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Important Message to Ottawa's Paddling Community

posted Jul 10, 2018, 1:02 PM by Hector Carranco   [ updated Jul 10, 2018, 1:04 PM ]
From: John Savage <john.pg.savage@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 9:12 PM
Subject: Come defend our right to row and paddle our Ottawa River downtown

Concerned Paddlers and Rowers, 

In response to that woman run down by jet skiers on Canada Day, last Thursday, I met with the City of Gatineau's Recreation Department and discovered that the city is developing a recreation plan that excludes the Ottawa River for paddling and rowing. The consultant told me that as far as he was concerned, the river is historically a motor boating waterway and not at all suitable for non-motorized boating, as are many other spots in Quebec. Well, I mentioned, I've been here since the mid-1990s, right after the logging era ended. Based on my experience, logging that benefitted Gatineau principally economically, nearly ruined paddling and rowing that was thriving in the 1800s and early to mid-1900s.  After the river got congested with logs, these sports diminished, but started to recover over the next 28 years when the logging ended in 1990. During this time, the ORC has expanded to over 1,000 members, the sailing clubs expanded, and a new rowing and paddling programs started at the ONEC. The river came to life as a place where people could de-stress, get healthy, and reconnect with nature.

However, the City of Gatineau in collusion with the NCC has refused to accept the historical fact of the river's paddling and rowing heritage and promoted motorboating for its own vision of the river. This runs counter to the City of Ottawa's support of the Ottawa Rowing Club, sitting on city land. Since 1990, Gatineau has developed over 200 motorboat docks on its side of the river and not one canoe, kayak, or rowing shell dock even when petitioned or faced with people like me trying to exercise our Indigenous right to proper access. In 2016, the City of Gatineau forced the removal of the last docks used exclusively for rowing, canoeing, and kayaking and replaced them with 25 motor boat docks on rue Jacques Cartier. There are no more docks that we may safely come into for taking refuge, as we used to. Our safety is threatened, as evidenced by that hit and run incident this Canada Day when a young woman was run down by jet skiers on waters we use every day.

When I asked him why Gatineau is sponsoring motorboating so much, he suggest that the motorboat lobby is strong and that the paddling and rowing community is not organized. Now is the time that we have to do more to protect our waterway for our uses. If we don't, then the City of Gatineau will dictate the destruction of this waterway for paddlers and rowers, by enabling excessive motorboating and making this river unnavigable for us. We will have more collisions, like the Canada Day hit and run when a woman was run over by jet skiers.

What can you do?

This Thursday from 10 am to noon, I have invited that consultant down for a paddle on the Ottawa River. I would like to ask paddlers and rowers to be out on the water with me when I'm taking him there, to prove that this waterway is used for healthier forms of recreation and hopefully influence his judgment to support paddling and rowing as a valid form of recreation on the river.  Even a half dozen boats out there would help. Please ask everyone you know to come down at that time and demonstrate how the river is best used by paddlers and rowers too.  We will be launching from a dilapidated boat launch on the Gatineau side of the river across from the ONEC boathouse at 10 am and paddle between Kettle Island and Rideau Falls. It would be ideal to see others in this vicinity between 10 am and noontime.  I'm not asking people to carry signs, yell slogans, or do anything other than just get on the river and use it during the tour I provide this fellow as examples how this waterway can meet our needs, if the City of Gatineau doesn't abandon our shared interests.

If you have any questions, please ask.

Thanks,

John Savage
819-700-1742
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