by Lorraine Payette, written February 23, 2013
(TLTI, ONTARIO) Anyone who does any boating in the Thousand Islands has seen the shoal markers. Wherever there is a rock, or other danger, it is clearly pointed out by one of these friendly little sentinels as it bobs in the waves, reminding people to steer clear. Most people simply assume they are another sign of our tax payer dollars at work, and would never question their existence.
But that is a big mistake.
“People always think that,” said John Taylor of the Thousand Islands Association (TIA). “In reality, we do that.”
TIA was started in 1934 by a group of islanders from both Canada and the US whose primary goal was to make their lives safer. Since no one else was marking the shoals, they formed an organization and used their membership dues to pay for the markers, which they then placed on the treacherous spots in the channel. As time passed, membership grew, and they now mark all of the shoals between Brockville and the Trident yacht club, a distance of about 64 kilometres (40 miles). Depending on the year, they have placed more than 1,500 markers in the channels.
“TIA is a non-profit organization which supplies and places all of the familiar shoal markers that stretch from Brockville to Trident Yacht Club on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River and supplies the markers on the US side from Cape Vincent to Brockville,” says Taylor. “Save the River places the markers on the US side of the river.”
As time passes, TIA finds itself having to bear the brunt of inflation, varying water levels and other factors which make the task more and more difficult to maintain. However, they don’t want handouts from anyone. Instead, they would like to see more members come in to help keep the Thousand Islands area not only safe on the water, but beautiful in every way.
“TIA has a Parkway Cleanup Day twice a year,” says Taylor. “Crews walk the north and south sides of the parkway from the KOA entrance to the ramp leading to the toll booths on the Canadian side of the TI Bridge picking up trash. The cleanup is another small part of our mandate, which includes stewardship of the environment.”
The annual shore breakfast and AGM are where people are most likely to become aware of some of TIA’s many activities. Over the years, they have gone out of their way to carry out projects that help their local communities. They work with both Canadian and US Customs, and keep track of all the changes that come down. They keep their members constantly up to date and well informed through the use of newsletters and e-mail.
They also work closely with both the Gananoque and Alexandria Bay Fire Departments. They are responsible for having placed many fire pumps and miles of hose throughout the islands, absolute necessities for those living on them.
“Do you have any idea what happens if you live on an island and your house catches fire?” said Taylor. “You can’t just hook up to a municipal system and put it out. You have to have a plan and equipment in place to take care of it.”
Defibrillators have been placed by them in strategic locations throughout the area, making it easier to save lives in emergencies.
TIA has a strong interest in the environment, and in environmental education for the entire area they serve. They work closely with “Save the River” to keep on top of local needs, and have set up two educational bursaries in the past year. One of these bursaries is for the Alexandria Bay-Clayton area, the other for Gananoque. They are awarded to a secondary school graduate from each area who will be going on to study environmental education, and help to cover their costs. “Our fondest wish,” says Taylor, “is that these kids will graduate from these programs and come back to settle in the area, sharing what they’ve learned with us.”
Members come from all walks of life, and represent a good cross section of local business people.
“To ensure sustainability of this very critical safety service it is necessary to increase our revenues,” says Taylor. “We need more members as costs continue to rise.
“The thought of no shoal markers in the islands is a very scary scenario and a risk to all boaters in the area, whether small pleasure craft or larger vessels. TIA gets no funding of any kind except through membership and donations and, contrary to many beliefs, neither the Coast Guard nor any other Governmental service help or contribute to the costs.”
Membership rates for the organization are:
Individual …………$50.00 one breakfast included
Couple………………$75.00 two breakfasts included
Family……………..$100.00 two adult breakfasts/2 children breakfasts
Business……………$100.00 two breakfasts included
“The breakfasts are the wonderful shore breakfast served at our Annual General Meeting, a well attended celebration which is held on the waterfront at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque,” says Taylor. “To quote a Past President of TIA, Susan W. Smith, ‘There is a rock out there with your name on it!’ Susie is also editor of ‘Thousand Islands Life’, an online magazine, and author of ‘The First Summer People: The Thousand Islands 1650-1910’.”
To learn more about TIA, or to become a member, please go to http://www.1000islandsassociation.net/.