For over two decades, the Paddler Co-op has been a cornerstone of the river-running community on the banks of the Madawaska River in Palmer Rapids, Ontario. Now, the future of the beloved cooperative is at stake, and rallying to secure its home permanently.

The Paddler Co-op is a Valuable Slice of Whitewater Paradise

The Paddler Co-op’s idyllic 2.7-acre property is a valuable slice of waterfront real estate. Complete with highway frontage, a campground, an office building, and a garage for equipment storage and classrooms. However, the Co-op does not own the land, which is going up for sale at a value of $700,000, putting the Co-op in a situation where they could lose their beloved base. There is a silver lining though: the property owners have provided the Co-op with the first right of refusal to purchase, with a decision deadline of May 1, 2024.

To preserve their home and legacy, the Paddler Co-op has launched the Sweet Home Paddler Co-op Capital Campaign.

Although the minimum amount the Co-op needs to raise by June 1 for a downpayment on the property is technically $150,000, according to the Co-op, this would be an unsustainable mortgage. The initiative instead aims to raise $250,000 to secure a more feasible payment, and if they can reach $350,000 they would be able to operate at a cost without impacting their current budget. With the deadlines looming within just a few short months, the Co-op is wasting no time to act.

“We want to guarantee access to the river for future generations,” Ryan O’Connor, the Co-op’s executive director, shares. “This purchase preserves a vital access point for whitewater paddlers. Palmer Rapids is a leading training ground known across Canada, and we don’t want to see that disappear.”

According to O’Connor, the current property owners purchased the land 20 years ago with the intention of leasing it to the not-for-profit paddling organization to set up shop. However, circumstances have led the owners to decide to sell the property.

The Paddler Co-op is one of the largest paddling schools in Ontario, but its impact over the last two decades extends far beyond instruction. For many, the Co-op represents a community where lifelong friendships are forged and a love for the outdoors is nurtured. “Our members have spoken about how life-changing the Co-op has been for them,” adds O’Connor of the cooperative that has welcomed more than 10,000 paddlers of all ages and abilities since 1997.

Paddler Co-op launches Campaign to buy property.
Feature Image: Paddler Co-op

A Campaign to Not Only Save a Paddling Business but Strengthen Access

As O’Connor mentioned, the Lower Madawaska is a learning ground for many Ontario paddlers, providing their introduction to whitewater kayaking and canoeing. However, all of the access points to the Madawaska in Palmer Rapids are on private land. While these access points are available now, they could become compromised with future exchange of ownership. O’Connor shares that as a not-for-profit, should they own the property, they can create a trust or fund to ensure paddlers can access the Madawaska decades from now, regardless of whether the Co-op still exists as a business.

“We believe in securing a space by paddlers and for paddlers,” O’Connor says. “If we aren’t looking at access now, we risk a day when we don’t have these places.”

The urgency of the campaign is palpable. If the fundraising goal is not met by June 1, the property will be listed for sale. Should the property be sold to someone else, there are no guarantees for the Co-op. Looking at the economics of a sale, O’Connor is certain their cost to maintain a lease would increase substantially. However, there’s a strong sense of optimism. The Co-op contributed $50,000 from its reserve funds to kick off the campaign. To date, it has now garnered more than $120,000, demonstrating the community’s support. For O’Connor and the cooperative, they are on full tilt to reach the goal and make the purchase.

“We are committed and confident, and everyone in our paddling community has told us we are doing the right thing.”


Learn more about the Paddler Co-op’s Sweet Home Paddler Co-op Capital Campaign.

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