As the Culture Fest comes to a close we begin something new in Kingston

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By Mark Mattson, President, Swim Drink Fish Canada

Today marks the closing of the first ever Kingston and Wolfe Island Culture Festival.

Over the past 7 weeks we have explored what the Great Lakes mean to Kingston and Wolfe Island, how they’ve shaped our geography, our history, our identity. And, how they will shape our future.

With the support of the Kingston Community we have hosted several amazing events: The Wolfe Island Festival of the Arts and Eating Lake Ontario hosted by the Wolfe Island Grill with its gorgeous view of the lake. We reached out to the community through the Shoreline Shuffle Salute Art Exhibit at the Tett Centre and the Waterfront Discussion at City Hall in Kingston. We explored the history of Wolfe Island with the Wolfe Island Historical Society and were guided through the haunted marine history of Kingston with Kingston Haunted Walks. We looked to the future with Robot Missions at Lake Ontario Park engaging our youth in a discussion about cleaning up our beaches. Tonight, we will host the Waterkeeper Showcase during the first night of the Wolfe Island Music Festival.

Throughout the festival Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has gathered over 250 personal water stories from residents for our Watermark Project and conducted water quality monitoring at Breakwater Park and the Wolfe Island Boat Club on a weekly basis. Our social media campaigns #LOExplore and #MyGLPromise united people through their love of our Great Lakes.

All of these amazing events were made possible in part by the generous support of Ontario150.It has been an extremely successful summer and we couldn’t have done it without each and everyone of you.

Kingston leading the way

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper started here in the Kingston and Wolfe Island. Even before we launched we worked on many cases right here with concerned citizens and community organizations.

The experiences we had right here - in the spot where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence  - helped form the philosophy that would chart our course for the next 16 plus years. We believed that if we could connect people to their waterbody and provide them with the information to make things better, great things can happen. The Kingston area has been a shining example of this philosophy.

This year, Utilities Kingston unveiled the country’s first real-time sewage outflow monitoring system. Now the public knows the information they need to safely enjoy the waters of Lake Ontario from the shores of Kingston.

And it’s just in time. The City of Kingston’s award winning Kingston Waterfront Master Plan is changing the face of Kingston’s waterfront, improving access and connecting Kingston to Lake Ontario like never before.

Through a generous donation from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation we were able to invest in the redevelopment of Breakwater Park part of the Kingston Waterfront Master Plan. Through this support the project will be completed a full year ahead of schedule.

This isn’t just another waterfront development, this will include Canada’s first urban water swimming pier. The Gord Edgar Downie pier will be an inspiration from other waterfront communities for years to come.

Truly none of these achievements would be possible without the work of citizens and organizations that fought to prioritize safe water access to Lake Ontario. Their hard work created the political will necessary for the changes we are celebrating today and we were honoured to play even a small role in supporting their good work.

Connecting people with water by connecting with the community

The freshwater that flows through the Great Lakes connects all of us, from Thunder Bay all the way to  Kingston. The job of protecting this amazing resource is a big one. No one group can do it alone. That is why local community organizations are truly at the heart of Great Lakes protection. Their connection, understanding and passion for their water is what drives change in the Great Lakes basin.

We've always had the greatest success when we’ve worked hand in hand with passionate community groups. This is why we have decided to take our philosophy of connecting people and water to the next level with the launch of our Great Lakes Community Guardianship Project here in Kingston where it all started.

The Great Lakes Community Guardianship Project identifies community based groups throughout the Great Lakes basin, supports their work and connects them to one another. All to create a network of locally based organizations working towards swimmable drinkable fishable Great Lakes.

I am proud to announce that Kingston’s Water Access Group Kingston will join us as our first ever Great Lakes Community Guardian.

Water Access Group:

Water Access Group is a community organization in Kingston, Ontario, committed to the promotion of public water and public spaces on our waterfront. They have actively campaign to revitalize Kingston’s  awareness of their rich shoreline history  and create useful, accessible and sustainable public access for the present and the future.

Through the Great Lakes Community Guardianship Project, Water Access Group will be provided the tools (like Swim Guide and Watermark) to keep residents up to date on water quality and organize support for increased safe water access on the Kingston Waterfront.

We look forward to this new partnership and welcoming other groups in other communities very soon.