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Wind and waves put the “challenge” in the fourth annual Lake Erie Challenge


submitted to EFP

Saturday’s wind and waves put the “challenge” in the fourth annual Lake Erie Challenge event. Hosted by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, three teams covered over 100 km of open water to raise awareness and funds to protect this precious freshwater ecosystem.

The lake’s conditions didn’t make it easy. Tim Blanchard of Team Wingfoil travelled by wingfoil to Pelee Island in an hour and a half; however, the return trip took him over three hours. “The wind direction meant I had to zig zag back and forth on the return. What was supposed to be a 25 km return, ended up being 45 km as a result” explained Blanchard.


The choppy waters also tested Team SUP, whose members had to work harder to keep on course and stay upright on their stand-up paddle boards over 25 km from Cedar Beach in Kingsville to the Pelee Wings Store in Leamington. “This is why it’s called the Lake Erie Challenge,” said Brad Petrus, “and not the Lake Erie walk in the park.”

Members of Caldwell First Nation joined Team SUP for the final 5 km from Leamington Marina to the Pelee Wings Store. Most Team Caldwell members were paddling in a large freighter canoe, and despite getting drenched from the waves, handled the conditions well.

In the end, weather, wind, and waves were no deterrent and each team was able to reach the finish line -- albeit wet, sorer, and more tired than when they started. Altogether, the athletes have already raised over $8,600 for Lake Erie through their efforts, and increased their fundraising goal to $10,000.

“The athletes put in a tremendous amount of effort to accomplish what they did today, and we’d love to see their efforts celebrated,” said Raj Gill, Great Lakes Program Director at the Freshwater Alliance. You can donate to the Lake Erie Challenge at LakeErieChallenge.ca.

All proceeds will go towards combating some of the most serious issues that plague Lake Erie, including toxic algal blooms. “While algae levels were low this year, we know that was by luck and not design” said Gill. “A very dry spring reduced the nutrient runoff”.

In 2018, the Ontario and Canadian governments released a plan with 120 actions to reduce phosphorus loads in Lake Erie, which in turn would reduce the algae blooms that threaten both human and animal life. “The work plan explaining how they will implement those 120 actions was supposed to be shared by February 2019” said Melissa Bramham, Director of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. “It is now more than two years overdue. We don’t even know if we’ve met our interim goal of a 20% reduction by 2020. Without tracking and reporting, it’s unclear if the government’s commitments to improve Lake Erie are being adequately implemented.”

The Canadian Freshwater Alliance is calling for an updated timeline and reporting, and asking community members to send a fax to Premier Doug Ford, asking for an updated timeline. The “fax” request is a one-click action that can be taken at reviveerie.ca and plays with the fact that in many ways, the health of Lake Erie was by many measures far more stable in the ‘90s.

You can donate to the Lake Erie Challenge at LakeErieChallenge.ca.

The CANADIAN FRESHWATER ALLIANCE (freshwateralliance.ca) builds, connects, and supports freshwater initiatives across Canada. We work with NGOs, community groups, governments, and businesses to strengthen citizen voices and participation in protecting our lakes and rivers. We are a project on MakeWay’s shared platform (makeway.org)