Thunder Bay – SPORTS – Local paddlers, like all Ontarians experienced closures and financial hardship. Unlike other provinces that gambled and lost, the LCC remained vigilant and firm in our resolve to keep our paddlers safe. Our club on Boulevard Lake remained closed at great risk to itself, meaning, ….. a prolonged closure could spell the end of the club and a forfeit of its assets. We haven’t given up, hence we are committed to re-opening. The Lakehead Canoe Club is a member funded organization that earns the bulk of its revenue from memberships, program fees, and events it hosts or supports. Our re-opening also has a direct impact on festivals south of the border and regionally.
It comes down to harsh realities. We have not had the funds flowing in for even the basics, like taxes and insurance. After two years in forced and voluntary hibernation, we are eager to follow the re-opening plan of Ontario and the City of Thunder Bay. We hope to be there ready in 2022 to offer youth paddle programming on Boulevard Lake. That’s our plan. The youth have always been our top priority, since it is they that hold the promise for our collective future.
The draining of Boulevard, the pandemic protocols, the focus on community spending elsewhere to fight covid-19, and staff unavailability in the summer have brought us to this point. It is time to re-organize, fund raise, look for corporate sponsors, and ask the City for more time and their assistance. We want paddles to be dipping into the water again next year. We want to hear the laughter of children learning about watercraft; and to give brand new paddlers a chance to rent canoes and kayaks on a re-furbished Boulevard Lake. We will be ready.
The action plan – in order or priorities
- The small remnant LCC executive has been called together for a planning meeting to regroup and recommit this month. Those wheels are turning. They will assess our options and identify our organizational needs;
- Our next virtual AGM in early November, will appeal to members and potential partners to ratify our community vision and lay out funding strategies and to re-energize the network of paddlers;
- Hold conversations with the City and corporate partners. We will need advice and financial support to get us back on track. We will start by paying down the pandemic debt;
- Then, lay the foundation for the 2022 Paddlecamp Program (9 to 15 years of age): staffing, equipment, repairs, ….in coordination with the City;
- Maintenance: secure funding for new lightweight accessible docking for lake access, building repairs; ….. a lengthy list
- Motivate the senior paddlers and the corporate teams to re-launch a number of dragon boat festivals across the region. Let’s bring celebration back to Boulevard, even if it looks a little different. It is a brand new world; which I hope doesn’t exclude healthy recreation.
- Restore our reputation as a regional centre of paddling excellence.
I thank all of you for your selfless patience. It has been a time for sacrifice. It is now a time to rebuild, …… with your help.
A feel-good note: A teenager recently approached us, expressing interest in learning how to paddle one of our Olympic level boats. We have made it possible for him to explore a whole new world. He reached out, and is spending his free-time paddling, even though he is getting a little wet. Maybe one day, another Olympic athlete will emerge from Thunder Bay.
I hope to see a good representation of our paddling network attend our virtual AGM in November, date to be announced soon.
I am grateful and I am hopeful.