Wilcox Lake is located in the community of Oak Ridges at the headwaters of the East Humber River in Richmond Hill. As the largest kettle lake on the Oak Ridges Moraine, Wilcox Lake supports diverse and sensitive biological communities while also providing users with recreational activities such as skating, fishing and water sports.
There are four Town properties on the shoreline of Wilcox Lake – Lake Wilcox Park(formerly Sunset Beach Park), Jesse Venek Park and North Shore Parkette provide lakefront viewing and picnic space, while the Fish & Wildlife Sanctuary/Pike Hatchery is for those interested in a nature experience.
The scenic views from Wilcox Lake have made it an ideal location to take scenic photographs, and have been a popular choice for photographers. The scenic views of the lake may vary depending on the time of year, weather conditions and water levels. Some of the scenic views include rolling farmlands, open vistas of lakefront homes and forested areas at the back end of the lake. At one point in history, there were plans to build a larger town park at Wilcox Lake with swimming beaches, tennis courts and a boat launch ramp. However, these plans did not come to fruition as the development would encroach upon sensitive habitat areas.
Recently there has been a surge in popularity for outdoor recreation activities such as canoeing and kayaking, which is generally more accessible than motorized watercraft. The boat launch on the northwestern end of Wilcox Lake allows users to gain access to the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail; however, it does not provide room for trailers and canoes must be carried at least 100m from the site.
Many recreation activities take place at Wilcox Lake such as swimming, fishing and hiking/walking trails. The Town of Richmond Hill operates a popular skating rink near Jesse Venek Park during the winter months. In addition, ice-fishing is another important aspect of recreational activities at Wilcox Lake, with an estimated 76% of anglers targeting panfish (bluegills and sunfish) in the Lake. Many recreation activities take place at Wilcox Lake such as swimming, fishing and hiking/walking trails.
The park was originally known as Sunset Beach and was a popular destination for swimmers in the 30s and 40s. The beach then closed in 1950 because of increased pollution but reopened again in 1974 after sewage disposal problems were resolved. In 1974-1976, it underwent redevelopment with new facilities including a change room, refreshment stand, wildlife sanctuary, four picnic sites and two boat launches. In 2015, renovations began to bring back the natural beauty of Wilcox Lake by removing the old beaches from the area surrounding the lake.
The renovated area surrounding Wilcox Lake will be a wildlife refuge where visitors can enjoy nature without causing further damage to wildlife habitats. The area will provide a scenic view of Wilcox Lake from elevated viewpoints while also maintaining passive recreation activities such as hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities. This renovation process is part of a plan that looks at ways to create a healthier ecosystem around Wilcox Lake while also balancing recreational opportunities for residents and wildlife conservation. The planned revitalization is to improve wildlife habitat by opening up the forest canopy, managing invasive species and restoring wildlife corridors.
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