Lakeshore, Ontario

Lakeshore is a town on Lake St. Clair, in Essex County, Ontario, Canada. The town was incorporated in 1999 by amalgamating the Town of Belle River with the townships of Maidstone, Rochester, Tilbury North, and Tilbury West. It is part of the Windsor census metropolitan area.

Lakeshore has a significant concentration of Franco-Ontarians and is one of only three communities in Southern Ontario (excluding Eastern Ontario) in more than 5% (the provincial average) of the population is francophone, the other two being Welland and Penetanguishene). In the 2011 census, 7.7% of the population reported French as their mother tongue, and 17.2% reported knowledge of both official languages.

The area is drained by a series of slow-moving rivers and creeks, all of which flow northward into Lake St. Clair: from west to east, these are Pike Creek, the Puce River, Belle River, the Ruscom River, and finally Big Creek and Baptiste Creek, which form the northeastern border of Lakeshore at their junction with the Thames River.

In the 1920s, James Scott Cooper, a well-known local entrepreneur and bootlegger, built mansions in Walkerville and Belle River. The Cooper Court Motel and Bar in Belle River, built in 1920, still operates today. Cooper was a philanthropist and contributed greatly to the construction of Belle River’s first high school 1922, St. James High School, named in honour of Cooper’s generosity. The building still stands today, housing the local Canadian Legion on Notre Dame Street. Belle River was well known for bootlegging during Prohibition in the United States. The Wellington hotel, once located on Notre Dame, the town’s main street, exported alcohol to the United States along with many American-owned cottages on Charron Beach Road.

Lakeshore’s economy is based primarily on agriculture and manufacturing. Over 27% of the workforce of Lakeshore is employed in the manufacturing sector. The prominence of manufacturing is an outgrowth of the town’s proximity to Windsor and Detroit, the historic centre of North American automobile production. The economy of Lakeshore remains closely tied to that of Windsor: over 50% of the town’s total workforce is employed in Windsor. In recent years the town has seen important developments in renewable energy, particularly in wind power. It is the site of the 72-turbine Comber Wind Farm.

The community’s hockey team is the 2018 Stobbs Division Champions Lakeshore Canadiens, who play in the Provincial Junior Hockey League. The youth sports teams are Belle River Jr. Canadiens (Hockey), Lakeshore Lightning (Girls Hockey), Belle River Braves (Baseball) and Belle River F.C. (Soccer). Belle River is the birthplace of retired NHL player Tie Domi, and NHL player Aaron Ekblad was raised in Belle River.

Since 1989, Belle River has been known as the “Jet Ski Capital of Canada” due to the number of personal watercraft riders and racers in the town, many of which are American visitors. To this day there continues to be an annual event hosted by The Midwest Watercross tour in honour of the sport in conjunction with the town’s annual Sunsplash festival.

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