As Dartmouth’s own Lake Banook plays host to the Pan American Canoe Championships this weekend, it’s entrenched role in the cultural fabric of Dartmouth is on display.
“We’re the ‘City of Lakes,'” said LA Dempster, co-chair of the organizing host committee.
“So I think that we embrace that fully. This lake we swim on this lake, we paddle on this lake, we motorboat on this lake, it’s really just part of who we are.”
Dempster grew up paddling on Lake Banook. She said she started when she was seven and that it was the site of her first and last race.
To hear paddlers talk about the lake, it’s clear that there’s something special about it. Marlee MacIntosh, who was recently crowned world champion for junior women’s canoe marathon, says that Nova Scotian paddlers are lucky.
“This lake just means so much to everyone in Dartmouth and everyone in the paddling community, just getting to have such a nice course in our province and having the city around it so nice as well is really awesome,” she said.
“Really it’s just how beautiful it is, having the three clubs at the finish line, like not many places have so many people training and paddling on one lake so getting to have such a nice race course in my home province is really awesome.”
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Paddlers from around the world are familiar with Banook. It has twice been the host of the World Championships and will do so again in 2020. When asked what it is about the lake that people gravitate to, Dempster says that it’s fairly unique.
“We have a natural race course as well, which is not really common anymore in a lot of world championship venues and venues like the Pan AM Championships. A lot of them are man-made so the fact that we have a bit of history–Tex Marshall spoke at the opening ceremonies and you know he said ‘this is sacred water’ and I think we feel it,” she said.
The lake itself has become synonymous with Dartmouth in many ways. Prince Andrew Road, that snakes along the eastern edge of the lake, has flags depicting rowers hanging from the telephone poles. The popular craft brewery Nine Locks uses a paddler as its logo.
As Dartmouth MP Darren Fisher says, it’s more likely to be asked where you row than if you row.
“This lake, the paddling community, it’s the identity of Dartmouth. It is. It’s absolute culture here. You never drive by this lake, when there’s not ice on it, that somebody’s not paddling, rowing, kayaking. This lake is so well used,” he said.
Fisher added that the lake allows Dartmouth to attract visitors from around the world, something he says helps the the area’s burgeoning downtown.
“You know we hosted nationals a couple years ago and there were probably a thousand athletes and six thousand people here watching everyday, watching the races. So you think about what that means in Dartmouth too, this burgeoning restaurant and pub scene, which is new for us here, because the downtown is really coming along.”
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