A big anniversary for a small park
In 2004, we celebrated the 100th birthday of Thousand Islands National Park. The establishment of the park in 1904 was the culmination of decades of community pressure to have some of the 1000 Islands set aside for use by the public. The park originated in a gift to the Government of Canada by a local family, the Mallorys, of a small piece of waterfront property now known as Mallorytown Landing. When the government added to this property nine federally-owned islands in the St. Lawrence River, stretching from Brockville to Gananoque, the park was born.
Thousand Islands National Park was created primarily as a place for recreation. For over seventy years visitors enjoyed the beauty of the islands, picnicking, camping and boating. Facilities were provided to encourage these activities: sheltered picnic pavilions ( three of the original pavilions, built in 1904, survive) , picnic tables, campsites and wells as well as a steadily growing number of docks on the islands. In addition, the park itself was enlarged with the acquisition of Cedar, Milton and Mulcaster Islands, and of more properties on Grenadier Island and Hill Island.
The shift from recreation to protection came in the 1980s. In those years there arose an awareness that the Thousand Islands was a unique ecosystem that had to be managed in a new way to ensure the well-being of the habitat that the islands provided for the plants and animals native to the area. The challenge became to preserve and protect the fragile resources of the park while, at the same time, providing an opportunity for people to enjoy and to learn about one of the most beautiful parts of Canada.
The challenge is ongoing.