It’s about to get a lot easier for paddlers to hit the water this summer.
Sarnia has hired JS Marine to install an accessible kayak and canoe launch in Centennial Park, near the site of the former MacLean Centre building.
The $75,000 project includes an “EZ-Dock” that’s compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
“It was something that kept on coming up, that people had to keep crossing the border to access the one in Port Huron, because there wasn’t something accessible locally,” said Dale Mosley, Sarnia’s accessibility coordinator.
“That was the number one priority.”
The location was chosen because it’s sheltered from waves and larger boat traffic, and parking that served the former Momma Rosa’s restaurant for 12 years is also nearby.
The push for a canoe and kayak launch came from the Sarnia Accessibility Advisory Committee, which prioritizes local accessibility needs, Mosley explained.
A ramp will connect the shore to the dock, with strategically placed bars that allow a paddler with a disability to enter their boat and push off into Sarnia Bay.
A paddling event organizer with the Lambton Outdoors Club said the new launch is welcome news, but she’s concerned none of their roughly 250 members were consulted.
“I think it’s great that they’re investing in it, but I just wonder if they talked to any paddlers,” Judy Mahoney said.
Because paddle sports easily comply with physical distancing requirements that restrict so many other activities, canoeing and kayaking have become even more popular during the COVID-19 lockdown, she said.
Club events typically attract 10 to 20 paddlers at a time, and Sarnia Bay is always a popular spot. Members usually enter near Sarnia Bay Marina and the Boarder Pass wakeboard area.
“It has been growing over the last few years, and for sure over the last little while because of the pandemic,” Mahoney said.
“There’s so many people that want to take advantage of such a beautiful area right now.”
Mosley said the new canoe and kayak launch should be ready for use this summer.