Giving back to the community.
Consideration for our environment.
How to create change.
Exploration & Adventure.
All of these values are ones very near and dear to our hearts. They are at the core of our family and ones we strive for as we guide our kids to seek answers, challenge themselves and be grateful for all that we have.
We were given an incredible reminder of all of these this past Sunday when we participated in Manulife’s Paddle The Don event. #PaddleTheDon happens once a year when the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority opens up the water gates to allow a fleet of kayaks and canoes to travel downstream to the Keating Channel. The event is an opportunity to bring together a variety of different walks of life for a common goal: understanding the importance of the GTA watershed system. And this matters a lot.
The day started off with a launch party at E. T. Seton Park with Kathleen Wynne opening the event. She is an avid supporter of Paddle The Don and has paddled for many years to support this great cause.
As we marshalled towards the launch point, we had the good fortune of having an incredible TRCA guide, Dana in our canoe. Dana himself is quite an enigma having done a 5,500 km Cross-Canada canoe trip with a group of friends from university. He not only was an expert paddler but an expert in the geological, historical and environmental impacts that has happened to the Don River over many years.
Over the next 2 hours, we were given a gift in participating in Paddle The Don. We had a chance to experience and see the river in a completely different light. We learned about her. We got to better understand how much she has taken on and what needs to be considered to help make for positive change. (Thank you so much Dana!)
As cars raced down the DVP, we didn’t notice a bit. Instead we heard birds singing, we enjoyed the scenery and the quiet of the river. We greeted the river in the morning with curiosity and by the end had fallen smitten with her. There was a tremendous sense of community between fellow paddlers, volunteers and organizers. Its was like we all realized what a warrior the Don River had been, we saw her war wounds from the many battles she encountered and we wanted to let her know we had her back.
We are deeply grateful for Manulife supporting us to participate in this event. Watching how their sponsorship and employee involvement will help to directly create change for good in the Don Valley Watershed makes us awfully proud to be working with such a great group of people.
We definitely know where we will be this time next year!
Ok…Paddle The Don?
First time I got wind of this I immediately thought it was some kind of Fraternity prank, an outlawed hazing practice. I needed to get more information.
And did I…
Over the past few years we have been exposed to some extreme weather in the GTA: I remember the flash storm that backed up water across the city, wrecking basements and stranding travellers.
Some more than others…
Why is this sort of thing happening? Well, we have over the past 200 years taken a porous, lush garden and essentially paved 99% of it, leaving little place for the water and rain to seep into the soil naturally. It is now ushered and driven into some manmade areas designed to literally stem the tide, and sometimes it gets overwhelmed. We have taken streams and removed them, creating culverts and pipes. We take rivers and straighten them out, adding bends to accommodate industry. We have messed with Mother Nature and she is a bit put out, and not afraid to show it.
Climate change is happening, and extreme weather is continually becoming more common. The TRCA has a great challenge ahead of them as they work to establish patterns of weather behaviour in an environment that is becoming increasingly difficult to forecast.
In addition, tributaries that lead into the Don are often polluted and feeding into a river that needs to protect itself against the impact. Between weather, pollution and urbanization we have seen the impact it has on the watershed.
Luckily, days like Sunday come along to remind us of the importance of the Don and seeing ways that environmental consideration will help to make a difference.
We were very lucky in having Dana with us as we were able to drill down deeper into the history of the river. We saw where glaciers had compressed the soil and rock, where industry had added its layers, the ultimately futile attempts at controlling erosion, and get a glimpse into the status of the river today. The experience was great, with some rapids adding to the excitement of the day. Luckily we stayed mostly dry for the trip.
Manulife has taken the lead on this event, and huge credit to them for it. This is a tangible show of corporate conscience, and everyone from the volunteers to the executives we met certainly seemed excited about working in the community to a common goal. Well done to all!
Special shout out to the Boy Scouts who helped with canoes at the portages too; I don’t know what badge you get for helping a bundle of stiff bones with aquatic gear, but you earned it in spades!