This guest post was written by Wally Schaber, a member of Ottawa Riverkeeper’s Riverwatch Program.
In December 2015, Burnstown Publishing and I co-published a history of the last wild tributary in the Ottawa River watershed: the Dumoine River. In the epilogue, I challenged myself and others to do more volunteer work and to spend more locally. My objective is to keep the river clean, and to make supporting recreation a priority for politicians and locals in the future of the watershed.
To that end, this April I invited individuals and groups to become Friends/Ami(e)s/Neechi of the Dumoine River. We created a Facebook page to communicate a plan and collect funds for our first year project: placing outdoor toilets (called thunderboxes) on all the campsites on the river.
The response has been very encouraging. Those who were in a position to give money came forward to sponsor twenty boxes and four outhouses, while individuals, local businesses, and paddlers from as far away as the United Kingdom have offered to install the boxes on their annual river trips. We got offers to paint the boxes from ZECs (zones d’exploitation contrôlées, or Controlled harvesting zones), local artists, and youth groups, and a carpenter from Rapides-des-Joachims was hired to build them.
Altogether we received over $3,000 in donations, all of which will be going directly into our work. The entire project was a spontaneous sharing of a common goal to maintain and improve the Dumoine River wilderness canoe trip experience. In future years we hope to take on projects such as working to preserve endangered species in the watershed, opening up all-season ski and hiking trails, creating interpretive information in writing, song, and art at key sites on the river, and coordinating a dialogue between different user groups about how to preserve and enhance the Dumoine watershed experience.
The spirit that has been reflected in this effort exists elsewhere in the Ottawa River watershed. It only takes a voluntary commitment by one or two leaders to call for help and achieve a worthy goal.
There are many signs that the leadership and political will is there already. The Prime Minister and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, are enthusiastic paddlers and environmentalists. The Minister of Environment, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, is equally enthusiastic, and is a strong advocate for the Ottawa River. Our MP for the Pontiac, Will Amos, paddled the Dumoine in May’s challenging – and cold – waters, demonstrating his paddling skills; he continues to champion recreational paddling as a viable form of tourism in the Pontiac at every opportunity. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec seem near to announcing a unique joint plan with the federal government to declare heritage status for both sides of the Ottawa River below Lake Temiskaming.
The Algonquin Wolf Lake Band continues to invest in wilderness recreation; they have opened their second outfitting centre in Rapides-des-Joachims, to work with their original centre in Thorne, Ontario. And the town of Petawawa is achieving great success with its two in-town paddling festivals, Hell or High Water in May and the Upper Ottawa River Festival in August. Other communities between Mattawa and Lake of Two Mountains, on both sides of the river, continue to expand their recreational use of this great original highway and waterway. The support for the conservation of the Ottawa River watershed – for preserving nature, wilderness values, and outdoor recreation enjoyment and employment – seems to be on the rise.
With class, diplomacy, quiet persuasion, and media support, Ottawa Riverkeeper continues to offer strategic, bilingual planning to liaise with all levels of government throughout the watershed. I am pleased to be a supporting member of Ottawa Riverkeeper, both as a Riverwatcher and a financial contributor.
Last of the Wild Rivers