/Improvements for Minden Whitewater continue
An excavator moves large rocks beside the kissing bridge on the Gull River at the Minden Whitewater Preserve on Wednesday, Aug. 26. This was part of restoration work performed last week to improve the safety for paddlers and to encourage more fish spawning areas, as part of the multi-phase Fix the Gull project headed up by Whitewater Ontario. Other restoration work will be performed over the next two weeks and includes trail improvements and the addition of park benches. No closures are expected./DARREN LUM Staff

Improvements for Minden Whitewater continue

By Darren Lum    Close to $8,000 worth of restoration work was performed last week at the Minden Whitewater Preserve to address safety concerns for paddlers and to improve spawning areas on the Gull River, said Dave Gillespie, Ontario Whitewater president.   Over four days, a hired contractor moved boulders away from dangerous positions for paddlers that also helped to improve fish habitat. The work was performed close to the bottom of the rapids by the kissing bridge and areas up to where the construction work on the dam continues.
This work was part of phase four of the ongoing four-phase restoration effort known as Fix the Gull led by Ontario Whitewater, which runs the Minden Whitewater Preserve.   Gillespie said despite the name, the river is not broken.
“The river has been here for thousands of years, but really what we’re trying to do with the Fix the Gull project is rally local users, whether photographers, or paddlers, or anglers, or summer camps. Kind of understand we all share, we all have a stake in how the river is being taken care of. So given the pedestrian walkways, we’re putting down new stone so it’s easier for people to walk around and enjoy their picnics,” he said.   The ongoing work is required because of flooding in the area over the past 10 years.
This and other restoration work is made possible by donations from users and lovers of the rapids like Gillespie, who met his future wife there.   During the next two weeks more stone will be added to the pathways and three more public benches will be installed to the township side of the Gull River in the lower section and the middle section where there is a drop in the water above Whitehorse Falls.
The work, he said, was done with the approval of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The Fix the Gull project has received the endorsement of Minden Hills council and Whitewater Ontario has worked closely with the township’s recreation department over the past few years, he said.   The Fix the Gull project started in spring 2018 with the first phase being the installation of stairs and access points on the Gull River, which is often used by summer camps and leadership centres, and recreational paddlers. The second phase included moving boulders in the lower section on the river to create new eddies and rebuild eddy walls later that year. The third phase was relocating large, hazardous boulders in 2019. Two supporting donors and the support of a contractor have made phase four possible. The preserve is expected to receive the addition of a retaining wall at the top close to the dam in October.   Future work is not expected to shut the river down. Areas of work will be taped off for restricted access, particularly when there is heavy machinery.
The type of work performed has not been decided in a vacuum.
“We’ve also gone out and sought input from various stakeholders and users. So it’s not just two or three people who are making these decisions. We’ve pulled together people who have grown up in the area. People who’ve moved to the area because of the river. I was one of them. And now we’re coming back to say, ‘OK, what else can we do to enhance and restore it to its glory and also make it more accessible for people, whether it’s for people in their 60s and 70s, or people in wheelchairs, or people with young children. How do we make it more accessible and more safe?’” he said   Gillespie encourages members of the public who want to show their support or contribute to join Friends of the Gull. He hopes this informal group will bring support, whether it’s financial or creative assistance in photographs and artwork.
Improvements and work to the area enables the opportunity to host more than just tourists.
Events such as the Pan Am Games were no fluke for the Minden Whitewater Preserve, as it is a draw for world class and local paddling event organizers. Next weekend, the whitewater will have the 40th annual Gull River Open Canoe Slalom Race from Friday, Sept. 11 to 13. It will have half the competitors, observing COVID-19 protocols.   While the backhoe was moving rocks on Wednesday, the activity around the Gull River rapids were being documented with a drone as part of Whitewater Ontario’s effort to enhance their marketing to draw more people to the area.
The footage will be added to underwater and GoPro acquired video, which will be included in a package made available to directors interested in using it for future TV/film productions.
The enhanced footage came about because of new volunteers with the technical skills and knowledge       necessary. It should help to draw more people.   “We’ve realized we been this crown jewel of rivers in eastern Canada and we’ve not done a great job at marketing it and now with the advancement of technology and social media we’ve decided we’re going to map out the river and put it on YouTube and make it available to people who want to use the Minden Hills and Haliburton area as a destination,” he said.   The public can also add their own photos to help with promotion by uploading to the Minden Whitewater Preserve album on Facebook. Look for the footage as of Oct. 1.
Although the work that was performed last week may not be apparent at first glance, it will make a difference to the users.   “To the normal hiker, they will not see any significant difference. If you are an angler, this will give you more spots to fish and if you’re a kayaker, or a photographer, or an artist, you may see one new boulder that’s in a new place. Other than that, it’ll still look like the natural river it has been for the last 12,000 years,” Gillespie said.   Email the office at info@whitewaterontario.ca for more information about joining the Friends.