Celebrating 15 years

Catherine Kitts
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The Friends of Petrie Island celebrate the beach's 15 year anniversary

A volunteer group responsible for the maintenance and programs run at the east end's own beach, Petrie Island, had something special to celebrate, last Wednesday. Marked with a certificate of appreciation from Orléans Ward Councillor Bob Monette, the Friends of Petrie Island celebrated the beach's 15 year anniversary.

15 years already? Petrie Island celebrates milestone anniversary. (Photo: Archives)

"The Island has changed a lot over the years," said Monette. "The person responsible for that is Al Tweddle."

A long-time volunteer, Tweddle says hundreds of hours of volunteer work has been put into the beach in an effort to protect the natural wildlife that inhabit the island, while allowing people to come visit and enjoy the city beach.

"Petrie has become not only a destination for festivals, like the Haitian festival, Carivibe festival and Canada Day, but it's become a destination for anybody who wants to take nature walks and wants to partake in environmental programs, etcetera," commented Monette.

Over 29 rare plants are found along the trails of Petrie Island, a large turtle population and over a dozen different types of wildlife, including muskrats, weasels, chipmunks, racoons and rabbits.

"It is the nicest beach in the City of Ottawa. There's a lot of talk about the quality of the water, but this year the beach has never been closed," said Monette noting that on the day of the gathering the beach was closed for the first time due to rainfall.  "People have been able to swim either in the east beach or on the main beach every day." 

That's one of the things Tweddle says he wants residents to learn about Petrie Island. Most people only visit the main beach without noticing that there is an east beach, complete with picnic tables, a kid's play area and a renovated cottage that features information on the wildlife living at Petrie Island.

"More families and seniors come this way," explained Tweddle. "More of the youth go to the main beach, but this is an area everyone can enjoy. The water here has been open for swimming almost every day."

The Friends of Petrie Island receives City grants and hires students to run programs for kids, among other things. Tweddle estimates about $20,000 of free labour comes from about a dozen volunteers.

Despite all that Petrie Island has to offer, Monette says the City is still working to improve the beach's reputation.

"When we look at records compared to other beaches in the City, we do very well. I think that's a message we want to start getting out, the water quality is tested every day. Every day we get the counts and every day it's been very comparable to other beaches. Because of what happened in 2007 there's a perception that the water quality isn't good, and that's a perception that has to stop." 

Geographic location: Petrie Island, Ottawa

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