Everyone talked about a Lover’s Lane when I was in High School, yet I never saw one. People giggled and whispered about parking lots or secluded rural areas to places with extraordinary views of a cityscape or other features. But, I only read about them in books. Hmm, maybe an old boyfriend did pull his MG Midget over on back Brome Lake Road, but that road was well travelled and all I could think about was a huge cliff of sand falling over on the car and killing us. It kind of took the romance away.
But this week I learned all about Lover’s Walk in Ottawa. I knew things do get busy in Major Hills Park, but never knew much about this except the headlines of someone tragically getting hurt there.
In 1902 Ottawa had made every provision for her young people. There was a circular path between the parliament building grounds and the canal which was called The Lovers’ Walk. It was a secluded beautiful place. In summer it was charming and the sunsets seen from there are beautiful, and only those after whom the walk named are there to see nothing else but the golden sunsets, the flowing river and the pine trees, they are to be encouraged in their evening walks.
Fortunately that delightful path Is not for the young people only. Soon it will be taken advantage of by lovers of nature. whether young or old. Those who have been confined in offices all day and who find a pleasure in the pathless wood, A rapture on the lonely shore. Society, where none intrude by the deep sea and music in us roar will soon be free to enjoy all the beauty of nature that can be seen from this secluded pathway.
In nature, distance does not always lend enchantment to the view. The mountains In the distance wouid be better enjoyed if one could explore them, and the falls, one could listen to the music of its flowing waters, but all cannot find either time or money to do so. A quiet walk at eventide along this circular pathway, enjoying th beautiful sun sets, is a delight within the reach of all Ottawans.
Pathway Crumbling-1949 – The pathway hammered, out the caulked boots of the voyageurs and lumberjacks of Bytown and before them by the moccasion feet of the Upper Ottawa tribes is being allowed bit by bit to slip and slither down the cliffside into the river. Every now and then, from the sagging concrete underpinning, large chunks go staggering downhill to hit the water with a sullen, complaining splash. With every piece that hits rhe water goes a bit of Canada’s past.
Lovers Walk is to remain boarded and barricaded to Parlamentarians and to more simple folk alike. The old walk, the Works Department believed, was ”unsafe not in the more romantic sense of a few years’ ago; but unsafe in terms of concrete and stone and a sagging cliffside. In a day of more romantic and possibly more athletic Ministers of the Crown, Sir John A. MacDonald’s Works Minister William Macdougall had scrambled down the cliffside to inspect a ventilator butlet from, the old Parliament Buildings.
That dour Scot had felt the tug of history at his heart when he found his feet on the pathway of river-drivers a shortcut from their Chaudiere Falls landing place to their homes in Lower Town. William Macdougall had ordered the pathway buttressed by stone and concrete, and made safe by iron railings. At a time when Parliament Hill was a tangle of wild wood and shrubbery, it would serve as a pleasant promenade for senators. It wasn’t long before the elderly members of the Senate found competition heavy from local gallants and their ladies for use of the walk. Statesmanship lost out, and romance won when Lovers’ Walk reached the height of its courting popularity during World War I. Many an Ottawa couple grandparents now had plighted their troth on the ree-shadowed riverside pathway. Now the Ottawa river is waiting to receive, Lovers’ Walk.
Today in Ottawa Lovers Walk Stirs Nostalgia of An Ottawa of Bygone Days
The historic Lovers Walk doned only after the building a quarter-mile sidehill semicircle went up in flames running about 60 feet below the cliff top of Parliament Hill. The block was still in adorned with honeysuckle, lilac and other flowering shrub. Lovers Walk was once a choice spot to loaf on a bench out of the noonday sun or for a stroll on a hot July evening. Its cinder path knew the tread of Sir John A. Macdonald, of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Robert Borden, Mackenzie King and many other greats of bygone days.
An M.P. who some day may follow in the steps of these former chiefs of state recalls that the first time he kissed a girl was on a walk down this Parliament Hill path on a boyhood visit to the capital. Today the erstwhile lovely pathway is a desolate ruin of crumbling masonry, rusted and broken iron guard-rails and rotten wnoden shoring, for more than two decades closed to the public. At certain points, the former path is completely grown over with shrubs and high weeds. Gone are the cinders that overlaid. In their place is a unfortunate who fell into one narrow and hazardous trail, and was drowned, slippery from summer rains. Even this trail at spots are wiped out where the Mackenzie King earth has fallen below, or done by– by erosion.
Lover’s Walk has become a ghost trail and along its unlovely wilderness is rubbish empty wine bottles, cans, fragments of a womans shoe, and newspapers. A few burnt matches don again and short home-made cigarette butts.Today, most of the entrances were strewn beyond the papers, jarred with heavy pointed fencing sollow the dangerous pathway. Most of them half-rotted by exposure.
Lovers Walk is now nothing but a memory of the Ottawa of the old Centre Block of the Parliment Buildings, which was destroyed by fire in 1916. In 1915 the authorities realized that a determined German agent could cut the iron bars at the entrance of one of these tunnels either with cold chisel or hack. In the twenties it was becoming a public problem for two reasons: It was difficult and costly to keep up. Built in a belt around a hill which sloped from 45 to was subject to landslips and rock falls and it came more and more frequented by undesirables.
The latter factor was most evident in the dark days of the thirties. A jungle of driftwood, old tar-paper and tin-patched shacks came into being on the river bank, some 150 feet below its western entrance, and unshaven drifters lurked around and near the walk. At the eastern end, in the underbrush close to the Chateau Laurier locks, was the haunt of a rubby-dub gang, which would burst into wild shouts and screams after a bout of denatured alcohol and wine. Two fatalities have been reported on or near “Lovers Walk. One man fell off the walk. It is said that former Prime Minister King was inclined to keep it open.
Read “Mrs. King”, by Charlotte Gray. The book references Lovers Walk. Must read.
Brian NortonAnd you got to see feral cats, at least in the 1970s.
Blair StannardThe final feline residents were all found homes, when the shelter was dismantled. They still have a Facebook page.
Bob O’Connellyes – it was quite an event going there after dinner in the late 1990s and early 2000s to feed the cats – but also pigeons, groundhogs – an older gentleman had the pigeons eating out of his hands – he showed the kids how to do it – the odd raccoon would show up to be fed – there was always the regular people who seemed to be there every night – the tourists from other countries were entertained by all of this – my youngest son and I were part of the regular visitors – we went several times a week
I always had a bag of shelled peanuts in my car – the pigeons, groundhogs and raccoons loved them – I learned that from Gerry Power, a older man who was there nightly from early evening to dusk and who taught the kids what to do to attract the birds and animals
Al GirouardOnce a month, in late 90’s, my wife & I would bring a bag of cat food to their care taker behind center block.
Ottawa had its own feral cat colony on Parliament Hill. Although the members of this colony have been neutered, have shelter, and are fed, their life was one step above mere subsistence. They must protect their territory by fighting other strays, but remain vulnerable to disease and harsh weather conditions, are hunted by dogs, and are threatened by other animals and humans alike.
By Robert Sibley OTTAWA Parliament Hill’s cat sanctuary, an institution for decades, is gone, “disbanded” at the request of the volunteers who have been managing it, according to the federal Public Works department In its heyday, the sanctuary provided a home for more than two dozen felines. But spaying and neutering over the years has reduced the population to such an extent that as recently as a couple of weeks ago only four cats remained.
The decision was made to shut down the sanctuary and the few remaining and aging animals were adopted by volunteers. “There were kittens born here, the last ones probably 10 to 15 years ago,” Brian Caines, a former public servant who got involved in caring for the cats in the 1990s, said recently. “So now, we’re down to four.” Public Works announced the closure late last week. “The volunteers made the decision to close the sanctuary because of the age of the cats, their deteriorating health, and the prevent exposing them to predators and harsh outdoor conditions during the winter months.”
Parliament Hill cats were once prized as mousers, but by the mid-1950s the use of chemicals to control rodent infestations did the cats out of a job. However, employed or the cats would get angry if I missed a day not, they were about to abandon their parliamentary sinecure. But that created problems too many cats.
In the 1970s, volunteers began looking after the near-feral animals, providing food and shelter and, of course, plenty of TLC. A spay-and-neuter program was also introduced. Some of the volunteers became public figures, of sorts. The original guardian was Irene Desormeaux. When she died in 1987, Rene Chartrand stepped up and eventually became known as the Catman of Parliament Hill. Chartrand, a pensioner, could be seen summer and winter tending to the animals in the shelter behind the Centre Block building. “I’m not allowed to get sick. The cats would get angry if I missed a day,” the then-79-year-old Chartrand said an interview in 2000.
He retired from his task in 2008. Others came forward, too, both individuals and companies. One man, Maurice Golka, built two-storey, insulated shelters for the cats. Cat food manufacturers such as Ral-ston-Purina Canada donated bags of food. The Alta Vista animal hospital provided medical treatment Perhaps not surprisingly, the sanctuary became a favourite Ottawa tourist site. Busloads of Japanese tourists crowded around the site during the summer. It was posted on the federal government’s website. Even the National Capital Commission gave it a mention in its Discover-the-Hill brochure.
CLIPPED FROMNational PostToronto, Ontario, Canada05 Jan 2013, Sat • Page 8