Festival celebrates past, focuses on future of Ottawa River

It might be easy now to forget the vital role the Ottawa River played in founding this country.

It might be easy now to forget the vital role the Ottawa River played in founding this country.

Before the highways were paved and the rail lines were laid, the Ottawa River was the gateway to the west. Anyone hoping to get to the heart of the continent travelled up the Ottawa River, according to historical re-enactor Bryan Two Bears Martin.

Even before European settlers moved into the area, the Algonquin First Nations controlled the river and demanded a toll from other First Nations to travel along it, he said.

As more European settlements grew along the river, it became a vital route for the logging industry.

“It’s looked over a bit now because of modern society, but when you look at what it provided for the communities in the area, it’s a real eyeopener,” said Frank Pooley, who attended Riverfest yesterday at Pinhey’s Point Historical Site with his wife Maria and their three kids.

Riverfest is traditionally a low-key affair at Pinhey’s Point, but Sarah Ferguson, education and interpretation officer for the museum, said it has gradually been gaining momentum over the last few years.

The event is intended to celebrate the rich history of the river and the people who lived on it, but Ferguson said it also focuses on the future of the waterway by educating young people about conservation and sustainability.

“We’re trying to build stewards in the visitors that are coming,” Ferguson said. “It’s building an awareness for protecting our waterway.”

Even though highly publicized sewage spills have made water quality a hot topic, she said they were not politicizing the event.