A piece of Ottawa’s founding history and Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, it draws visits from school children from across the province every spring and skaters from around the world every winter.

But to locals, the Rideau Canal has become a part of their daily lives, making it easier for them to be active and enhancing their enjoyment of the nation’s capital.

“There are many things in Ottawa that makes me proud to live here,” said city resident Alexander Mehes. “(But) what I think deserves the most recognition is our beloved Rideau Canal.

“It gives people a most breathtaking view of downtown Ottawa,” he said. “You just can’t help but lose yourself in the beauty that surrounds it.”

“The Rideau Canal is a major icon of the capital,” said senior manager, operations, facilities and programs at the National Capital Commission Marc Corriveau. “It is a magnet for locals and visitors and a recreational heaven that greatly contributes to the quality of life of the region.”

“I think it’s an incredible resource for the community,” said Rideau Canal Festival spokesman Doug Little.

“People know about the skating in the winter, the tulips in the springtime, and we’re well known to boaters. We get 85,000 boaters a year, who come to the canal from right across the country.”

In 2007, the canal received its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This August, the second annual zero-footprint Rideau Canal Festival will celebrate that designation as well as active living in Ottawa.

Cyclists, joggers and walkers make up a significant portion of the 50 million trips made annually on the Capital Pathway, said NCC spokeswoman Julie Rocheleau.

A marathoner who lives along the Rideau Canal, Joanne Merrett does most of her training there.

“It’s a fabulous place to run,” she said. “The scenery is fabulous and you can do a 5K or a 30K run.

Ottawa has one of the best running pathways in Canada.”

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