George Scott and his son at the location of what is now the Westport Lions Beach.
The Westport Lions Beach in the 1960s.
Westport Lions Roar
By Lion Bob Reddick
How and when did the beach at Westport Sand Lake become a popular beach for local families and tourists? Farmers David and Ernest Botting originally owned the Westport Lions beach property. They used the shoreline as a watering spot for their cattle.
“The earliest graves in St. Paul’s Cemetery dates to 1905/06, and it wasn’t until 1920 that the road allowance was purchased by Westport Council from the Anglican Synod for $200 for the purpose of a bathing spot in the village. The beach would open the following year in 1921.” (Rideau District Museum) I was not able to find out exactly when the Westport Lions bought the property but it was before 1958.
An article from the Westport Mirror titled, “The Year 1968 in Review” states: As spring approached planning had begun for a “new park on the Lions’ Club property on the mountain. In fact, during the cold weather roads were already being bulldozed for the latter project, to be followed by their improvement in the summer as well as installation of water, electricity, and putting up of necessary buildings.”
Jackalyn Brady has many fond memories of the beach. She recalls that when she was in grades three and four that they used to walk to the beach for their school picnic. Mrs. Ward who lived across from the library used to pack a picnic basket and take young girls to the beach for a pretend tea party.
The only road leading to the beach was around the cemetery. The girls’ change room was in a white shack by the cemetery and the boys’ was at the other end of the beach. Jackalyn remembers that there was no privacy and there was lots of graffiti on the walls. At that time, there was a swing, a slide and the gazebo was painted white.
Apparently, the beach was a popular spot for amorous young couples from Scotts’ ballroom. A popular term they used at the time was going on “submarine watch.”
Between the 60s and early 90s, the Lions operated a very successful swimming program that had to be discontinued because of the seagulls’ excrement. Thankfully, the seagull problem has not existed for numerous years and the geese have not been a recent problem.
The Lions’ beach brings back many fond memories for people of all ages. Recently a group of young mothers who grew up in Westport but no longer live in the area enjoyed an afternoon of reminiscing while their young children played in the sand and swam. Several members and volunteers have mentioned that it great to see grandparents with their grandchildren enjoying the beach.
Recently while I was cleaning the beach, a man from the Toronto area made a point to speak to me. He told me that when he was a boy he would visit his aunt in Westport and he would swim at the beach. “It is just the way I remember it,” he said. “It hasn’t changed a bit. Every time I am in Westport I just come down to the beach. It is just so relaxing and peaceful.”
Thank you to Christine Janeway from Rideau District Museum, Jackalyn Brady, Marlene Thake and Jim McGlade for sharing their memories and information with me. If you have any more information, or a favorite story or memory of the Westport Lions Beach please share it on the Lions Facebook page, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org