Swimmers in the Moncton area are feeling a bit desperate this summer. Parlee Beach keeps failing safety tests for swimming. Centennial Beach is closed. There’s no East End pool. So when a website listed Jones Lake as safe for swimming, it’s no surprise some people jumped right in.
The Swim Guide is a project of the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. It promises “real-time water quality information for over 7,000 beaches, lakes, rivers, and swimming holes” in North America and New Zealand.
The Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance tests several local bodies of water each month and updates The Swim Guide. For a brief moment in July, the listing for Jones Lake showed bacteria levels were safe for swimming. That was all it took for a few brave souls to test it out.
Among those were local triathletes, always on the search for open water in which to train. The Greater Moncton Area has an extremely active triathlon community who usually head to Shediac’s Parlee Beach or Sackville’s Silver Lake to swim. If Jones Lake became a suitable swimming venue, the potential for local competitions would be incredible – and it wouldn’t be long before you saw athletes from around the Maritimes visiting the city.
Which of course brings us to the next piece of the puzzle: does the City consider Jones Lake safe for swimming? After the triathletes’ swim raised some questions on Facebook, Mayor Dawn Arnold shared that the city tests the water once a week, and that the lake did meet safety guidelines for swimming at that time. She also shared that those levels are often not safe, and that the City doesn’t support swimming in Jones Lake for a number of other reasons, including safe access, the silty bottom, and the turbidity of the water.
So, it might take some work to make Jones Lake safe for swimming, and some of that may just be too big of an environmental project to happen easily. But it doesn’t mean we can’t dream. Both the City and the Watershed report the lake as safe for secondary contact recreation (canoeing, kayaking, etc.) and the Mayor did say that “the City would be open to proposals” from entrepreneurs pursuing recreational activities on the Lake, including paddle board yoga, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking.
One thing is clear to me: Jones Lake is an underused asset for the City of Moncton. Yes, there are people who regularly paddle board and kayak. Yes, there’s even someone already renting equipment to do this. There’s also the annual dragonboat fundraiser. But when people started questioning this week whether it was safe to swim, the comments swirling around made it clear that many people didn’t realize these recreational activities are happening at Jones Lake on a regular basis. Without much financial investment, the City and its residents could turn Jones Lake into a much more active, attractive piece of the downtown infrastructure.
There are a few easy steps that could happen right away. The City could highlight Jones Lake as a recreation destination on its website (Centennial Park, Mapleton Park, Irishtown Nature Park, and Riverfront Park are all featured, but there’s not much online about Jones Lake). It could add the water quality test results to its list of park conditions. And since that list is updated daily, maybe we could even see Jones Lake tested more than once a week.
If we simply spread the word about what is possible at Jones Lake today, the momentum will build and we might just be rewarded with a rowing club, a sprint kayak race, a triathlon, and maybe, just maybe, a local swimming spot for future summers.
She Said appears Saturday in the Times & Transcript.