By Rebecca Harrison, Manager of Programs, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper
My name is Rebecca Harrison and I am the Manager of Programs at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
Our organization started in Kingston over a decade ago. We launched there because even before we officially became Lake Ontario Waterkeeper we worked hand in hand with community organizations and local activists on a variety of cases. Our goal has always been to identify leaders within a community and assist their efforts for a swimmable drinkable fishable future on the Great Lakes.
Kingston and the surrounding area has been home to a great number of community organizations and activist who fight for this future everyday.
As a result of their efforts Kingston is well positioned to become a leader among Great Lakes communities.
We stood with the Mayor and Staff earlier this year as Utilities Kingston unveiled their realtime sewage outflow monitoring system. Kingston has raised the bar for all other coastal communities not only on the Great Lakes but across the country.
Alone this would have been a huge victory for recreational water users in Kingston but this investment was absolutely necessary because of the creation of the Kingston Waterfront Master Plan (KWMP). We have always held the philosophy that when you connect people to water, give them access to not just look at but touch the water, their natural desire to protect that body of water creates the political will for government to do the same.
That is exactly what’s happening in Kingston.
The KWMP plan is another first on Lake Ontario. Thanks to the grassroots activism and the subsequent public support Kingston is leading the way with waterfront restoration.
While most communities are still simply building a walking path or bike trail, Kingston is going to the next level and creating water access points to get people off the shore and into the waters of Lake Ontario. The KWMP lays out a long term commitment to this type of development across the entire waterfront with a variety of projects and partners. It’s not just a mission statement either. The detail in the plan is what made it possible for our organization, with the generous support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, to donate half of a million dollars to the Breakwater Park redevelopment.
And we were not alone. The city also received funding from the Canada 150 Infrastructue Fund.
This support from other levels of government and private organizations like our own should stand as a testament to the hard work of the city and all the residents involved in this waterfront revolution in Kingston.
Recently, the city council voted unanimously to name the old PUC dock the Gord Edgar Downie Pier. Gord Downie is not just Kingston's native son and our board member but a champion for Lake Ontario. The renovations on this pier alone are a fitting tribute to his vision for what Kingston was capable of when it came to water access.
Generations of Kingstonians and Queens alumni have leapt off that pier into the waters of Lake Ontario. Soon ladders, a new bridge and shade structures will adorn the pier. It will be the country’s first deep water swimming area, truly a destination for Canadians across the county.
Our organization believes in a swimmable, drinkable fishable future meaning that we believe the we all deserve a future where the water is safe enough to swim, pure enough to drink and wild enough to cast a line in and pull out a fish throughout the entire Great Lakes watershed.
When we started that goal seemed pretty lofty. But being in Kingston this summer, seeing the dedication of the community and council to projects like Utilities Kingston real-time monitoring and the KWMP we are hopeful, likely more hopeful than ever before. And you should be too.
In activism it is important to celebrate the victories, this is a victory. There is so much good to celebrate and we are proud to be a part of it.