Flashback: The Battle of Rocky Point

Crystal Beach and Rocky Point, 1965

Access to the Ottawa River just west of present-day Dick Bell Park has long been controversial. Over the years there have been some unpleasant encounters between Rock Point landowners and Crystal Beach residents trying to enjoy the shoreline. This actually has its roots back when Crystal Beach was first developed in the early 1960s.

Learn more about the history in the following excerpt from The City Beyond: A History of Nepean, Birthplace of Canada’s Capital, 1792-1990, by Bruce S. Elliott (available at the Ottawa Public Library).

As the suburban populations grew, lack of public access to the rivers became a growing cause for complaint.  Swimming at private waterfront resorts had been a popular recreation in Westboro days, but the proliferation of cottage and motor court properties along the rivers in the forties had severely limited public access to the water. The issue came to a head after 1961 when advertisements for Minto’s Crystal Beach subdivision implied that buyers would enjoy beach rights. Afraid that their backyards were about to turn into a public recreation area, Rocky Point homeowners fenced off several access lanes in 1963. The Crystal Beach Community Association asked the township to keep them open; the Rocky Point owners applied to have them legally closed. Though it appeared that the beach was private land, council felt that the land at the ends of the lanes must be public. Frustrated by conflicting legal opinions, members of the Crystal Beach Community Association raided the beach on three successive weekends in the midsummer heat of 1964, demolishing the fences, swimming off the beach, and seeking arrest so that a test case could be brought to court. “The Battle of Rocky Point” finally ended in 1966 when the Supreme Court of Ontario ruled that the public had no right of access to the beach. All were agreed that establishment of a park and beach area somewhere east of the point would be a permanent solution and should have been done years earlier. However, it would be the early 1970s before council would prove willing to act against property owners in the greater public interest.

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