Six months after its public opening, the Gord Edgar Downie Pier remains a beacon for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water across the Great Lakes. My recent trip to Kingston with Mark Mattson reminded me of this.
This pier helps people reimagine their connection to Lake Ontario and is shaping a new generation of water leaders.
While the summertime crowds hibernate, the swimming pier's magic remains. The breeze, the view, the pier’s connection to Gord Downie and the preceding decades of work - they are part of Kingston’s recipe for what makes this place special year-round.
Standing there I thought back to my last visit on opening day: the kids racing across the bridge to get to the water, passersby running into unexpected crowds, young families wading into Lake Ontario. Since Swim Drink Fish helped unveil the pier on July 26, 2018, it’s bringing people back to the water.
This time only a few people passed through Breakwater Park as the sun set on a cold January day. Snow scattered the park and the lake water was icy cold. A stark contrast, but I didn't need my bathing suit to be captivated.
Working with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper taught me something important. Yes, the Gord Edgar Downie Pier is a place to swim, relax and gather with friends. But it goes beyond recreation; swimming piers transform our relationship with Lake Ontario. By connecting people to water, the Gord Edgar Downie Pier gives meaning and force to Canada's environmental laws.
With this swimming pier, Kingston sets an example for other Great Lakes cities to follow. Now the question is, which city will be next?
The simple act of jumping off a pier into Lake Ontario has never been more powerful.