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Sprucing up the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Center
Volunteers work countless hours preparing for weekend's Canadian Olympic Trials
Connor Taras, front, and Lyall Hatton paddle in from a workout on Lake Lanier as they get ready for the Canadian Olympic Trials being held this weekend at the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Center. - photo by Tom Reed

They’ve painted an office and a boathouse, moved docks to the water’s edge and built a race course.

The efforts of the more than 100 volunteers at Lanier Canoe and Kayak Center who have worked tirelessly for hours a day, seven days a week for more than a month culminate with the start of the Canadian Olympic Trials at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“People have put in a lot of time and energy to make sure that this event is perfect,” Lanier Canoe and Kayak Center coach Dave Robertson said.

“I think it speaks well of our community, and I’m really happy about it. It’s really been a collaborative effort.”

For the competition this weekend, as well as the overall betterment of the facilities, parents of Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club members, club members themselves and volunteers from the community have been giving their free time to ensure that the venue represents itself well.

“I think everybody in the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club has pitched in in some fashion,” former executive director of the facility Connie Hagler said. “The kids (members of Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club) are trying to get things cleaned up inside because it’s their home and they want to show it well, and the city (of Gainesville) and county both have been very supportive.”

Armed with bulldozers and volunteering on their days off from work, members of the Hall County Public Works department spent time pulling land-bound docks out onto the water. The docks were land-bound due to the low lake levels.

“On the race tower side there’s a dock that’s been stuck since last October that they pushed out into the water,” Robertson said. “I’m so appreciative of what they’ve done. Their tenacity in helping us put the boat holder platforms that were left high and dry because of the lake levels on the water has been fantastic.”

The small docks known as boat holder platforms will be used as starting blocks for the paddlers come Saturday.

“We will use 18 boat holder platforms,” six-year kayaker and Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club middle school coach Jeff Eadon said. “There will be nine at the 1,000-meter start and nine at the 500-meter start and our kids (Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club members) will lay on their stomachs and hold the back of the boats with the tips of their fingers. When the gun sounds (to start the race) they release their fingers.”

The boat holder platforms, and the boat holders, are used to ensure the boats not only stay stabilized, but that there are also no false starts.

While each small endeavor has been a task unto itself, the greatest effort was placed in putting the race course on, and in, the water.

“It’s been a marvelous, great big puzzle,” Hagler said. “The Corp (of Engineers) gave us an extra little bit of time to put the course in and (Jeff) Eadon and Louis Griffin took on the task of learning to put the course in so we’ll have somebody local that knows how to do it from here on out, which is phenomenal.”

The course is a cable grid system consisting of seven laterals, which serve as the base of the grid, that go across the lake from east to west and that are anchored to the shores on either end of the raceway.

Accompanying those cables are 10-1,000 meter lane lines used to mark off the nine lanes utilized in the races.

The cables, which make up the course, are held by approximately 1,150 orange bouys.

“We learned the course as we went,” Eadon said. “I have seen the course in, but never put it in. I’ve helped place bouys in the past but this is brand new to us.”

Approximately two weeks before placement of the course began, the staff at Lanier Canoe and Kayak Center “started talking about it and putting a manual together,” Hagler said. “We have been working on it for a little over two weeks.

“We had a lot of help from the rowing club,” Hagler went on to say, “there were folks there that knew a little bit of it and folks on our side that knew a little bit of it but nobody had ever tweaked it and put it completely in.”

With the boathouse painted, the docks placed at their proper place in the water and the race course mapped out the only thing left for the volunteers is race day.

According to Robertson, there will be runners on the boathouse side of Clarks Bridge Road printing off results and race programs and getting numbers to the Canadien paddlers so that, “they’re ready when they go off the docks on this side to paddle around and start their racing,” Robertson said.

On the race tower side of the road, however, is where most of the action will be happening.

“We will have a number of volunteers in the finish line tower acting as runners and supporting the Canadian officials in whatever way they need to,” Robertson said. “We’ll have a lot of people out on the water driving umpire boats, driving safety boats and controlling motorboat traffic.”

For the volunteers that have put countless hours into the making of the Canadian Olympic Trials, Saturday will be their reward.

“I’ve put in 8-10 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Eadon, who worked on the race course and placed boat holder platforms last Thursday despite having root canal surgery the day before. “I told Louis (Griffin) when we were out on the water this morning, ‘Louis, the most rewarding thing is Saturday when we go to the top of the tower and watch those people come down through there.’

“That will be the greatest part of the whole thing, just seeing it all laid out and perfect and seeing those people paddling and the people cheering.”

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