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'Belle vue' from the water - Park a local treasure (18 photos)

A different point of view of the city's crown jewel of parks

On Sunday, I took to the water when the thunderstorms forecast for the weekend didn't materialize.

The accessible kayak and canoe dock in Bellevue Marina is perfect for launching on cooler days because you can stay dry when launching from it.

It's the most recent addition to a park whose history goes back to colonel John Prince (1796-1870) who constructed his home on a parcel of land he purchased just outside Sault Ste. Marie in the mid-1800s.

Ironically, Prince, who was the Sault's first judge, chose that location for its isolation and, of course, for its views. He called it Bellevue Estates.

The man who wanted to be away from people is now visited daily by hundreds of people because he is buried on Prince Island in Bellevue Park. You can see his grave, marked by a fence and a replica of his headstone at the crest of a gentle slope. The original headstone is in the Sault Ste. Marie Museum.

A 30-acre parcel of land was initially purchased from the Prince estate on Nov. 3, for a price of $7,500, says the Sault Ste. Marie Museum in its podcast episode of Stories of Northern Life. That works out to about $234,000 after accounting for inflation.

On May 3, 1912, the park, as it was, was officially opened as Bellevue Park, but it didn't last long.

In 1913 it was sold to a shipbuilding/drydock company that never did get around to building anything on the land.

The city bought it back in 1922 and it's been a park since then and it's seen many changes over the years.

In 1925, the city constructed a camping area in the park which remained there until 1960.

In 1927, animal pens were added and they were very popular. They added more pens, increasing the area devoted to them until 1942. Animals kept there included bears, buffalo, deer, otters, beavers, donkeys, goats, peacocks, pheasants and even a pack of wolves for a little while. The remaining animals were removed and the pens taken down in 1997 after numerous complaints from the public about the conditions in which the animals were kept.

Topsail Island in Bellevue Park has also seen a few changes over the years.

From the old lighthouse to the controversial upside-down tree sculpture; the rise and fall of the Dragon Boat races; and, the controversy around making it an off-leash dog park (which it is not) it has been a popular place.

When viewed from the water, the park reveals a different side of its beauty and popularity.

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Carol Martin

About the Author: Carol Martin

Carol has over 20-years experience in journalism, was raised in Sault Ste. Marie, and has also lived and worked in Constance Lake First Nation, Sudbury, and Kingston before returning to her hometown to join the SooToday team in 2004.
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