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BrlA Legacy and Cow Island


A.  Milestones 1922-1980 (based on notes from Rideau Passages by D. Jane Moore 1982; BRLA Incorporation Documents, 1968 as cited by D. Arrand in Cow Island Committee Report April, 2004.)


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1922 – Formation of Rideau Lakes Protective Association by several lake families with the objectives of buoying the shoals; stocking the lake & “having a voice in things”

Activities of the association over these years included boat outings around the Rideau system, free movie nights and sailing races and a “Venetian Night” with all the boats lit up.

1942 – Name change to Big Rideau Lake Protective Association

By 1953 1/3 of the cottages on the lake belonged to the association.  Cow Island (summer residence of the Gallagher family of Portland) was discussed as early as 1948 as a site for an association club house.

1953 – The association purchases property and later builds a wharf on Tar Island but is unable to proceed with the clubhouse plan due to land estate issues.

1956 – Cow Island is purchased from Mrs. Kerfoot (of the Gallagher family) for $5,000 by George Ault, Orion Low and Davis McCarthy acting as Trustees on behalf of the Association.[1]

1962 – A new building replaces the original cottage with the island and the building being paid for by over 100 families on the lake.

1968 – BRLA (Big Rideau Lake Association) becomes an incorporated body and ownership of Cow Island is transferred from the Trusteeship for $1.00.  Minutes from the association describe a range of activities for children and adults including day programs, dances, regattas and tuck shop and even a garbage disposal project.  Remaining debts are retired via donation of 8 members.

1980 – Cow Island is leased and association activities are moved to Parks Canada’s Long/Livingston Island.   Within a few years, recreation and social activities of the BRLA had stopped.

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B.  The Rideau Lakes Club 1998-2002

RLC – the Rideau Lakes Club – was formed in 1998 by a few past BRLA founding families to revive social and recreation programming on Big Rideau Lake.  Membership grew to about 150 and activities included sail training and sail racing, a children’s day program, Wacky Wednesdays for teenagers and family socials.  These activities were brought back under the BRLA umbrella in 2002 and the RLC transferred its member list and three of its leaders to BRLA.

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C.  2002 Social and Recreation Programs and Cow Island return to BRLA

At the 2002 BRLA Annual General Meeting, a motion was passed that BRLA bring social and recreation programs back under its mandate, for the BRLA to provide funds to do so and, 3 Rideau Lakes Club leaders were elected to the BRLA BOD to continue their recreation programs under the BRLA umbrella.   At this same meeting, another motion was passed that BRLA take back use of Cow Island for its programs, as the lease to renters had expired.    (Noted in AGM Minutes 2006 – Update of Mission Statement.)

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D.  2005  Sale of the BRLA 30 Colborne Street Property

In 2005, BRLA/RLEF jointly owned property was sold and the proceeds were split between the two organizations (Net proceeds $60,746.34) with the BRLA funds proposed to be used to upgrade and support environmental programs at Cow Island.  (Driftwords, Summer 2006; Living Lightly on the LakeA Plan for Cow Island, June 25th 2006).

E.   September 2005 BRLA Mission Statement is amended to re-introduce recreation & social activities.

Mission: The Big Rideau Lake Association is dedicated to building a strong community in a safe and healthy environment on and around Big Rideau Lake.


o Preserve the natural environment of the lake for future generations to enjoy

o Promote the safety of the lake as a recreational environment through programs such as the placing of shoal markers

o Ensure appropriate use and development of the lake by monitoring legislative and regulatory activity, and private development, and advocating the interests of our members

o Foster a sense of community in members of all ages through recreation and social programs.

(Minutes of BRLA 2006 AGM, citing the 2002 BRLA AGM decision to reintegrate recreation and social programs).

Recreation and Social Activities undertaken on Cow Island from 2002 to the present include:

* Canada Day Fireworks

* Day Camp for kids

* Sail Training Week(s)

* Family Fun Day Regatta on Cow Island (all ages, swim and canoe races and BBQ) Aug long w/e

* Summer Sounds Social and Fundraiser mid-July

Prior programming 2002-2006 also included Swimming Lessons & Teen program.

[1] 2017 Notes from Murray Ault – son of “founding father” George AultIn the summer of 1956, I recall a major “work party” showed up on the Island on a Saturday morning early in July. All participants were required to bring their own equipment: rakes, shovels, lawn mowers, etc. By noon, the property looked pretty spiffy. After lunch, the work continued and soon many were tuckered out. We looked back at the “new look” of Cow Island property and marvelled at how inviting this rag-tag piece of an island could look so inviting.   Editor’s note:  And this tradition continues to this day as Spring and Fall Cow Island Work Parties.


Many thanks to BRLA director and long-time cottager Nancy Watters for compiling this history.