The Burnaby Lake Rowing Club is proposing a 10-year plan that could make the lake a world-class regatta site.
The club is working to strike a balance between preserving the environmental integrity of the lake and enhancing it as a rowing, kayaking and canoeing site, according to Ian Gordon, an executive with the club.
Gordon has helped develop the long-term plan and said it could make Burnaby Lake Canada's dedicated kayaking and rowing site.
The strategic plan is a first step in the process and can be adapted as the club works with the city and other groups that use the lake, he added.
The challenge is to maintain it as a recreational waterway while ensuring the community can enjoy the lake, as well, he said.
"We're saying, what do we want Burnaby Lake to look like, and how do we want to nurture this asset that we have while making sure that we look after the environment?" Gordon said.
The Burnaby Lake rowing team, Simon Fraser Rowing Club, Burnaby Kayaking and Canoe Club, and the National Training Centre for Rowing all use the lake, he pointed out.
Despite some of the challenges of rowing on Burnaby Lake, such as lily pads and milfoil, it is probably the best rowing facility in the country, according to Gordon.
Gordon was on Canada's National Rowing Team for about 10 years, he said. He competed in the 1972 Olympics in Munich and the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
He has been rowing on the lake for more than four decades and said that before the lake was dredged the first time, for the Summer Games in 1973, it was very difficult to row there.
"There was kind of a narrow lane down the lake that you could row in, because it was chock-a-block full of lily pads," he said.
The infrastructure that was put in for the Summer Games, such as buoy lines, a starting gate, a starting tower and timing systems, have disappeared over the years, according to Gordon.
The club is working to replace the infrastructure with funds raised from its regattas, he said, and added that Canada's National Rowing Team donated four buoy lines to the club, which covers about half a course.
"We're using those now to stage regattas," he said.
There is room for eight lanes on the lake, he added, so the club is looking to get more buoy lines. They also need a starting gate - which is an adjustable mechanism for holding the boats in place - but a gate costs about $18,000, he said.
At this point, the club is working on a plan to tear down the old grandstands, which are condemned, and is also looking at renovating or rebuilding the pavilion, according to Gordon. The club would also like to reclaim the staging area on the northwest side of the lake, which has two docks from the Summer Games.
"Then we could be staging larger regattas from the big fields over there," he said.
Other future plans include starting a learn-to-row program for local high schools, starting with Burnaby Central Secondary, and get them competing, he said.
The club is also developing volunteer organizations to run regattas, Gordon said, adding the club is holding six regattas at the lake this year.
The club is working with the city on a plan and also hopes to engage the federal government, to help with the pavilion infrastructure, Gordon said.
They are working with Rowing Canada and Kayak/Canoe Canada to that end, he added.
"We want to have them lobby the federal government on our behalf to say this is a national heritage site," he said. "We need to develop this for Canada, not for Burnaby.
"Canada is probably one of the only countries in the world that doesn't have a dedicated kayaking and rowing site," he added. "And this is our opportunity to do that."
The club made a presentation to Burnaby council on Sept. 17, and is working in step with the City of Burnaby's parks, recreation and cultural department to develop a plan the city can support, Gordon said.
Mayor Derek Corrigan addressed the delegation at the meeting, saying the city's primary concern is protecting the environment of Burnaby Lake.
"Always number 1 for us is the environmental health of that lake," he said, adding it is a nesting area to hundreds of waterfowl.
"But I do believe rowing, the very nature of the sport, is compatible with that," Corrigan added.