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Great Lakes Article:

TWRC gets a paddling
By Gary Reid
Canada Free Press
Published March 10th, 2005

There is an old saying that "things done in haste are not done well". A case in point is the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporationís proposal to build a 650-metre long watercourse in Humber Bay to meet the requirements for Toronto to host the 2006 Club Crew World Championships for dragon boaters.

Toronto has looked out for the interests of sailors and power boaters rather well, with one of the largest concentrations of mooring facilities in the Great Lakes, augmented by boat launching ramps that attract boaters from outside the city.

However, it has neglected rowers, paddlers and dragon boaters. They have been lobbying for years to get a proper course built.

For competitive purposes, canoeists, dragon boaters and rowers require different course lengths. A course of 2,000 metres, which meets Olympic standards, would satisfy everybody. Provided it is built in the place where flat-water conditions can be maximized.

This was all to be addressed when the TWRC announced the intention to construct a multi-use watercourse this summer.

However, the Toronto Star reports a significant level of unhappiness amongst the members of the various rowing and paddling clubs. The general sense is that this course is being built hastily and mainly to capture a single international event and will become a white elephant on the waterfront.

"It's the wrong course, the wrong place and the wrong distance," according to a quote attributed to Robert Blunt, a member of the Argonaut Rowing Club, Toronto's largest club.

Robert Campbell, President of TWRC, retorted that he could build this one or build nothing. He points out that if there is additional money some other time then this course could be expanded.

It is the money thatís the problem. There is only $23 million available. To build the course that would keep everybody happy would cost more than twice that amount, if it were built in this location. But should it be in Humber Bay at all?

Part of the reason why TWRC finds itself the unhappy recipient of a public "paddling" is because its feasibility study looked only at this location. There are at least two others that are worth considering. In both cases longer courses could probably be built within the financial cap.

There is some sense to the Humber Bay site. There is public transit and nearby parking. There are already parklands adjacent to the course that would accommodate spectators.

But, there are major costs to overcome. The existing breakwater must be demolished and a new one built farther out. Ontario Place has a marina on the north side with large boats that will need appropriate access to the outer lake. Dredging and backfill will be required.

However, the real impediment is that, even with a breakwater, there are only a limited number of days of truly flat-water. Humber Bay is open to the prevailing southwest winds in the boating season and the waves can build up as the water is pushed across the open lake by the wind. It is a great place to sail, for paddling, not so much.

A better location would be to the east of the Eastern Channel, across the face of what is now Cherry Beach, and projected to become Lake Ontario Park. An extension of the eastern wall of the channel would provide a barrier to create a flat-water, 1,200-metre course. The area is partly buffered by the Toronto islands and the Leslie Street Spit. The costs for the course would be far less and the adjacent land base is easily augmented to accommodate spectators and the clubsí needs. There is public transit to Cherry Beach.

One flaw with this location is that it is next door to a number sailing clubs that do not want to share the adjacent public waters with paddlers and rowers.

The best possible site is to the east of the Leslie Street Spit. This provides the best flat-water on the Toronto waterfront because of the barrier created by the forested headland. A spectator arm could be built out parallel to the spit using the same "no cost" construction methods the Toronto Port Authority used to build the spit. There is no use conflict with other boaters. The course could be built to Olympic standards, 2,000 metres. Most of the $23 million could be spent on spectator amenities, club facilities and improved public transit to the waterfront, instead of being used to tear down an existing structure.

It gets down to this Toronto, do you want to spend $23 million on a one-time dragon boat event now or take the time to build a really worthwhile canoeing/rowing/dragon boating course that could attract a host of international competitions in all those sports for years to come?

Gary Reid is a freelance writer and a public affairs consultant. Gary can be reached at


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