As you stand on the edge of the new Gord Edgar Downie Pier on July 26th and prepare to jump in, we ask you to take a moment. Pause. Reflect. This day has been decades in the making.
A long history bonds Lake Ontario Waterkeeper with Kingston. It’s where Waterkeeper launched in June 2001 and where Mark Mattson, President and Waterkeeper, met Gord Downie years earlier. Gord, who lived across from the original pier, became a board member and passionate Swim Drink Fish ambassador.
Waterkeeper’s work spans across Lake Ontario’s watershed, but public events and legal hearings kept us coming back to Kingston.
The city has always been part of Waterkeeper’s story. So it’s exciting the City of Kingston now becomes a leader for all Great Lakes cities as it opens the Gord Edgar Downie Pier - a beacon for you and everyone else who cares about swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters.
For decades the city battled water pollution. Its waterfront didn’t inspire swimming, and combined sewer overflows dumped raw sewage into the water.
Kingston changed because people chose to believe it could be better. For example, David McDonald, Su Sheedy and the Water Access Group advocated for public spaces along a swimmable, drinkable, fishable waterfront.
Sewage pollution once disconnected people from the waterfront. Now Utilities Kingston provides real-time monitoring of sewage overflows. This data helps people decide when it’s best to swim.
The City of Kingston’s Waterfront Master Plan set a vision for its waterfront. And with the participation of many people and organizations, residents will be swimming along Kingston’s waterfront for years to come.
In 2017, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation donated $500,000 to the Gord Edgar Downie Pier and beach improvements at Breakwater Park. The grant was part of the “Great Lakes Challenge”, a challenge to communities and other funders to do more to restore the lakes. It unlocked further funding from the City of Kingston and the provincial and federal governments for wider park improvements. In June 2017, the project broke ground.
This swimming pier proves a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future is possible. And provides an example for cities across the Great Lakes.
We look forward to having you join us on July 26 at Breakwater Park for the grand opening ceremony. If you are interested in attending, register below to stay informed about all important updates.
With the upcoming grand opening of the Gord Edgar Downie Pier at Breakwater Park, take a look at the Great Lakes Challenge website for an overview of the project.