Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Photo: Fishing off the rock pier at Britannia Beach in Ottawa.
Ottawa Riverkeeper held its annual general meeting last night to inform the public of the not-for-profit group’s concerns regarding the health of the watershed.
Less than 100 people turned up at the Ron Kolbus Centre in the city’s west end for the meeting. Riverkeeper and Executive Director, Meredith Brown, joked that it was too nice a night to be stuck indoors.
Indeed, the parking lot was full with people enjoying Britannia Beach. Some people were fishing off the rock pier, some were playing beach volleyball, and others were taking a dip in the water or strolling along the beach on what was a perfect summer evening.
Riverkeeper President, David Spence and Treasurer, Mark Patry, both gave detailed accounts of the successes and challenges the NGO faces.
Ms. Brown spoke about the organization’s mission – to take action to ensure the health of the river. She stressed the need to have a science-based and collaborative approach.
She spoke to the crowd about the Chalk River Nuclear Facilities and the potential dangers of leaks from that plant on the watershed and drinking water.
Another concern raised was the fact that up to 90 municipalities in both Ontario and Québec continue to dump sewage into the watershed. Ms. Brown said this is covered in detail in the upcoming River Report, due to be released later this summer.
Other topics included: water quality issues related to the CIP paper mill in Hawkesbury, floodplain development on the Ottawa River, beach closures due to high E. coli counts, the proposed interprovincial bridge crossing at Kettle Island, possible dams on the Petawawa and Bonnechere Rivers, and storm water management in Ottawa.
Ms. Brown credited the highly successful Ottawa Riverkeeper Pollution Hotline (1-888-9keeper) with informing the public and the media about potential water quality problems (arising from chemical spills, pesticide usage along the shoreline, or unusual fish kills, for example).
What’s ahead for Ottawa Riverkeeper?
More community involvement is on the horizon, according to Ms. Brown. This includes a continuation of the River Friends Youth Program, setting up a booth at the Ottawa Folk Festival in late August, and engaging municipal leaders on both sides of the river with the aim of sharing information and best practices.
The evening concluded with Delphine Hasle, director of outreach, presenting the Dan Brunton Volunteer of the Year Award to Pat Tait.
Ms. Tait has been one of the volunteer “river watchers” for the past several years.
For more information about Ottawa Riverkeeper please visit their website.
Photo: Ottawa Riverkeeper's Board of Directors at last night's AGM.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Photo: Paddlers in a voyageur canoe leave Victoria Island for Petrie Island on the Ottawa River.
Approximately 300 paddlers of all ages came out to Victoria Island yesterday under sunny skies to help celebrate the annual Canadian Rivers Day.
Some brought their own canoes or kayaks, while others joined a crew on one of the many historic wooden voyageur canoes for the 20 kilometre guided journey from Victoria Island to Petrie Island.
Many people brought their kids and dogs – it was definitely a family affair – which is exactly what the organizers wanted. Promoting
community involvement in watching over the Ottawa River is critical at a time when the river is facing several threats. Those attending yesterday's paddle were well aware of the many raw sewage leaks into the river, as well as, radioactive leaks from the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited reactor at Chalk River.
"We are here to enjoy gifts of the river," said Max Finkelstein. "But we have a duty of stewardship as well."
Aboriginal leaders set the tone for the day by lighting a sacred fire in honour of the Ottawa River. Peter Decontie said a prayer for the safety of the paddlers in his Algonquin language.
Some of the more inexperienced paddlers were concerned about making the entire trip. Volunteer Laurel Rosene laid their fears to rest when she joked with them: "If you get tired, you have to keep paddling."
Canadian Rivers Day was started in 2003 by the federal government as a way of recognizing the importance of rivers in our lives.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Photo: The National War Memorial in Ottawa, June 6, 2009.
This weekend’s Doors Open Ottawa event coincided with the 65th anniversary of D-Day and that brought a good crowd to the National War Memorial.
Veterans, current members of the Canadian Forces, politicians and the public gathered around the monument to watch the wreath laying ceremony.
As part of Doors Open Ottawa, the National Capital Commission (NCC) had interpretive guides on site all weekend to help explain the history and importance of this great monument.
“After the First World War, Canadians felt the need to recognize the men and women who served in the war,” said Boyd Laanstra, co-ordinator of interpretation programs at the NCC.
A worldwide competition was held and 127 entries were received. In January 1926, the Board of Assessors selected the entry by Englishman, Vernon March. His winning design called “the Great Response of Canada” depicts uniformed bronze figures from all services passing under a granite arch. At the top of the arch are two figures representing peace and freedom.
King George VI unveiled the monument before an audience of 100,000 spectators on May 21, 1939.
In 1982 it was re-dedicated to honour those who served in the Second World War and Korea.
In 2000, a separate monument – the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – was unveiled just in front of the National War Memorial. The body of this unknown Canadian soldier was brought to Canada from the Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery in France and laid to rest in an official ceremony on May 28, 2000.
“It is a really interesting monument in that it is out in the open and anyone can come here and interact with it,” said Mr. Laanstra. “People can leave their token of remembrance. On Canada Day the tomb is covered with flags. On Remembrance Day people leave their poppies on it. At other times, people will leave photographs or other tokens of remembrance on it,” said Mr. Laanstra.
Unfortunately there have been incidents at the site that have been less than desirable. One young man urinated on the War Memorial a couple of years ago. On another occasion, several young people roller bladed up and down the stairs in front of the memorial. Both incidents angered veterans groups who have since demanded better security for the site. Fortunately, such incidents are rare and the site remains free and open to the public.
If you missed the Doors Open or D-Day events but would like to know more about the National War Memorial and the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the NCC will have guides on site June 19 through Sept 7.
Doors Open Ottawa provides an opportunity for the public to learn more about the architectural, historical and cultural significance of buildings and monuments that people often pass by but do not have time to explore.
According to the City of Ottawa’s website, Doors Open has recorded more than 340,000 visits since it began in 2002.
Photo: Veterans salute as the national anthem is played.
Photo: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.