It’s extremely hot out, but is it hot enough for you to take a leap into the Saint Lawrence River?
That’s exactly what a group of Montrealers, including the mayor, did Tuesday morning at the 15th annual Grand Splash.
“15 years ago, everybody thought you’d put your hand in the Saint Lawrence River and only the bones would come out,” said organizer Pierre Lussier, as people swam next to the Jacques Cartier Pier in Old Montreal.
Lussier says the idea is to show the waters are entirely swimmable and that there should be more ways to access them.
“Montrealers need better access to the river,” said Renaud Chartier, who was participating in the event for the first time.
For some, the event took on an entirely different meaning.
“It’s a very special jump for me because I learned I had cancer a month ago. It’s kind of emotional for me to be here and jump in the water,” said participant Julie Patenaude.
Mayor Valérie Plante has been taking part since before she was mayor. Today, she jumped in for the fourth time.
“We’re an island, we live on an island, but often we don’t have that feeling because having access to the water is difficult,” she said.
Making the river more accessible has been a slow battle. A new beach in Pointe-aux-Trembles has faced numerous delays.
“There’s a lot of hard work to be done so that sewage does not overflow when there’s rainwater,” said Lussier, who was representing a pro-swimming group called Montreal Baignade.
A new $4-million beach in Verdun was announced in 2016, but construction won’t be complete until next summer.
“Those are big projects, they do take time,” said the mayor. “At the same time, they are happening. This is where I feel like we’re in the right place in history.”
The idea of a harbour bath somewhere in the Old Port had been promised by former mayor Denis Coderre. He said it would be built in time for the city’s 375th anniversary in 2017. That didn’t happen, but Plante says the idea is very much alive.
“We’re really excited to share some announcement about that, we’re not ready yet but it’s still in the plan,” she said.
Montrealers will be waiting impatiently for new ways to beat the heat.
Last year, more than 150 people took part in the event.