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Milton Canoe & Camera Club grows through COVID-19 adversity

While many clubs and activities hit a road block amid COVID-19 pandemic health regulations, one that has continued to flow along nicely is the Milton Canoe & Camera Club.

Established in 1949, its membership has seen an increase over the past two years as people search for permissible activities.

“We did offer our programs last year during COVID-19 and found that folks were very receptive, as they were looking for new activities,” David Lewis, the chair of the non-profit organization, confirmed in a phone interview.

The recently launched website describes the club as one that “brings paddlers together to provide a safe and fun paddling experience for children and adults of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Our camera club will not only push your skill further but will provide a platform that builds relationships with people that share a common passion for photography.”

The club offers three eight-week paddling programs, including a new addition this year. Two of the three have reached their program capacity except for the introductory Learn to Paddle program. This is a canoe literacy program that teaches the safety aspects and basics of canoeing.

All equipment, including canoes, is supplied. This program began July 1 and runs to August 19.

Another program is the family paddle program. This program began June 29 and continues to August 17. This program is full. Some experience is required.

A third, the entry-level marathon canoeing program, was added this year. This started June 29 and runs through to August 17.

“Marathon is another style of canoeing for mostly racing, but you can also utilize it for touring as well,” suggested Lewis, adding this is more of an advanced program, with participants required to have some experience.

Members can also participate in the canoe share program that is being offered. This allows members to use the club and gear on their own schedule.

A lot of attention is also given to the photography side of the club.

Frank Iusi is a retired professional photographer who joined the club four or five years ago. He started with the Learn to Paddle program and soon was directing the club’s photographic activities.

“I did the canoe school and found it was interesting that there were no camera programs. Basically what they did in the past was go out in the canoes and film themselves canoeing,” he said.

Iusi decided to get more involved and re-invigorate the program, which now runs year-round with about 20 people participating.

Every three weeks the members meet, and are given two photographic challenges. Photos are then displayed and the images are discussed and techniques shared.

“Through this, we get people learning how to take photos,” said Iusi.

Along with the regular meets, Iusi offers a print challenge to the members each year.

This year, the challenge is to take photos of fine art. Each challenge is a little different with varying size and the number of photos involved. These will then be displayed at the clubhouse.

This year the prints will be sold during a public viewing on October 1 at the clubhouse, with the proceeds going towards finishing the inside of the clubhouse to make it usable year-round.

The new clubhouse was built in 2018 at 137 West Road in Milton, replacing an old clubhouse used mainly as a community hall, which was located just down the river.

In 2015, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure was scheduled to do undertake work on the bridge over the river, and the existing building did not allow them to do what was needed. The government purchased the building and with that money the canoe club was able to forge ahead and build a new clubhouse at a more suitable location.

However, the inside is not yet completed and it is hoped that money raised from photo challenge sales will help finish things off.

“It’s a beautiful venue and it is on a part of the river that is under-utilized. It’s a sheltered spot for paddling and it is a great location for taking photos,” said Lewis. “We’re very blessed to have this property. We’re only a small community, but by jump-ins, we have a fine canoe club.”
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