to determine the causes and make recommendations for improving the pollution level precipitated by rainfall in the Rideau above Hog's Back," says Al Perras, Manager of the Region's Water pollution Investigation Branch. "The focus is on stabilizing Mooney's Bay for recreational use at first. The problems below Hog's Back are very complex. Perhaps they will never be resolved," he says.

A pleasant memory

Swimming at Brantwood Beach is now a pleasant memory for the fortunate long-time residents of Ottawa East. "Looking at the beach today, one has a hard time envisioning the clean sands, the wharves and the diving tower of the "heyday'', says Art Humphries.

Brantwood Park is still a wonderful place to go at any time. When those hot, sticky days descend upon us, wouldn't it be nice to have a beach there again too... ?

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