At Nova Craft Canoe we love our local waterways. We are fortunate to have some great places to paddle right here in our own backyard, including the historic Thames River. “Back to the River” is a new initiative being launched by the London Community Foundation in partnership with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. The Back to the River project aims to revitalize a five kilometre stretch of London’s riverfront in the downtown area, namely at the forks of the Thames.
he Forks, located at the very centre of the city, is an area of considerable historical and cultural significance. Literally the birthplace of the city, the forks of the Thames inspired London’s consideration as the capital of Upper Canada in 1793. During London’s colonial settlement in the early nineteenth century the river served as an axis for the city’s urban planning with the forks established as the hub of the city, host to the marketplace, courthouse and small manufacturers. Owing to its rich history the Thames River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in 2000.
In London’s more recent past, however, the downtown stretch of the Thames has fallen into disrepair, mostly thanks to neglect by local and federal government as well as the citizens of London. Since its designation as a Heritage river several clean-up initiatives have been introduced and public concern for the health of the river has risen.
The Back to the River project hopes to capitalize on the momentum of this concern and ultimately re-establish the once strong connection between Londoners and the Thames. It envisions the forks as a site for development opportunity and a catalyst for the downtown economy. Plans for the project include making the river more accessible for paddlers at the forks, as well as building waterfront cafes and restaurants.
Mayor Matt Brown, pictured above, has publically supported this mandate, most recently at the launch event of Back to the River’s design competition on May 5th 2015. The competition invites landscape design submissions from across North America. We can only hope that the city’s renewed interest in the Thames as a downtown attraction will also mean an increased respect for its water quality and ecosystem, preserving the river for many future generations of Londoners to enjoy.
Nova Craft Canoe