In Bruce Georgian’s perfect world, the first annual Lake Gardner Canoe-O Saturday will inspire future generations of Amesbury residents to advocate for the long-term sustainability of Lake Gardner.
“In my heart of hearts, I hope a kid will come to this, fall in love with Lake Gardner, live here when he’s older, and become a person who advocates for cleaning up the lake and stopping condos from being built,” Georgian said.
Georgian currently fills the role of Amesbury’s Lake Gardner advocate as a member of the Lake Gardner Improvement Association. After hosting a canoe race on Lake Gardner for the last five summers, Georgian decided to switch gears this year. He called upon New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association (NECKRA) member Shaun Burke to direct a canoe, kayak and Stand Up Paddleboard orienteering adventure race.
The inaugural event will kick off Saturday at 9 a.m. with an optional orienteering clinic taught by Burke and his wife, Monica Schnitger. Registration for the orienteering race will run from 9:45 to 11:30 a.m. on Lake Gardner Beach. The cost is $15 for adults, $10 for current NECKRA members, and $5 for ages 17 and under. Individuals or teams of two will start between 10 a.m. and noon.
“In the past, we’ve done the canoe race, and it’s the same 30 people every year,” Georgian said. “I feel like, in order for something to live, it needs to grow. We decided to mix it up and try canoe orienteering.”
Competitors need only a flotation device to enter the scavenger-hunt style race. After the staggered start, each boat is timed as the individual or team navigates a series of control points shown on a map. Some control points will be accessible by water (wet control points) and others by land (dry control points). The winner will complete the course in the shortest amount of time.
Burke will design a family course, an intermediate course and an advanced course. The short course will have about five control points, the intermediate about 10 and the advanced close to 15.
The Lake Gardner Canoe-O will be an official NECKRA flatwater point series event. Members can earn championship points toward the season tally.
“We’ll have boats going up one side of the lake and down the other,” Georgian said. “Some of the controls will be accessible from the water. Some might require someone getting out and running 10 to 30 yards into the woods. Even that is part of the strategy. We don’t care how they do it, we just hope they fall in love with the sport of orienteering, paddling and canoeing.”