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
However, it has neglected rowers, paddlers and dragon
boaters. They have been lobbying for years to get a proper
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
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
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.