Petrie Island flooding forces Carivibe to relocate beach party

Some Carivibe activities have had to change venues because of the major flooding that hit the Ottawa-Gatineau region this year. 

'With climate change we know that these things are bound to happen'

Paula Whitelocke, left, and Suzan Richards Lavertu, right, say they're fine with Carivibe's decision to relocate its annual beach party due to flood damage at Petrie Island. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Revelers at this year's Carivibe festival say the decision to shift one of its signature events off Petrie Island won't keep them from celebrating.

Usually, following the Grand Street Parade, there's a party called "Reach the Beach" on the Ottawa River island. 

However, this year the post-parade festivities will take place at a Saturday night block party at 255 Centrum Blvd. in Orléans.

The road to the Petrie Island beach was washed out during this spring's widespread flooding in Ottawa-Gatineau, and water remains high along the shoreline, said Carivibe organizer Dina Epale.

"If you can't go the Caribbean, the Caribbean is right here behind our backyard. Petrie Island … is a beautiful island, a beautiful beach here in our nation's capital," Epale said.

"Mother Nature has a way of putting an interesting twist to things," he added. "However, we had a backup plan."

Carivibe organizer Dina Epale says organizers have to be prepared to make quick decisions due to inclement weather, especially with climate change the new reality. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

'We have to save the environment'

It's the 20th year in Ottawa for Carivibe, which celebrates Caribbean culture. 

While some people were disappointed, Epale said they were also happy organizers decided to hold another event instead of cancelling.

While it won't be on the beach, Saturday night's block party will still feature a lineup of local and international DJs from the Caribbean, along with traditional food and vendors. 

"We have to save the environment, so it doesn't really make sense to go to a place where we would potentially do other damage," said Suzan Richards Lavertu.  

Richards Lavertu said her mas band is sustainable, with all of her costumes reusable and not thrown out. So it was important, she said, to make sure the venue wasn't damaged any further. 

"I'm glad that they were able to find another venue," said Paula Whitelocke, who was taking part in Saturday's parade and normally attends the beach party.

Both Whitelocke and Richards Lavertu said they were from Dominica — known as the nature island — so they were happy with the organizer's decision. 

Nivardi Pierre says he's still looking forward to the celebrations after the parade, even if the beach venue isn't available. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

May hold festival later

Nivardi Pierre helps organize one of the parade's floats and says he always attends the Petrie Island event.

He says he loves the vibe and energy of all the Caribbean cultures coming together, and called the venue change a mere "inconvenience."

"I'm pretty sure we're going to pull through anyway," Pierre said.

Epale said organizers always keep the flooding risk at the back of their minds, especially since they almost had to change venues during the 2017 floods before getting the go-ahead just two weeks before that event.

That's the reality we live in now. So under those conditions we have to have contingency plans.- Dina Epale

"With climate change, we know that these things are bound to happen — maybe more often that we realize or we would like. That's the reality we live in now," Epale said.

"So under those conditions we have to have contingency plans."

Organizers have also been considering scheduling the event, typically held Father's Day weekend, a bit later to avoid future cancellations.

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.


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