Not every paddler, kayaker, rower and canoeist that takes to the water at the shores of Elizabeth Street will share Olympic dreams — but they all seem to share the dream of a new place to call home.
That common vision moved one step closer to reality Wednesday evening with the official launch of the "Community Capital Campaign" in support of the Northern Water Sports Centre (NWSC).
Invited guests, along with several dozen representatives of the various groups that are working together to make this project happen, were on hand for a "Summer Water Parade," with participants working their way across Ramsey Lake from the current site of both the Sudbury Canoe Club and the Sudbury Rowing Club to the new venue that awaits construction of a much larger facility.
With a $1-million commitment already in place from both the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and Xstrata and another $ 500,000 from the City of Greater Sudbury (not to mention the donation of the land), the community campaign, dubbed "Sprint to the Finish," is targetting another $500,000 to put shovels in the ground before the end of 2012.
"I've been confident that it's going to happen all along," NWSC board chair, Thomas Merritt said. "Coming out tonight, listening to the young people, listening to everyone that was speaking, it does help sort of rejuvenate me, get me more excited about it."
Along with a host of others, Merritt has been instrumental in trying to find ways to engage more and more Sudburians into exactly what the water sports offer to citizens and their families in the area.
"We have to do a better job than what we have done traditionally, as clubs, of getting the message of what this facility will mean to the community," Merritt said.
"One of the reasons this facility will exist is to give people access to the paddling sports that is affordable to everybody," he added. "Most do not have money to buy a new boat, but they do have money for a membership. You pay a really nominal fee to have access to a lot of equipment that is pretty expensive."
Mikaela Iturregui, a 17-year-old paddler who represented the city at countless sprint canoe competitions across the province, is just one example of the potential that can be tapped once an introduction to water sport is achieved.
"I used to be a nerdy little bookworm," Iturregui said, with a laugh. "I'm not anymore. I'm now a big, nerdy paddler."
Kidding aside, the teenager went from a very casual athlete who lacked confidence in a sporting setting to become a very accomplished paddler, completely at ease on the water.
"I look back and wonder what I would do if I wasn't spending summers at the (Sudbury) Canoe Club," she said. "And now, it's going to be in a beautiful new building, so wonderfully big compared to our current club."
Diana Henninger has been entrusted with the unenviable role of spearheading the community campaign, working alongside co-chair Ene Querney. For the always active Henninger, an avid rower, accepting this challenge seemed only natural.
"There's something about the way in which rowing, or kayaking, or canoeing, connects you with your environment," Henninger said. "I can't even explain it. But Sudbury is such a magnificent community of lakes, and when people get engaged in a sport that involves the landscape and the outdoors, I just think it's so good for their overall well-being.
"For lifestyle, I can't think of anything better than a project like this, bringing more people to the water sports," Henninger added.
Posted by Laurel Myers