Pickering Rouge Canoe Club started as West Rouge Canoe Club
The West Rouge Canoe Club (WRCC) was founded by the West Rouge Kiwanis in 1958 to help develop the young people of West Rouge and surrounding area. They constructed a 16′ x 40′ wooden building close to the mouth of the Rouge River near Lake Ontario on what was known as Ferguson’s Beach. A Kiwanian, owner Russ Ferguson, agreed to have the building on his property for the annual fee of $1.00 which he never accepted. A war canoe was acquired along with a couple of small boats from the Island Canoe Club. Soon WRCC was able to raise enough money to add a K-4 to its fleet.
In 1959, the West Rouge Canoe Club first competed in the Canadian Canoe Association National Championships. While this was a good start, the first few years were very difficult. With only 15 members in the Club, the Kiwanians were putting most of their money into WRCC, while the coaches spent most of their free time repairing boats and fund raising.
By 1962 it appeared that the Club would have to fold. The heavy work load taken on by the organized volunteers was exhausting their initial commitment. The parents of paddlers learned of this, met and realized that the Club played an important role in the community. They decided to get involved: a full executive was formed, a charter was acquired, fund raising schemes were developed and carried out, and a membership drive was launched.
In the mid 60’s, Russ Ferguson’s property was expropriated by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (MTRCA), and the Club was asked to move the building to a different site on the beach. In a single day, the clubhouse was hauled by volunteers on railroad ties down the beach to its new location.
Membership along with the size of the fleet continued to grow. The boathouse was bulging at the seams. The WRCC executive met with MTRCA to discuss construction of a new building. Although a new building was not allowed, WRCC was given permission to move an expropriated cottage to adjoin the existing clubhouse. The Club executive and some of the athletes dismantled the cottage, tied two war canoes together and towed the lumber two miles down the river to the new site.
Flat water sprint racing is based on straight 500 and 1000 meter courses. To effectively train competitive paddlers for local, provincial and national events WRCC expanded in 1993 to a second site on Frenchman’s Bay in Pickering. The Pickering Kinsmen donated a trailer, and with assistance of MTRCA and the Town of Pickering, WRCC established a high performance training facility on the west spit of the bay. Competitive paddling in small boats (1, 2, and 4 person canoes and kayaks) and war canoes (14 paddlers) flourished with the number of competitive paddlers rising from 40 to 176 by 1995. With the clubhouse at the Rouge River site; it has remained a major focus for the club and has continued to be the choice location for exposing new and young paddlers to the sport.
Integrating the competitive and recreational aspects of the sport has always been a challenge. The racing community has recognized this and moves are being made to allow athletes to compete in tiers. This will let those newer to the sport and those interested in light competition to participate more fully.
Summer Camp for Youth
In 1995, the Club established a Summer Camp program for the youth of Scarborough and Pickering. The Rouge River site now had the necessary space with the older athletes spending most of their time at Frenchman’s Bay. Averaging 350 participants per year, the camps run weekly in July and August for children ages 6-15. Canoe and Kayak Camp provides an introduction to the sport of canoeing and kayaking, teaches water and boat safety skills, as well as traditional camp activities like arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, capture the flag, sand castle contests and penguin polo. Building upon the success of our Canoe and Kayak Camp, the Club established a Canoe, Kayak and Dragon Boat Camp in 2006 at our Frenchman’s Bay site to meet the needs of youth in the local Pickering community.
Fire at the WRCC
Disaster struck on March 23, 1995. The wooden clubhouse was destroyed by fire with its large collection of historic trophies, plaques and regatta burgees, and all boats at the Rouge River site. Fifty-two boats ranging from several $10,000 racing boats to recreational canoes were completely burnt along with the safety boat and motor, all equipment on site and clubhouse furnishings. Replacing the boats that were lost cost $185,000. Notwithstanding these losses, the Club dramatically increased membership and achieved a placing of 5th overall out of 48 clubs at the National Championships in 1995, as well as a 3rd place finish in 1996. Through a partnership with the City of Toronto, the clubhouse was rebuilt and opened in the summer of 2014. This was a great relief to the Club as the Canoe and Kayak Camp had been running out of a large trailer which housed boats and equipment for many seasons.
1996 Atlanta Olympics
The West Rouge Canoe Club qualified 4 paddlers as members of the Olympic canoeing team, the highest number sent by any single club. Our Olympians are Klari Macaskill K-2, Alison Hearst K-2, Liam Jewell K-4 and Eric Gervais K-1.
For several years, Club paddlers and coaches have been on boat crews representing Canada in many international competitions. Club members have participated in the 2004 World Dragon Boat Championships in Shanghai, the 2005 World Dragon Boat Championships in Berlin, the 2006 World Club Crew Championships in Toronto and the 2007 World Dragon Boat Championships in Australia. These crews have included local community paddlers and crews from local high schools. Our crews are both recreational and competitive on the water in the spring and summer, while staying active with dry-land training in the winter.
In June 1997, WRCC hosted the first Annual Pickering Dragon Boat Challenge on Frenchman’s Bay. The club continues to be instrumental in this very popular and successful event.
Historic Club Changes Name from West Rouge Canoe Club to Pickering Rouge Canoe Club
Established in 1958 on a beach in cottage country, the West Rouge Canoe Club was now spanning two growing cities in the most heavily populated area of Canada. On November 3, 2010, the West Rouge Canoe Club voted at its Annual General Meeting to change its name to the Pickering Rouge Canoe Club (PRCC). This change was made to better reflect the club’s history and communities in which it serves.
With our Club sites at Frenchman’s Bay and Rouge River, the Pickering Rouge Canoe Club is well positioned to provide programs of interest for everyone of all abilities from novice to high performance and all points in between. We offer Canoe, Kayak, Dragon Boat, Outrigger, PaddleALL, War Canoe, Camp and Counsellor In Training programs. As well as services and events such as team building, coaching services, Dragon Boat rentals, Junior Dragon Boat Challenge, PaddleSport Challenge and our Rouge Regatta.
With a long history of progress and change, the same desire to share our passion for the water and paddling while developing the hearts, minds and bodies of our community remains unchanged.