Kayakers, canoeists want more access to Detroit River

Kayakers and canoeists along the Detroit River want some of the manmade breakwalls along the shore torn down.

Boaters say breakwalls create a safety issue because they can't get off the water during emergencies

The Windsor Essex County Canoe Club is calling for more ins and outs along the Detroit River. (Courtesy Roger Chauvin/Windsor Essex County Canoe Club)

Kayakers and canoeists along the Detroit River want some of the manmade breakwalls along the shore torn down.

Stacy Adam of the Windsor Essex County Canoe Club said the breakwalls present a safety issue for boaters. There is nowhere for them to get off the water during an emergency of storm.

Kayakers and canoeists can enter the river at Kayak Cove in east Windsor. There's a manmade pebble beach across from Caesars Windsor's. Those are essentially the only two ins and outs until west Windsor.

Many local Kayakers and canoeists have their own tales of trying to navigate their way onto and off the river.

Gilles Laflamme, with 40 years experience is one of them.

"I've capsized before in big winds," he said.

When that happens, sometimes he has to paddle further then he may like to get to land. Steel and concrete breakwalls along the Detroit River prevent an easy out.

The breakwalls are there to prevent erosion but some say they also act as barriers to safety.

Laflamme and his canoe club members come up against that problem a few weeks ago.

"We were going to go to the casino and back. We'd seen there was a storm approaching so instead we decided to go west and it's a good thing we did because the storm hit us about 15 minutes later. If we had gone towards the casino we would have been caught in that storm and we had no access points," Laflamme said.

Those who enjoy being out on the water say access points are few and far between...

"You need take out spots, put in spots," said Steve Lutsch, head of the canoe club

When it comes to what the canoe club calls "verified launch sites," there are two in east Windsor, on either side of Sandpoint Beach. The next, heading west down river, is in LaSalle.

"In the downtown area, we have 5 kms of beautiful park land and not a lot of it is really welcoming to paddling," Lutsch said. "Past the bridge is Chewitt Beach and that's 12 or 14 kms down stream. It's great for people that can do it but it's a concern for first timers."

City staff say their concern is about balancing access with safety of the general public.

"The currents are pretty strong here," city engineer Mario Sonego said.

He said too many access points in the wrong areas could jeopardize public safety.

"There's only certain parts where you should approach and can approach the river," Sonego said. "We don't want the public approaching areas where there is immediate drop off or fast flow.

Sonego doesn't rule out more access points for kayakers and canoeists.

He said it is possible to have more access points to the river, but he doesn't see a future where all the break walls are torn down.  

Next week, the first of two ward meetings will be held to discuss the future of the waterfront.

Sonego said the concerns of boaters is the kind of input city staff wants to hear.


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