By R.A. McLaren, Supt.
The recorded effort to reach what is now the Park by road in 1795 when an order in council was passed directing Abraham lredell, a surveyor, to run a communication road to Rondeau, or Little Lake as it was sometimes called. Instructions were also given to establish a townsite at the terminus of the road at Rondeau, which later developed into the town of Shrewsbury. This road did not touch the Park, but it established means of ingress from Rondeau Harbour.
In 1864, a survey was made of Rondeau Park and it was staked into farm land but due to its lack of suitability as farm land none was ever sold for that purpose. In 1894, the legislature of the Province of Ontario passed, "An Act to Establish a Provincial Park at Rondeau", effective as of April, 9. At this time there were just two families living at the Eau. The Government paid them thirteen dollars per family to give up ail rights and move off the park land .
Mr. Isaac Gardiner of Howard Township was appointed the first Superintendent of the Park in 1894. Mr. Gardiner held the position until his death in 1913, when Mr. George Goldworthy was appointed Superintendent. During Mr. Gardiner's term of office there was a slow but decided growth of cottages at the Park. After Mr. Goldworthy assumed office, due to improved roads and the common use of the automobile, there was a rapid increase in the number of cottages. The years 1922 - l923 were the peak years, when about 140 cottages were built. The total now stands at 300 cottages. At Mr. Goldworthy's death in 1927, Mrs. Goldworthy continued as acting superintendent for the year. In 1928 Mr. Ralph S. Carman B.Sc.F. became Superintendent and he deserves a great deal of credit for his organization and management, having in a great measure laid the foundation for the development and control since that time. In l934 Mr. Carman was followed by Mr. W.R. Reek then Superintendent of the Western Experimental Farm at Ridgetown as acting Superintendent for the summer. The present Superintendent, R.A. McLaren, received his appointment in October 1934.
in the year of 1947 a new subdivision has been opened along the Lake front and already 50 leases for cottages have been taken in this subdivision. The tenting grounds are also a great attraction in the holiday season, and the trailer cabins are very comfortable since the water and electricity have been placed throughout the grounds for their convenience.
Rondeau Park is administered under the Department of Lands and Forests of the Provinee of Ontario as set in the Provincial Parks Act, and Rondeau Park Regulations. No land is ever sold within the Park, but may be leased under a Grown Lease for a period of 21 years for summer cottage sites with certain building requirements and restrictions. This has meant that all cottages on the Park are of above average standard for summer cottages.
From the beginning improvements were made in the Park, starting with the Superintendent's present office and residence built in 1896, and ending this year 1947, wlth the completion of hard-surfaced roads in front of every cottage in the Park.
The old dance pavilion on the Bay side, which was the scene of many community meetings and dances, was erected in 1899, and was originally just a roofed over open-to-the-weather building. Later it was enlarged and enclosed with the addition of screened windows, in 1939 the use of this building was discontinued, and a large new building of modern design was built on the lake side. Included in the new building is a restaurant and a large dancing floor which will accommodate the largest crowds. This year (1947) the building is being operated by Mr. Eli Gillings of Ridgetown who is a lease holder in the Park.
The picnic grounds attract picnic parties from the surrounding towns and communities; ample tables are available and baseball grounds are provided for sports. Bathing and boating are among the park's main attractions. The Lake Erie shore line is perhaps the best bathing beach in the whole Great Chain.
The virgin timber on Rondeau still stands much the same as it did hundreds of years ago and is the largest stand of natural forest in Southern Ontario. The Park contains in all about five-thousand acres. In the wooded area can be found much of the wild life that once roamed this territory. The deer, the bald eagle, wild duck, a great variety of bird life and wild growth of all kinds can be found. The splendid roads and trails that have been constructed through this great wooded area make it possible for all to view this great forest. The Park has become a great residential resort and attracts many people from various parts of Ontario and the United States.
Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.