/A place on the map

A place on the map

By Emily Stonehouse

This past weekend, Whitewater Ontario presented the 2023 Canadian National Whitewater Championships at the Whitewater Preserve on Horseshoe Lake Road. 

Now this isn’t just any race in the park. We’re talking literal world-class athletes coming from across the country to participate. 

And as I inched along the road trying to get a peek at the racers, I narrowly avoided dozens of people as they flooded the sides of the road. 

The one parking lot to the side of the rapids was completely jammed; cars wedged like Tetris pieces into the small lot, and kids tiptoeing trepidatiously across slippery rocks to get a better view. The next day, the event posted that another parking lot had opened up; a private driveway from a local landowner to accommodate the overflow of cars. 

Now I remember this delicate dance from when I worked in tourism. We live in one of the most desirable places in the world. Sprawling sights, rushing rivers, towering trees; we have the epitome of Canadiana in this space we so often take for granted. 

With tourism as our primary economic driver, how much is too much? We have to waltz around the concept of marketing our community, but what we’re marketing is that there’s no one else here. These sprawling sights are ours alone. The rushing rivers are wild and untouched. The towering trees tell the stories of those who came before us, and they’ll watch over those who come next. 

And we need people to buy it. Quietly. Subtly. Without a trace. That’s the dance. 

But as I watched athletes from around the world do the shimmy on the side of the road to avoid being squashed by a Subaru, I thought to myself that maybe this is something we should put some effort into. 

This Whitewater Preserve is unlike anything else in the world. My own brother, a paddler who’s explored many more corners of the world than I, swears by the fact that this is one of the best rivers he has ever experienced. This was the site of the Pan-Am Games in 2015. Olympic athletes train in these waters. People travel from around the globe to be a part of this. 

And we can’t even offer them something that resembles a parking lot?

Now don’t get me wrong – I am the last person to say we should pave paradise and put up a parking lot. 

But maybe the township could put a little interest and investment into these events? Perhaps they could set up a shuttle service that brings people back and forth to the downtown core. Or invest in the already existing infrastructure and parking areas at the Preserve to ensure they are properly maintained? Honestly, even a sign in the downtown core that says something like ‘welcome paddlers’ would show that we actually care in some way. 

Kudos to the organizing team behind the event; I can appreciate any event that features the assets we have in our community. But I think it’s time that our local government took a good look at what we have available, and how we can showcase that in a way that benefits our community, and puts us on the map. 

Doesn’t Minden deserve a place on the map?