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Time for a Minden History Lesson

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    Peter Karwacki

    Roger Parsons was the main man behind the Minden Wildwater
    Preserve. It was his vision, and his hardwork that made the
    whole project come into being.

    Whitewater Ontario, then known as the Ontario Wildwater Affilation, used the Gull for races long before that.

    It always was the top spot to compete for slalom. Roger saw the potential.

    At this time, how he went about this, is a mystery that needs to be uncovered. He is still alive and well, living outside Barrie (by Horseshoe Valley). Go ahead, give him a call and show your appreciation!

    Over the years individuals like the Kerkhoff family supported the MWWP financially through donations. Actual hands on work was more done by Mike Twitchin, Heinz Poenn and family, the Blight family, plus many more names we need to look up.

    Dieter Poenn and Claudia Kerkhoff – both Canadian champs at the time, officially opened up the revised upper section of the Gull, by running the dam.

    Roger Parsons – the heart and soul, inspiration and man of motion behind the MWWP – the foundation of whitewater paddling in Canada period is still going strong – – strong, active and still paddling (sea kayaks these days)….in his 80’s he still has his MWWP scrapbook, site plan etc. at his place in Midhurst.
    He likely will be a presenter at this years Gull River Festival, and we hope will – lead the evenings " Square Dance " – bringing back an old tradition, Roger is a caller (still active calling square dances in the Barrie area 3-4 times per week).

    Roger passed on many archivial pieces of Ontario Paddling history to Dave Gillespie about 10 years ago, but still has a valuable scrap book which we plan to copy, mount and make a history exhibit for inside the building – ready for this years Gull Festival.

    Roger had hoped that 25 years MWWP would be celebrated – that would have been 2004 but no-one around and active – knew about it.

    Here is more on the preserve’son its history:

    1969 – Canadian team members; Roger and Kathy (daughter) Parsons, Heinz Poenn, Keith Daniels, Hermann Kerckhoff …and others were in desperate need of a whitewater training site, to prepare for the 1969 World Championships in Merano, Italy. They drove around Southern Ontario for 2 days (that year was a drought), when Roger suggested driving up to the Gull River. They arrived, it had water ! But, it was shallow in places, so felt some river work would make this an ideal slalom training site. Noticing a sign ‘Land – for – Sale’ on river left below the dam had them excited. 10 Cottage Lots were being sold all the way down the rapids shoreline by an American land-owner. Roger looked him up through the help of a local real-estate lady (whom he still bumps into in Minden), and asked if they could buy the top 3 lots to secure river access. Well the American then said – want you to take one or all 10. This meant raising $50,000.

    Roger started writing letters to every paddler and organization to raise money. After 10 years of lobbying, getting pledge cards, collecting and in the end Roger raised $106,000 (mainly private $, and a small donation from the Cdn Nature Conservatory)

    The municipality was not behind anything to do with paddlers. The reeve at that time was less than helpful but this all changed in 1979, when a new reeve was elected who was very keen, and spearheaded a lot of the support.

    1979 – bought the land (10 Lots and a second piece behind for camping)

    1980 – Opening of Site – big event with Reeve, other dignitaries and the whole paddling community. I remember this very well, as Dieter Poenn (Cdn mens champion) and Claudia Van wyk (Cdn womens champ) just returned from the World Championships, where they both placed 5th – best ever international placement by a Canadian, were asked to open up the ‘river’ by running the DAM. Well – it would be a first decent….and we were pretty scared, but keen at the same time. Man-made structures are unpredictable. Dieter ran it first (ha !) got a bit stuck in the hole, but Claudia managed to have a clean jump into river right eddy !

    1983 – Building went up


    The Gull has hosted two World Cup events, numerous Canadian Championships and many other events including Freestyle.

    Please send me what you know, or have. We plan to put a page off the Whitewater Ontario Website called "History of our Sport " , where pieces like this can be stored. This will be done by our web volunteers.

    Good luck doing your research. Now we need the historians among you to send me your stories, pictures and hidden secrets of the gull for Whitewater Ontario’s new publication:"The Gull River Chronicles".

    Sent them to kayaky[at] You get the materials back, if you send them to me by snail mail and you’ll get credit inthe copy which will also appear on the WO website.

    Thanks in advance.



    Barrie Canoe and Kayak Club


    Next meeting is monday 8th Jan and pool sessions start 14th Jan.


    Peter Karwacki

    Keep in mind that this "history" of the gull will also be a river protection measure to show documented evidence of the long history of use in case the powers that be decide to make radical changes to the dam.

    Remember we traditionally had access and top to bottom navigation rights, rights which we will not forgo without considerable fight.

    So all these submissions… I am expecting, will be invaluable river preservation tools.



    Thanks for all your efforts behind the scenes and in bringing public awareness to these important issues. New and old paddlers alike need this information to decide how to advocate for change and protection of our waterways…


    Peter Karwacki

    Actually, for the most part I work in the front scenes. For example: see
    Bureaucrates that work largely unseen and unnoticed don’t really like all the sunshine that the internet brings.

    This annoys some of the bureaucrats to no end. For example, the PWGSC people mentioned that they didn’t want to say anything to me for fear it would end up on this board.

    But this is democracy at its full blown best and I intend to use the media.

    Here is my latest: This time authorized by the members of the executive of Whitewater Ontario.

    Ministry of Natural Resources
    Valerie Stankiewicz
    EBR Coordinator (acting)
    Conservation and Planning Section
    Lands and Water Branch
    5th Floor, 300 Water Street
    P.O. Box 7000
    Peterborough, ON K9J 8M5
    Phone 705-755-5864
    Fax 705-755-1259


    I am the president of Whitewater Ontario (see

    Whitewater Ontario is very interested in all aspects of river development which may impinge upon the traditional rights of whitewater recreational and commercial whitewater paddlers.

    I wish to establish a dialogue with key Ministry (MNR) contacts and take steps to ensure that Whitewater Ontario and/or its affiliated clubs will be considered as potential intervenors, committee members and stakeholders of record for the development of new water management plans in the province.

    Whitewater Ontario would like to be directly notified, via email dispatches, of pending river development projects that may impinge upon traditional whitewater paddling activities including bridges, dams, which may curtail traditional navigation as described under the Navigable Waters Protection Act and any shoreside development which may adversely affect traditional acess and portage rights.

    Your assistance would be appreciated in achieving these objectives.

    If I have been unclear or you require further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Peter Karwacki (Sr.)
    1620 Trenholm Lane
    Ottawa, Ontario, K4A 4B6
    hm 613-837-2810 wk 613-738-1338 Ext. 3229




    The reason Hydro guys turn a blind eye is because they have no control or jurisdiction or any other type of claim on the dam at the Gull.

    The parks guys have only ever asked that no one paddle there while adjustments are being made. They have always been very cool to paddlers when paddlers do the same. There have been occasional threats of action when someone has copped an attitude with these guys. To be expected, look at the level of liabilty incurred when dam operators mess up(Barrets Chute Madawaska River).

    I know of no one who has been charged for running this dam.

    I know of no circumstance in Canadian law where a paddler, boat operator etc. has ever been charged and convicted with anything related to tresspass on water. It is legally not possible.

    The only charges ever layed, to my knowledge have been related to access. This has always been related to over land access to the water but never the water itself.

    As for why Peter brings this up;

    I believe he is trying to make Whitewater Ontario more attractive and relevant to the average paddler. He intends to insure that we are considered and taken seriously as users of waterways and respected in the same way other users of outdoor resources are in Ontario.

    Doesn’t it bother you that the Laniel Dam was designed with consideration for snowmobiles to travel over it. Why is it ok for fishermen or hikers to stand on or cross over these things yet we as paddlers aren’t allowed to pass these dams in our way?

    Folks constantly make comparisons to American Whitewater when talking about WO. Peter is trying to bring some of that kind of river advocacy and protection to us thru WO.

    A recent thread here questioned why folks get wound up about something like lines in eddies on their home river yet seem to have little concern fo a distant river like the Kipawa. Perhaps by focusing attention on a "home river" folks will realize why getting involved matters.

    I really don’t think for a minute that having a discussion here about this is going to bring any negative attention to the dam on the Gull.


    Running the dam at Minden was part of the course at a World Cup Slalom race hosted there by the Ontario Wild Water Affiliation decades ago. This was a significant international race and I am sure that the international racers (or the local ones for that matter) weren’t directed to do something ‘illegal’ as part of this internationally sanctioned race.

    Peter Karwacki

    If you are experiencing problems on your local river:

    I think the only recourse you have is to do the following:

    1. research the decision and timing of it to determine if an environmental assessment was done.

    2. determine if the dam was a legal dam, approved under the navigable waters protection act.

    3. contact the ministry of the environment and determine if they approved the project

    4. contact the ministry of natural resources officials and do the same thing.

    Under the Ministry of Environment guidelines you have a set period of time to petition the change under the environmental bill of rights, you may have limited time to take this action. But it involves going to court for a judicial review of the decision.

    IN the meantime prepared a document itemizing the history of navigation of this spot and its recreational value. Use the Kipawa river history of navigation as a guide: see

    There is more to do as well but you have to do your research and above all, don’t give up.


    It is technically illegal to run the dam at the Gull, or be within 50m upstream or downstream of it. Apparently – according to discussions I have had in the past with the OPP – this applies to all the dams on the Trent/Severn system. The law has been used to charge at least one paddler: Joe Langman was charged at Fenelon Falls. I don’t know what happened in that case.

    The OPP has used the law to chase boaters away from 2 paddling sites: Lock 19 in Peterborough and the dam between 12 mile lake and Mountain Lake (just north of the Gull, right next to hwy 35).

    Hydro has nothing to do with the dam at the Gull. It is owned and maintained by the National Parks System as part of the Trent/Severn waterway.

    I was told, again by the OPP, that a "special permit" was issued for world-cup races.


    I’d be curious to hear if Joe contested the charge. I’d also be curious to know what the charge actually was.

    It is not unusual for authorities to lay charges that don’t fit the situation, folks often simply pay rather than go thru the frustration of potentially lengthy and expensive court battles. Sometimes just simply checking into precedent can reveal that the charge is inappropriate usually resulting in dismissal.

    I know from experience on my own property that it is near impossible to get tresspass charges layed. You need to actually have the authority witness the tresspass while simultaiuosly having the property owner demanding the charges before action is taken. Occasionally land owners will register a letter of permission with authorities giving them power to lay charges in the event of tresspass. More often than not this doesn’t result in charges but lets the authority remove unwanted tresspassers.

    I’m not advocating abuse of the dams along the Gull or the Trent. I don’t recomend testing the resolve or the legality of these situations either. However if you find yourself in trouble for tresspass on water, at the very least bring your problem to the attention of people who can determine the validity of charges layed.

    Peter Karwacki

    PWGSC who encompass parks canada…. initially said running the sluice at Laniel was illegal…. nothing of the sort it turned out that the actually dam itself was erected in contravention of the navigable waters protection act.

    They tried to retroactively solve that problem during the EA… and we caught them at it.

    No, the systems are perfect, its people who are imperfect who imperfectly implement those systems.

    We paddlers must work to ensure those people serve us, lets have strong measures to protect paddlers rights not the other way around.[/b]

    Peter Karwacki

    This deals with the issue of Navigable Waters


    its in .pdf format

    Peter Karwacki

    Rob Monti, representing Les amis has filed his factum. who is interested in seeing this wonderrful document.

    Back to Minden: Sir Sanford Flemming college students will be preparing a management plan for Minden as part of their second term Recreational Tourism course.

    We’re all interested in seeing they have a comprehensive set of materials. If you have any photographs you might scan, stories to tell, please help us help them, .. help us.


    Peter Karwacki

    see initial thread which has been edited

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