Riverside Park (Guelph)



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Riverside Park (Guelph) on Wikipedia

Riverside Park is an 80-acre (32-hectare) park located by the northern part of Woolwich Street in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.[1] It is built around a portion of the Speed River that runs through Guelph.

Riverside Park


  • 1 History
  • 2 Features
    • 2.1 Floral Clock
    • 2.2 The Model House
    • 2.3 The Speed River
    • 2.4 Flora
    • 2.5 Woody Plants
  • 3 Activities
  • 4 Recreation
  • 5 Special Events
    • 5.1 Canada Day
    • 5.2 New Years Eve Fireworks
    • 5.3 Multicultural Festival
    • 5.4 Ribfest
    • 5.5 Festival of Lights
    • 5.6 Pollinator Day
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


Riverside Park opened in 1905 spanning 14.5 acres. Its development was related to the Guelph’s now discontinued streetcar system. The park was a stop on one of the Guelph Radial Railway’s (a precursor to the modern Guelph Transit system[2]) streetcar line, and the company held a contest in 1905 to name the new attraction. The name “Riverside Park”, from the site’s proximity to the Speed River, was the winning selection.[3] Since its foundation the park has expanded to 80-acres, with many on-site features and has become a noted landmark and attraction in the city. Riverside also hosts a number of events each year, many of which have become longstanding traditions in the city.

Floral Clock

The Floral Clock

The floral clock of Riverside Park is mechanized and fully functional, showcasing over 6000 plants. The only mechanized components seen from the exterior are its hands. It is 28 feet in diameter and displays numeric floral patterns on its face, each number spanning 4 feet. Each year floral patterns are changed to celebrate different events or people, and in winter the Arabic numbers are replaced with illuminated Roman numerals. In the start of 2011, a floral arrangement commemorating St. Joseph’s health centre was made. The clock also exhibits a floral calendar that is changed daily.[4]

The floral clock was originally built in 1949 and rebuilt in 1955 according to the designs of John “Jock” Clark, the city’s long-time park administrator. The clock serves as a focal point of the landscape yet does not act as an isolated centerpiece. Instead, it is the heart of the gardens through which plant life flows. The contours of the adjacent flowerbeds and forestry are deliberately made ambiguous to enhance the sensation of nature’s surround. The feeling of an organic emersion plays on the clock’s intended metaphor, a dependency and union of man and nature. The floral clock at Riverside Park is the only patented floral clock in Canada.[5]

The Model House

The Model House

Near the west entrance to the park is a model of the first house ever built in the city of Guelph. John Galt built the original house in 1827 where he and his family held residence. The house, christened The Priory, was named after Charles Prior, one of the men that aided Galt in Guelph’s founding. The Priory was a neatly cut cabin made up of laterally stacked logs and served multiple purposes, also functioning as a tavern, a post-office and in 1887 a railway station. To immortalize its history, a to-scale model was built and is now on display behind a perimeter of fencing at Riverside Park. The model is scaled to a ratio of 1 ½ In. to the Ft.[4][5]

The Speed River

The Speed River

The Speed River runs alongside the parklands however their relationship is not purely cosmetic. Riverside Park and The Speed come together to form a naturalized landscape offering many organic benefits. Such benefits include: filtration of the riparian zone, food and habitation, conservation, prevention of soil erosion, increases in aqueous oxygen levels and shade along the riverside which ultimately reduces water temperature. In addition, use of chemical herbicides and pesticides is prohibited within the riparian zone in an effort to sustain this natural buffer. Riverside Park hosts many activities by The Speed River. Paddleboat rides, fishing, dragon-boat races and ice skating are amongst the activities as well as many non-profit charitable events.[4][5]


The species of the plant life at Riverside Park include:[6]

  • Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ – Giant Blue Hyssop
  • Andropogon gerardi – Big Blue Stem
  • Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’ – White Swamp Milkweed
  • Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed
  • Aster x dumosus ‘Wood’s Purple’ – Hardy Aster
  • Coreopsis ‘Galaxy’ – Hybrid Tickseed
  • Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ – Purple Cone Flower
  • Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Oranges And Lemons’ – Blanket Flower
  • Hypericum calycinum ‘Baby Lion’ – St. John’s Wort
  • Liatris spicata ‘Alba’ –White Blazing Star
  • Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ – Blazing Star
  • Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Herbstonne’ –Green-headed Coneflower, Autumn Sun Cone Flower, Cut-leaf/Lance-leaf Coneflower
  • Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Blue Stem

Woody Plants

  • Amelanchier sp., likely A. canadensis – Service Berry
  • Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’ – Red Chokeberry
  • Cercis canadensis - Redbud
  • Cornus racemosa – Grey Dogwood or Cornus amomum – Silky Dogwood
  • Cornus stolonifera / C. sericea – Red Osier Dogwood
  • Lonicera involucrata – Twin Berry
  • Sambucus pubens – Red American Elderberry
  • Staphylea trifolia – American Bladder Nut
  • Symphoricarpos sp. – may be S. albus - Snowberry, or S. orbiculatus, or one of the S. x doorenbosii hybrids – Coral berry
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common Lilac


There is a lot to be done while on the premises of Riverside park as it is the perfect place for people of all ages to get out and be active. The great aspect of Riverside Park is there are activities that people can partake in all year round. Of course there is more offered in the summer months, Riverside Park takes advantage of the winter months as well by offering cross-country skiing, skating on the Speed River, and well kept trails for running and walking.[7] As for the warmer seasons there is a miniature train that takes you on a little trip throughout the park and a carousel you can ride with the option of sitting in a carriage or on a horse. Both the preservation of the miniature train and carousel ride pay tribute to Guelph’s History. The City of Guelph also has a great focus on activity; the recreational walking trails reflect Guelph’s attempt to get the community active. These walking trails within the park are also connected to the surrounding neighborhoods, and also take you to the City Centre. Paddleboat rides are also available along the Speed River; a great way to get some exercise, enjoy beautiful scenery and be on the water. Families, friends and individuals can easily spend a full day at Riverside Park, there is a picnic area that is located away from all of the attractions that are available for some quite time while snacks, lunch or dinner can be eaten.[8]


Riverside Park is not generally known for its sports fields. Sports fields are much more prevalent at Exhibition Park. Riverside Park is home to a few baseball diamonds. Riverside Park also has an outdoor ice rink at the park during the winter months.[9] Riverside Park has a vast number of recreational activities that visitors can take part in. Alongside hiking trails, there are also horseshoe pits, a giant chessboard, and beach which plays host to pedal-boating and many other recreational activities.[9] Trails are a big part of Guelph, and at Riverside Park this is no different. There are trails that visitors at the park can choose to go for hikes on. Visitors can also choose to rent a pedal boat, and take it out on the Speed River, which is an interesting activity that not a lot of other parks have the ability to offer[9] The idea of having a giant chess and checkers board in the park is an interesting activity that adds to the character of the park. Horseshoe pits, and the sandy beach also make the recreation activities at the park very enjoyable.[9]

Canada Day

Riverside Park provides a day full of fun, activities and fireworks to celebrate Canada’s birthday! The event utilizes everything Riverside Park has to offer including carousel rides, train rides and pony rides. Furthermore with the vast amount of space available in the Park, a petting zoo is set up. Goats, Lambs and bunnies fill the zoo and people are allowed to feed the animals as well. As Riverside Park offers something for everyone, this is the perfect location for Canada Day as rides, a bouncy castle, gigantic slides, face painting, duck races, art in the park, environment displays and food venues are set up. Not only are there activities going on all day long, there are also live bands playing on the Riverside Park stage to provide some entertainment. To finish off the fun-filled day, there is a great display of fireworks.[10]

New Years Eve Fireworks

An event known as Sparkles in the Park is Riverside Park’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration. Riverside Park allows everyone who attends the event to ride the carousal for free, rather than paying the regular fee it charges on any other day. As soon as it begins to get dark outside, a beautiful Festive Light Display is put on. Throughout the park, lights in the shape of Santa, reindeer, snowmen, carolers, and more are put on display. Furthermore, the evening sky is filled with a fireworks display before the clock strikes midnight.[11]

Multicultural Festival

This annual free event has been held by Guelph at the Riverside Park for 25 years over a weekend in June.[12] Sponsored by local businesses large and small, the festival is meant to celebrate Guelph’s diversity and allow members of the community to discover and share the tastes, sights, and sounds of the city’s diverse population.[13][14] A Multicultural Award is also issued to a student, person, or organization that “promotes peaceful relationships, cultural understanding and an appreciation of our cultural diversities”.[15] The festival has been known to draw about 20,000 people over two days.


Guelph has held an annual 3-day Ribfest at Riverside Park for over a decade. The event was started by the Rotary Club of Guelph-Trillium, with the proceeds going towards pre-applied charities. Guelph’s Ribfest is generally sponsored by both local businesses and larger corporations like Sleeman Breweries.[16] In addition to rib tasting and contests, it includes live entertainment, a classic car show, and the opportunity for fans to meet members of the Guelph Storm.[17] The event has been known to have drawn almost 50,000 visitors over the course of three days on one occasion.[18]

Festival of Lights

The annual Festival of Lights takes place at Riverside Park and is entitled Sparkles in The Park.[19] The event typically takes place beginning in the middle of December and is open to the public nightly from 5:30 PM. Sparkles in the Park begins with an opening celebration that includes a visit from Santa Claus and culminates with a large fireworks display on New Year's Eve that always draws a crowd.[19] The Rotary Club of Guelph puts on the event as support to their numerous charities. There is a vast Christmas light display set-up throughout the park for the visitors to view and enjoy.[19]

Pollinator Day

Riverside Park is often host to many special events, one of which is Pollinator day. This event is spearheaded by an environmental advocacy group known as Pollination Guelph. Pollination Guelph is a non-profit, federally incorporated organization, devoted to the protection of the natural ecosystem. They use Pollinator Day to spread awareness and host workshops to educate attendees. Besides offering general knowledge about the process of pollination, they illustrate how to attract pollinating species of birds and insects, build bee nests, raise butterflies and differentiate between pollinating and non-pollinating plant species. At Riverside Park, participants of Pollinator Day also get to aid in the planting of dozens of pollinating species.[20]


  1. ^ http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/, Celebration of Canada's 142nd in Guelph
  2. ^ http://www.trainweb.org/elso/guelph.htm, Guelph Radial Railway, 'Streetcars In The Royal City'
  3. ^ Riverside Park was built to support streetcar company. Guelph Mercury [Guelph, Ontario] 20 June 2009: E6. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Web. 14 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b c http://www.electricscotland.com/canada/guelph/guelphbook.pdf, Stead, Hilary (2002). Guelph: A People’s Heritage 1827-2002. City of Guelph
  5. ^ a b c Gilbert, Gaius F. (2009). No Place Like Home: A Look at Nature as Artifact and the Displacement Place, McGill University, Department of Art History and Communication Studies
  6. ^ http://www.pollinator.ca/guelph/index.php?n=Riverside+Park+Pollinator+Gardens+Plant+List+2010.pdf, Riverside Park Pollination Gardens Plant List 2010
  7. ^ http://www.hometoguelph.com/kids-activities-.asp, Top 10 Things to do with your Children
  8. ^ http://www.cip-icu.ca/greatplaces/en/place.asp?id=1214, Great places in Canada, Riverside Park
  9. ^ a b c d http://guelph.ca/facilities/index.php/2010/03/riverside-park/
  10. ^ http://www.canadadayinthepark.ca/events.html
  11. ^ http://sparklesinthepark.ca/past-sparkles.html, Rotary Club of Guelph's Sparkles in the Park
  12. ^ http://www.stevenpetric.com/2011/06/09/guelph-multicultural-festival-25-years/, Guelph Multicultural Festival: 25 years!
  13. ^ http://www.gdmf.ca/Home/tabid/36/Default.aspx
  14. ^ Stage set to celebrate Guelph's diversity; Multicultural festival begins tomorrow. Guelph Mercury [Guelph, Ontario] 12 June 2008: A4. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Web. 14 July 2011.
  15. ^ http://www.gdmf.ca/MulticulturalAward/tabid/64/Default.aspx
  16. ^ http://www.ribfestguelph.com/supports.cfm
  17. ^ Ribfest promising to be a tasty good time. Guelph Mercury [Guelph, Ontario] 28 Aug. 2010: A3. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Web. 14 July 2011.
  18. ^ Rib lovers get their fill at Ribfest. Guelph Mercury [Guelph, Ontario] 30 Aug. 2010: A1. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Web. 14 July 2011.
  19. ^ a b c http://www.sparklesinthepark.ca/index.html
  20. ^ http://www.guelphtribune.ca/community/pollinator-day-at-riverside-park/, Pollinator Day at Riverside Park

External links

  • Riverside Park's Facilities

Coordinates: 43°33′54″N 80°16′12″W / 43.565°N 80.270°W / 43.565; -80.270


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