Thinking ahead to Minden's role in the Pan Am games 0
To most of us, 2015 seems as far away as Guadalajara, but to Minden Hills's community services director, that year is fast approaching.
In July of 2015, Minden will likely play a small, but important, role in Toronto's Pan Am Games, hosting the whitewater races at the Minden Wild Water Preserve.
Watching the current games going on in Guadalajara brings up a lot of questions for the community organizer, who's not sure exactly how to connect the international event to the small town Ontario experience.
"I'm still coming to terms with how to translate such a multicultural, international scale event . how to connect that locally to, on the surface of it, [an area that] is not all that multicultural," Rick Cox said.
Cox has been mulling over the possibilities for engaging local residents with the huge sports event that includes countries from South, Central and North America.
In a city like Toronto, which has a high percentage of recent immigrants, connections abound to Pan Am athletes.
In Haliburton County, there tends to be fewer of those links, but that doesn't necessarily mean none can be found, Cox said. He suggests creating programming for local school children around the countries participating in the games, and area businesses with special Pan Am-themed specials to create buzz.
The plans are all in the initial stages now, not because the games are four years away, but because the preserve hasn't been given the official nod as the kayak/canoe venue.
But there's little question Minden will be passed over for the honour, Whitewater Ontario's Claudia Van Wijk said.
"We had a meeting . with the Toronto 2015 organizing committee and we still have to sign a contract, but they in this coming week are going to provide us with a letter of intent so we can put all of our actions into motion," she said in an interview.
Whitewater Ontario, a not-for-profit organization, owns the Minden Wild Water Preserve, which has been the venue of major kayaking competitions in the past including provincial and World Cup events.
Van Wijk is chairperson of WO's Pan Am committee and sees few upgrades necessary to host the event, which she estimates will bring 500 spectators and participants from more than 15 countries.
There is up to $2 million in funding allowed to improve the venue, of which Toronto 2015 will provide 56 per cent and the rest must come from other sources, including the local municipality. Van Wijk doesn't anticipate nearly that much money will be needed.
"There's quite a wish list, but it's not a big one. In it's natural state, [the preserve] is internationally recognized as a top facility for whitewater slalom. The river itself needs no work, but the shoreline does. We'd like to see access for spectators from the dam to the rapids, along the river shore, not on the road. That has always been a danger for people walking down the road," she said.In addition, the Horseshoe Lake Road parking lot needs upgrades and an eco-friendly, permanent washhouse for athletes should be built, she said.
"The township and the county are both very much on board for providing a trail on river right [alongside Horseshoe Lake Road]," she said.
Minden is slated to host the men's and women's kayak races (single), canoe races (single) and the canoe doubles.
Van Wijk is hoping that the local community will get involved with the Pan Am planning, and asks anyone who wants to volunteer or who has a good fundraising idea to contact her: Whitewaterontario.ca, email@example.com.
On the municipal level, Cox is planning to do the same, once official word comes that Minden has been declared the venue.
"Minden will be part of an international level, big deal event," he said.
"Pan Am is bigger than the Winter Olympics, with more countries and more sports."
It's just up to the community to capitalize on it.