Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Swimming in the Gorge

In 1998 Dennis Minaker wrote a book called The Gorge of Summers Gone: A History of Victoria's Inland Waterway. You can find it in the local libraries. He does a great job of telling use the history of how we used the waterway. It was in 1939 that swimming was banned due to sewage and industrial waste. But that has been dramatically changed in the last two generations.

I find it interesting at how reluctant people are to swim in the Gorge. People are of the opinion that it is polluted water, that the waste from the past presists.

It has been a long time since the heavy industry has been on the waterway, the houses do not discharge waste into the waterway, and the rate at which the Gorge recharges is quite high, the water does not remain there for any length of time, fecal coliform is not an issue at all in the Gorge. Fish are in the waterway and people catch them. DFO does not close the area to fishing from pollution. There is a potential of some heavy metal pollution in and around Rock Bay and out towards the Inner Harbour, but that heavy metal pollution was not in the Gorge. It is quite safe to swim there, certainly safer than most lakes in this region in August, but people still think it is too dirty or polluted to swim in.

In the past the Gorge Waterway was the recreational centre of Victoria. There was a tall diving tower at Curtis Point that was 110 feet tall - that is like jumping off a ten storey building. There were regular regattas filling the Gorge with boats from bank to bank. Kinsmen park had a salt water pool and was connected by tram to the city to allow people to get out to the water.

The Gorge was never industrialized, the Harbour ended at the railway trestle leaving the water beyond more or less in its natural state.

I would love to see Esquimalt, Victoria, and Saanich offer swimming lessons on the Gorge and not only in their pools. I would love to see a tall tower for diving be built again. Actually, some bathrooms and changing rooms would be nice.

I am happy to see my boys go to the Gorge and swim off of the dock at the Tillicum bridge. The cove there is a perfect swimming hole and has so much there for kids to explore and play with. It is the sort of place to let them really explore their imagination.

My 11 year old goes to Shoreline, the school is right at the water's edge. We live on Harriet Road in Victoria, 620 meters from the water. He has asked if he could try kayaking to school at some point. I think that is a wonderful idea. With a set of wheels, he could wheel it from the house to the Gorge and launch it from there. It is 3 km by water to the closest spot or 5 km to around Christie Point to get to the school.

I would like to buy couple of kayaks this year so that we can get out on the water, so that I can by on the Gorge and reconnect to that which was the heart of this neighbourhood. I would like to see a lot more people in this region find their way back out on to the water.
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