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Swimmers, paddlers, kayakers take to ‘Lake Erie Challenge’ to protect lake’s health

YouTube/Mike McHolm via Global News

A team of nature-enthusiasts went the distance to protect Lake Erie by swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) from the mouth of the Detroit River to Point Pelee Saturday morning.

The seven individuals organized and participated in the Lake Erie Challenge, which raises awareness and funds for a cause that’s near and dear to them — the health of the lake.

“Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes, but it seems to be the one that’s most susceptible to (issues),” said Don Barrie, one of the two kayakers.

“Being so small and shallow, it has suddenly become very warm. The swimming crowd might love the 24 C water, but a lot of veteran creatures that call it home year-round don’t.”

Read more: It came from Lake Erie: Why toxic algae’s a nightmare for Canada, too

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Click to play video 'London kayakers train for Lake Erie Challenge' London kayakers train for Lake Erie Challenge
London kayakers train for Lake Erie Challenge

“We’re looking at raising awareness for the temperatures, and some algae blooms that are concerning. Plastic pollution is a big (problem) too.”

Barrie and his partner Rose Sirois are the two kayakers that participated in the challenge.

Barrie says he and Sirois hopped into their kayaks around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and paddled for more than 15 kilometres to Leamington.

“It’s been a few weeks of getting ready for this,” said Barrie.

“Sharon Creek, Wildwood Conservation Area, Parkhill Conservation Area. … We’ve been getting around the waterways around London (to get) ready.”

Don Barrie (right) and Rose Sirois at Parkhill Conservation area. They were the two kayakers from London participating in the Lake Erie Challenge Saturday morning. (Photo: provided)
Don Barrie (right) and Rose Sirois at Parkhill Conservation area. They were the two kayakers from London participating in the Lake Erie Challenge Saturday morning. (Photo: provided).

Read more: Swimmers to tackle 24-hour challenge in Lake Erie

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Working in teams, the athletes covered 50 kilometres in three simultaneous legs Saturday. Team SUP paddled 20 kilometres from Amherstburg to Colchester.

At the same time, Team Swim hustled 14 kilometres from Colchester to Kingsville, while Team Kayak travelled 17 kilometres from Kingsville to Leamington.

The challenge had teamed up with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance to support the Lake Erie Guardians, which is a group of people, organizations and businesses working together to raise awareness about Lake Erie’s health.

Read more: Teen who swam across Lake Ontario for charity takes on Lake Erie

Toxic algal blooms continues to threaten Lake Erie each summer, but so far, “the algal bloom isn’t as bad as it usually is by August,” says Raj Gill, the Great Lakes program director with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance.

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“Often by now we’d have had some harmful algae hitting shore along the stretch of Lake Erie between the Detroit River and Point Pelee.”

Frank Torres from Komoka and Rachelle Cardinal from London paddled their SUPs. Dennis Higgs and Jennifer Agnew, both from Harrow as well as Mairi MacGregor from Oakville were the swimmers.

–With files from 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady 

Click to play video 'Large algae bloom detected in Shuswap Lake' Large algae bloom detected in Shuswap Lake
Large algae bloom detected in Shuswap Lake