Paddle the Don! Brings out 400 residents in annual celebration of Toronto's urban river

Sunday, 03 May 2009
TORONTO, May 3 - Today, 240 canoes and kayaks are navigating their way down the Don River in a once a year opportunity to see the urban river up close. This highly-anticipated event sold out in 48 hours, and brings individuals, corporations, organizations and government to gather on the Don River celebrating the great works made in protecting and regenerating one of Toronto's natural treasures. Today, almost half the Don Watershed is devoted to housing, and a fifth to industrial, institutional or commercial development. Pressures on the watershed continue to affect the health of the Don and the wildlife that depend on it, unless residents and businesses implement sustainable practices to help regenerate the watershed.

"The Don River has been abused in the past but is still a vital part of Toronto's natural heritage that needs protection," said Adele Freeman, Director, Watershed Management, TRCA. "The revitalization of the Don is a big challenge that demands a high-level commitment from community members, governments and business. The overwhelming attendance at this year's event shows that the community is taking responsibility for the Don and wants it to become a healthy urban river."

The commitment to revitalize the Don River is manifested in large-scale initiatives such as the Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Project which TRCA is leading on behalf of Waterfront Toronto; and through hundreds of small acts of conservation carried out by individual's everyday.

The Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Project, part of Waterfront Toronto's overall work to revitalize the City's waterfront, will enhance water and land habitat for natural species and create the potential to re-establish wetlands in the area that were lost 100 years ago. The project will also protect 230 hectares of the port lands area from flooding during a regional storm, which has been identified as one of the greatest flood risks in downtown Toronto.

"The revitalization of Toronto's waterfront is the largest urban renewal project in North America, and one the largest waterfront revitalization projects in the world" said Michelle Noble, Director of Communications and Marketing of Waterfront Toronto, an organization formed by the governments of Canada, Ontario and Toronto to lead the renewal of Toronto's waterfront.

Businesses, such as Australia's Banrock Station Wines, are also doing their part for the Don. Banrock Station is a major supporter of Paddle the Don and has sponsored the Corporate Canoe Challenge since 2004. Banrock Station was established 14 years ago on the philosophy of good earth, fine wine. This is a philosophy that carries through from the vineyard to winemaking, to packaging and through a contribution of more than $5 million Australian dollars towards 90 conservation projects around the world, including itsĀ  $1.25 million commitment to the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program ("Bring Back the Salmon) here in Canada.

"Our offices in downtown Toronto are less than 400 metres from the Don River, it's in our backyard and it's where our people work each day," said Ted Robinson, VP of Churchill Cellars, which represents Banrock Station in Ontario. "The river is under-appreciated right now, and we hope that through events such as Paddle the Don, people will have better insight into what it can become."

Individuals such as, Peter Heinz, are also stepping up to make a difference. Peter has been a member of the Don Watershed Regeneration Council for the past 10 years, played an important part in the preparation of the Walk the Don series of walking guides, and been a driving force behind the Don Watercourse Identification Signage with its recently unveiled 64 signs to mark the rivers and streams throughout Toronto.

"I'm an avid walker who loves the amazing web of trails lacing our city", said Peter Heinz, Vice Chair, Don Council. "Without leaving the GTA, people can enjoy nature at its finest. Our valleys and trails are well worth visiting because they offer opportunities both to enjoy a natural environment and to keep active. Our new signage will connect people with their watershed. Whether they are walking, paddling, cycling or just living in the Don watershed, they will experience what it has to offer and want to protect it for the future."

The event is organized by Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), The Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto, the Wilderness Canoe Association, the City of Toronto and the Don Watershed Regeneration Council, along with the support of many dedicated volunteers, generous sponsors and watershed supporters.

For Additional information about the Don River, please check these resources:
Don River Watershed Plan:
Don Mouth Revitalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Project:
Paddle the Don!:
Paddle the Don Event information:

About the Toronto and Region Conservation
With over 50 years of experience, Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) helps people understand, enjoy and look-after the natural environment. Our vision is for The Living City(R), where human settlement can flourish forever as part of nature's beauty and diversity. For more information, call 416-661-6600 or visit us at

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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