So I met with several of the Oakville Town Councillors on Saturday and it went well. In fact, I would say that “we won”!
Now, I should clarify that a little. Like who is “we”?… and what did we “win”?
Well “we” is LOST Swimming. But it is also all the other people who use the waterfront. Like the WaiNui Outrigger Canoe Club, and all the other people and groups that like to paddle, row and swim. As well as all the people who like wade in up to their knees, or skip stones with their kids, or throw a stick in for their dog to fetch, including the 1400+ that signed the petition! So pretty much everyone that actually likes to “use” the lake rather than just look at it.
And what did we “win”? Well to answer that you have to say “what were we trying to win by doing all this”? And the answer is:
- Stop LOST Beach from being made unswimable. Done! The Town has agreed to not install the large armor stone right where we swim. Something that would have ended LOST Swimming in it’s 14th year of swimming there. Big win. It’s not going to be improved, at least not yet, but at least it won’t be any worse.
- A voice. Done! For over a decade myself and the 18 member Board of LOST have been trying be heard on numerous waterfront issues. And we got nowhere. Now, because of the actions we took and the support we got from LOSTies, paddlers, rowers, boaters and just regular people who want to use the water, we also have the support of several Town Councillors. There were 5 Councillors (Cathy Duddeck, Dave Gittings, Ray Chisholm, Janet Haslett-Theall and Beth Robertson), at the meeting who gave us their full support. And they have spoken with several others who were unable to attend but who are likely supporters too, so we likely have a majority of Town Council. (I’d like to think it would be unanimous, because being against waterfront accessibility is a pretty indefensible position in my mind, but we’ll see).
What does that mean, in terms of “action”? Talk is cheap, I tend to judge people and their talk, by the actions that result from it, not by what they “say”.
- LOST Beach will be swimable again for summer 2019. I’ve been assured that it will be and that if it isn’t then we’ll make it right.
- The Councillors are going to develop a process where we can put ideas and proposal forward, rather than the current ad hoc process that had lead us no where for many years. First in line in this process is to see what can be done to correct a few issues:
- see how we can make Edgemere accessible again for swimmers, paddlers, kids, etc.
- see how we can make Tannery Park accessible for swimmers, paddlers, kids, etc.
- see how we can make LOST Beach better and safer for swimmers, paddlers, kids, etc., which I would like to propose be done by building a groyne.
- see how we can get some facilities for LOST, such as:
- a clubhouse
- a patio and plaque
So having said all that, I am under no grand illusion that we will get anything and everything that we ask for. Nor that it will be easy or quick. But I also know that what we are asking for isn’t unreasonable. When you look at the plethora of hockey arenas, baseball diamonds, soccer pitches, as well as facilities for other waterfront and harbour user groups and the many millions that have gone into them, it doesn’t seem unreasonable, especially for something that isn’t just for LOST! I think LOST has clearly shown from this exercise that we are the active stewards of the waterfront in Oakville, but even better than that, it isn’t just LOST anymore. This shows how important access to the waterfront is to everyone.
Going through this process we have clearly raised these important issues to the forefront so they aren’t ignored any longer. And in doing so we have a lot more people and organizations who are going to be more vigilant in helping to make our waterfront better, like the Assoc of Oakville Harbours Stakeholders, WaiNui Canoe Club. However, I am hoping that the most significant people we have recruited to also act as stewards of the Lake are the Councillors that are now aware of the issues and are supportive of working with us to correct past mistakes and make the waterfront better and more accessible for everyone.
Sometimes these issues can become “battles” of us vs them. And as tempting as it is to go back and figure out who is to blame, I’ll pass on that. This certainly is no Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela or even Colin Kaepernick moment, but there was something that was clearly going wrong in the development of a key part of this Town and it needed to be addressed, and in the case of LOST Beach, before it was too late. And when asking nicely for years got us nowhere, and we were at risk of losing something important to us, we had to elevate the issue. Even if it meant being a “squeaky wheel”.
The good news is… that when we did… we were heard, supported and not fought. It took a bit of doing, but it looks like it was worth standing up for. Now there is just the small matter of putting words into action, but we are happy to work together to do that.
I’ve been told that LOST is too small to have any political sway. LOST has grown from 1 person to over 220 paid members this year. Which is pretty cool for a sport that didn’t exist in Lake Ontario before LOST started in 2006. But yes, it’s still small. However, I wonder how big hockey or soccer or baseball would be in Oakville if they had to play hockey on the creek, or soccer and baseball in a farmer’s field? I’d say we’ve done pretty well considering the help we’ve had.
More importantly though, I think now, with the support we have gotten from the other waterfront users, the general public and especially now with the Town Councillors, the best days of LOST Swimming are just starting!
Thanks everyone and we’ll see you in June! (or for the annual LOST Polar Bear Dip at LOST Beach… if you are up for it!)