Supporters and local officials gathered on the Island yesterday to celebrate the extension of Almonte’s Riverwalk. Alex Gillis sends this report:

The possibility of a Riverwalk Phase 2 Extension was discussed in late August 2015, when Mayor Shaun McLaughlin, myself and CAO Diane Smithson met with Mike Dupuis, owner of the Black Bridge. This led to the first meeting of the Riverwalk Advisory Committee on Sep 28, 2015; the project which we are celebrating today is essentially six years old.

The Advisory Committee, later, transformed into the Riverwalk Working Group, which first met on January 15, 2019.  All of the original Working Group members are still active and are here today: Tiffany Maclaren (staff), Michael Rikley-Lancaster (MVTM), Eric Schulz, Nancy Scott, Lea-Anne Solomonian, Joy Stratford, George Yaremchuk, and myself (Chair). Actually, most of the Working Group have been involved with the project for its six years.

In addition to Tiffany Maclaren, who has been our wonderful staff person throughout, we must recognize Diane Smithson, Guy Bourgon, Rhonda Whitmarsh, Bonny Ostrom and Cory Smith who have provided essential staff support. Also, Tashi Dwivedi of HP Engineering provided excellent engineering design work, especially, for the Staircase.  We should also honour Premium Engineering who constructed and installed our magnificent steel Staircase.

The completed project provides a marvellous extended Riverwalk following the Downtown Riverwalk, the Coleman Island stone dust path (here), the Black Bridge and the Earthen Dam, the Millworkers’ Staircase, the OVRT with its Railway Trestle back to the AOTH – a world-class 3 km loop! There are, also, two diversions from the Loop: Carleton St to the MVTM and the Millworkers’ Walk to Union Street.

The Group participated in conceptual design, engineering design, accessibility approval and project planning, but fundraising was our most important activity. Notably, there were 123 individual and group donors. Sixteen principal donors contributed at least $1,000 each, for a splendid total of $38,000, while 105 valued donors contributed close to $20,000. Significantly, numerous events provided another very important $16,000, for an overall amount of $74,000. The successful fundraising and the large number of donors demonstrated strong community support for the project, and remarkable civic pride.

This solid and clear backing greatly aided the winning of grants from the Municipality of Mississippi Mills, Lanark County and the Federal Government’s Legacy Fund. MVTM was a key partner in helping Mississippi Mills gain access to a share of this grant funding. The matching of the $74,000 by Mississippi Mills meant that there was enough in the Budget to allow the Staircase to go to tender in February 2020, which was the key milestone for the Phase 2 Expansion. Notably, MRPC provided ‘in kind’ support for the stone dust paths on Coleman Island and over the Earthen Dam.

This is all covered on the wonderful plaque which will be unveiled shortly. It recognizes major project sponsors, principal donors and valued donors and reveals terrific civic pride.