History of the Waterway
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In 1973, the historical Welland Canal was rerouted to the east side of Welland. This rerouting created a more direct path for shipping traffic and is still used today as a part of the St. Lawrence Seaway system. The rerouting of the Canal also created the Welland Recreational Waterway, a nearly 12 km stretch of scenic waterway running through the heart of the City of Welland. This 12 km stretch of waterway, more than 1.3 million square metres of calm, clean water, is surrounded by hundreds of acres of land now used for recreation and leisure.
The history of the Welland Canal itself is extensive and many great works have been written about the feats of William Hamilton Merritt, the chronology of the Welland Canal system, the aqueducts, and the many bridges. The Waterway, as we refer to it now, was part of one of the most significant developments in the history of our nation and provided the ability to move goods and people west over the escarpment.
Brief History of the Welland Canal »
As we continue to develop the Canal into a recreational waterway, we continue to work and celebrate the history and protect the heritage of this great undertaking. The Canal Corporation created a series of commemorative plaques which adorn the outside walls of the Civic Square. The Canal Corporation, with the blessing of Council, also endeavoured in 2009 to upgrade the area of the Feeder Canal and created a parkette. The parkette displays seven interpretive historical panels, which now dress the sides of the former Feeder Lock area. Most recently, the Canal Corporation, with a grant from the Province of Ontario, undertook fixing infrastructure in the downtown core and turning the area into a historically based gathering place, the Canal Terrace. Complete with water features, gardens, benches and interpretive historical panels significant to the area, the Canal Terrace directs visitors on heritage tours in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
The Waterway sat for many years, 1973 to 1997, while a number of discussions and reports were prepared on what the ‘Old Canal’ could become. Significant change came 24 years after the by-pass when in 1997, the Federal government deeded the ‘Canal Lands’ (approximately 411 acres and 272 acres of water, the area from the northern boundary of the City to the ‘rail cut’ at Humberstone Road) to the City of Welland along with a $12.3 million ‘maintenance’ fund to care for the lands. Maintenance of the approximately 680 acres began under the City of Welland’s purview in 1997 and resided there for a decade until the responsibility was vested fully with the WRCC in 2007. In 2007, the Board of Directors of the WRCC took on an active role in managing the Canal Lands and disentangling the operations and the ongoing maintenance from the City of Welland. Today the WRCC, Board and staff, remain committed to a comprehensive maintenance program with a clear reporting on operational costs pertaining to specifically to the Canal Lands that meets or exceeds the ever growing demand and use of the Waterway and the surrounding lands as a recreational waterway.
The Canal Lands now encompass nearly 1,000 acres of land and water after Welland City Council agreed in 2007 to absorbing the costs of maintaining the southern portion of the waterway (from the ‘rail cut’ to Rainey’s Bend in Dain City) and remove the maintenance burden from a local community rowing club. The WRCC manages and operates the Welland Recreational Canal and the subject lands under a license from the Corporation of the City of Welland.