Welland, Ontario, is a city divided.

It’s not divided in they way you might think, though, with political issues hanging over it, or negative elements asserting their superiority

It’s divided by water – with the two sides accessible in the city centre – and this is the thing that makes Welland unique, attracting both visitors and locals to view and enjoy the Welland Canal, the Welland Recreational Waterway and the PenFinancial Flatwater Community Centre.

McGarr Realty Corp. recently put the spotlight on Wetland, showing the city’s attractiveness to people purchasing homes in Niagara (great prices; awesome community!).

With this entry, we’d like to discuss why Welland is unique – and that means examining its history, just a little bit.

Currently, Welland is one of the largest cities in Niagara’s southern tier, hosting a population of more than 50,000. Its electoral district is Niagara Centre.

In 1867, the British North America Act created the riding of Welland, bringing together smaller townships to form a political region that covered the bulk of Niagara. Those riding boundaries were redrawn in 1892, and again in 1952, 1966, 1976, 1996, 2003 and most recently, in 2013. 

Water played a large part in the city’s development, as it grew up on both sides of the Welland River and Welland Canal, which links Lake Erie and Lake Ontario as a shipping route of the St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The area was first settled in the late 1700s by United Empire Loyalists, families loyal to the King of England. Rich in agricultural history, the area saw a shift to industry with the development of the canal system, which by 1829 permitted shipping of goods via boats into the interior of the region, joining Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

The present-day 44-kilometre Welland Canal is the fourth version of a waterway link between the two Great Lakes. The present-day canal was competed in 1932, deepened in the 1950s as part of the Seaway project, and further straightened in 1973, when a Welland Canal realignment project was completed, allowing ships to bypass the city. 

This bypass is what created today’s recreational waterway and “island” at Welland’s city centre – formerly the east end of the town. Merritt Island – named for William Hamilton Merritt, the initiator of the Welland Canal project (“Merritt” takes place of pride in local names) – features Merritt Park, a popular location for picnicking, family and community fun, with paved trails that welcome bikers, hikers, strollers and special events.

In addition to the city’s nickname “the Rose City,” Welland has also been called “the place where rails and water meet.” That’s certainly true! But the official nickname was chosen in 1921, when the city’s Rotary Club invited schoolchildren to write an essay to help choose an official flower. The winning entry picked the rose, according to an article in Welland’s newspaper, The Tribune.

Indeed, the rose figures prominently in annual community events: Welland’s Rose Festival is one of Niagara’s longest-running festivals (more than 50 years). It invites participation from within the community, with events like a parade; baby show; rose show; park concerts and more at various venues, including Merritt Island and Chippawa Park, where a public rose garden named for Joseph L. Mocsan can be visited. Plan your visit for June during the festival, when the bushes are in bloom!

Welland, Ontario

Main St, Welland ON

Rowing Event in Welland

Other long-running events are also held annually:

  • The Niagara Regional Exhibition takes place this year Sept. 15-17, with agricultural displays, competitions, horse and livestock shows, a midway and lots of entertainment for families. The main building will feature a complement of indoor shows and sporting events. For information, visit HERE.
  • Feast Street Niagara, a replacement to the popular Niagara Food Festival, will run Sept. 30-Oct. 1 in downtown Welland. Expect great music, awesome food and wonderful local beer, wine and cider. For information, visit the event’s Facebook event page, searching for “Feast St. Niagara 2017.”
  • Summer Concert Series 2017 was held at the main stage on Merritt Island, with themed days celebrating rock; children’s music; soul; blues; country and more. Stay on top of next year’s lineup via Welland’s city-run website, HERE.
  • Welland has become known for water-sport tourism, promoting events like June’s Dragon Boat Festival and annual canoe, kayak and rowing tournaments. For information on International Flatwater Centre events, click HERE. Coming up in 2018 will be the Canoe Polo World Championships - plan your visit now!
  • The PenFinancial Flatwater Community Centre supports local canoe and rowing clubs, with storage and training facilities on the recreational waterway. Feel like trying some watersports yourself? Try your hand at rowing in the Indoor Paddle Tank, or request information about canoe rentals by visiting the Welland Recreational Canal Corporation’s website at the link above.
  • Young’s Sportsplex is a fairly new sports complex in Welland, located on River Road near the Flatwater Centre. Featuring FIFA regulation-sized soccer fields (indoor and outdoor; two on artificial turf); four indoor tennis courts; a sport performance centre and snack area, this complex serves all of Niagara for various sport training and performance needs.
  • Not to be ignored is Welland’s year-round farmer’s market, held in the covered Market Square building at Young and Division streets. Up to 60 vendors offer fresh produce, baked goods, Niagara wines and more every Saturday morning, 6 a.m. to noon. If you are here on a weekend for a sporting event, it’s worth the visit!

So, you see now why Welland is unique because of division by water. The canal bypass project allowed for a unique watersport tourism to develop, inviting locals and world travellers for special sporting events involving flatwater facilities.

McGarr Realty hopes you’ll visit for the awesome canal-related events, return to join in the fun at long-running festivals, and perhaps consider relocating to this inclusive, community-minded city.

If that’s where your thoughts are headed, give our office a call at 905-468-9229 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or 905-687-9229 in St. Catharines.


We can’t wait to show you all that Welland has to offer!

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