Canada may be moving from Elk Lake. (Luca Bruno/The Canadian Press/The Associated Press). Photo courtesy of the CBC.
The National Training Facility for Rowing Canada may be moving from Elk Lake. (Luca Bruno/The Canadian Press/The Associated Press). Photo courtesy of the CBC.

North Cowichan and Shawnigan Lake are vying to become the new home for Rowing Canada’s national training centre.

In 2017, Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) moved its women’s training hub to Elk Lake to join the men’s hub but some athletes did choose to remain in London, Ont. This came after a review following disappointing results at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio (one medal at each regatta). A recommendation from the review was that RCA creates a single training facility for all athletes and select a facility site from proposals across Canada.

Then on May 9, RCA issued a request for proposal for its primary training centre as the board of directors had decided the primary national training centre needed to be established by October 2020.

During the process, all Canadian communities with either established or potential rowing locations can submit proposals.

This September, the Municipality of North Cowichan council is planning to submit a proposal for the Rowing Canada training facility be at Quamichan Lake. The lake has been used by RCA for training and regattas.

“Our proposal centres around convenient access to Quamichan Lake and space for a boathouse facility at Art Mann Park,” Mayor Jon Lefebure and Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District said.

“The Cowichan Region is a great fit for RCA, with year-round access to the water, a community that is passionate about sports, great family amenities, and relatively affordable living. Equally, we think RCA is a great fit for us, with its focus on active and healthy lifestyles and role-models for the community’s youth.”

The district said while Quamichan Lake experiences blue-green algae blooms periodically in the summer, North Cowichan has been in communication with researchers from the BC Institute of Technology to sample water in the Lake and develop recommendations for Council for managing water quality. Recommendations are expected in Spring 2019.

A consortium on South Vancouver Island comprised of the Victoria Rowing Society, the Canadian Sport Institute and Shawnigan Lake School has also responded with an expression of interest for the training centre to be at Shawnigan Lake and the group plans to submit a proposal in the fall.

However, the Shawnigan Residents Association has expressed the concern that a national training centre on Shawnigan Lake would require the restricted use of the lake.

“There haven’t been any community consultations to date. We first became apprised when a representative from the site group presented to the SRA,” Netta Douglas from the Shawnigan Lake Residents Association said.

“The concern is there could potentially be a proposed restriction on the lake during certain times in certain areas. Keeping in mind Elk Lake was once home of the aqua ski club and rowing came and now there’s restricted use. This is not about rowing against water sports. On Shawnigan Lake we’ve always shared the lake. Shawnigan Lake School has always had their rowing programs on the lake and not at any time have they restricted use of the lake – we just have a respectful use of the lake. If Rowing Canada comes to Shawnigan Lake, they will require restricted use in certain times of the year, The concern from community is we would be against any restricted use of the lake.”

However, the group submitting the proposal said there would not be any waterway restrictions.

A proposal suggesting the training centre stay at Elk Lake will also be submitted, as will proposals for London and the Niagara region. RCA is expected to announce their decision in October or November.

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