July 2019 may not be the warmest on record, but that doesn’t mean swimming is off the table. Those looking for a spot to swim can look no further than the Banfield Park in Vic West. On Sunday, the eighth annual Gorge Swim Fest is taking place at the public dock in the park.
From noon until 4 p.m., swim enthusiasts will gather for an afternoon of swimming, crafts, games, food and music. Gorge George will also be in attendance in his signature vintage black and white striped swimming costume to hearken back to the good old days at the swimming hole. In its heyday from the 1890s to the 1930s, the Gorge Waterway was the site of many swimming competitions and galas.
The free event celebrates the history of the Gorge Waterway and welcomes families for swim and sand-based activities, says Jack Meredith, a member of the Gorge Swim Fest Society — the group hosting the event. The Gorge Swim Fest is actually a revival of the original swim galas that used to take place over 100 years ago, he says.
He swims at Banfield Park frequently and people are always surprised to see him come out of the water as they assume it’s not clean. It was polluted for a long time, but the water was deemed safe for swimming in 2000, following a major clean up in the ’90s, he says.
The goal of the event is also to promote sustainable initiatives to ensure the safety of swimming in the Gorge and assist with organizations who want to host swim-oriented events, Meredith explains.
The water at Banfield Park is sampled by Island Health (VIHA) bi-weekly from May 19 to Sept. 7 in accordance with the Canadian Recreational Water Guidelines. According to Joanne Lum, a senior environmental health officer with VIHA, the latest sample results for Banfield Park will be available on Friday. The recent results from the Esquimalt Gorge Park showed that the water is safe for swimming and no issues were found with water safety at Banfield Park last year. Similar results can be expected this year.
So grab your swimsuit, your water wings and lots of sunscreen, and head down to the city-wide swim party in the warmest open water in the area.
Free tickets are available online for those who wish to register.