Donning orange life-jackets, 375 Montrealers jumped into the St. Lawrence River Friday morning for the 13th annual Big Splash in the Old Port of Montreal.
The event highlights the need to preserve the river’s water quality, as well as increasing access to its shores.
“It’s an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of using our St. Lawrence River to be able to access water,” Projet Montréal Leader Valérie Plante, told Global News.
“Often citizens feel like they don’t have access to their water, their waterfronts and they’re right,” she said.
According to Plante, the event is also about giving people a voice.
“It’s also a way to ask political people, ask the city to give us back the shores, we want to have access to water,” she said.
Earlier this year, the provincial and federal governments announced an $ 84 million investment to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure system.
While some people might have qualms about jumping in the river, those on hand had fun.
“We need to swim in the St. Lawrence River and also the quality is good for swimming,” said Pierre Lussier, director of Quebec Earth Day.
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Chantal Rouleau, member of the executive committee in charge of water and water infrastructures for the city couldn’t agree more.
Along with Mayor Dennis Coderre, Rouleau announced the city’s water plan in 2015 which included plans to build the Plage d l’Est, Plage Verdun and a safe swimming space in the Old Port to give citizens more access to water.
“It’s already in construction and the bath in the Old Port is in conception,” Rouleau said.
Initially, the city wanted the projects done for Montreal 375 celebrations, but decided against rushing construction.
“We have to be responsible, it has to be safe,” said city councillor Richard Bergeron.
With projects underway, the city’s next task is to “convince the population that we can swim in the river again,” Bergeron said.