Know When to Fold ‘Em

1,000 Islands Poker Run

This week there’s been a bit of a buzz around the local blog/tweet-osphere, specifically via K7waterfront, regarding the future of one of the city’s most popular summer events.  I suppose the popularity of this activity really depends on who you’re talking too, but regardless, the annual 1,000 Islands Poker Run is definitely a gong show that is hard to miss. Every year huge boat trailers plunk themselves down along Ontario Street, where massive speed boats are put on display; terms such as turbo, bikini clad, gas guzzlers etc… are synonymous with them all.  The show and tell draws a crowd, if for no other reason but because the roads are blocked off and people still want to get a scoop of White Mountain ice cream.  Then comes the main event where teams speed back and forth between Kingston and the great blue yonder, all the while collecting cards in an effort to make the best poker hand (or something like that).  All in all, it’s really a contest to show off who’s got the biggest and loudest boat.

As a young lad, I can remember being enamoured with dump trucks, bulldozers and the like.  Had I been exposed to a Poker Run, I am sure that I would have been equally as enthralled with the massive aquatic beasts.  That’s all to say that I appreciate there is a fan base for the 1,000 Islands Poker Run, but is that enough to warrant the damage it causes?  This is the sort of question tackled by Sustainable Practices Leave A Sustainable Heritage, aka SPLASH, a group whose mission is to encourage and promote sustainable, participatory events that respect and celebrate the natural resources in our community.

In SLASH’s March info kit, they argue that the Poker Run should be replaced for the following reasons:

  • Environmental Cost:  Poker Run emissions could accumulate to an entire year’s worth of Kingston’s vehicle idling emissions in just 16 hours. Therefore, while initiatives such as our city’s idling bylaw reduce overall emissions, the Poker Run must be considered among significant contributors to emissions, due to its large impact.
  • Waterfront Erosion:  The wakes of these speeding boats could harm sensitive vegetation along the waterfront, and increase erosion by the huge waves.
  • Noise Pollution:  Anyone who has ever been near one of these boats will attest to the noise pollution they cause.  Please see page 14 for additional information on this lesser-known, but equally important, form of pollution.
  • Promotes Consumption:  Because participating in this event requires access to wealth, promoting and celebrating it sends a message that the wealthy should be allowed certain extra privileges such as ability to exploit natural resources and exemption to city bylaws.
  • Sets the Wrong Example:  It is an example to our children that over-consumption is acceptable. We should be providing healthier role models for our children as they are the leaders of the future.

You have to admit that SPLASH makes a pretty good case, even in light of estimates that Poker Run brings in revenue from 50,000 spectators.  I really want to hear what you have to say about this one.  In case you agree with them, perhaps you’d consider joining their Facebook group.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

12 thoughts on “Know When to Fold ‘Em

  • I’m torn on this issue. I’m a sucker for big shiny boats… but I agree about every point SPLASH offers.

  • I hate events like this. SPLASH hits it on the head. These people (i.e. the big boat enthusiasts) should be finding something more productive to do with all their money.

    noise + conspicuous consumption + environmental damage = nightmare

    It’s time to grow up, people.

  • Yet the event does bring revenue to the city, like it or not. In these economic times, Kingston cannot afford to turn away activities like this.

  • I am not a big fan of this event. I was ‘lucky enough’ to work for Downtown Kingston a few summers ago and had quite the experience running this event. The boat owners certainly think they have every right to do whatever they want. The attitude many of them gave those of us who were running the event was terrible. Whether it was a summer student like myself, a volunteer, or a member of DK, many of these boaters acted like we should be happy they were gracing us with their presence, and that we should bend over backwards to make them happy.

    The over consumption paraded around this event is quite disgusting. It is nothing more than a few rich people entertaining the masses with their wealth.

    The environmental issues associated with this event are quite disgusting, perhaps the city should be looking at hosting different water related events such as dragon boat races or something with less of an impact on the earth. At least an event like that would promote local participation and active lifestyles.

  • @barbj8 – the fact that an event makes $$$ doesn’t justify its continued existence if that’s its only virtue. Lots of stuff can be profitable – maybe Kingston should get into selling heroin, creating child pornography, or dumping toxic waste?

  • This is by far the best event held in Kingston all year. Nothing else comes close to generating the amount of revenue, attendance or interest that the Poker Run does. Much of the information Splash has put forward are lies and propaganda. These boats run cleaner then almost anything else that you will find floating in Confed Basin that has an engine. The pollution put out by any one of the tour boats tied up at Crawford Wharf exceeds that of any of htese performance boats. I have spoken with MANY of the owners of these boats during past Poker Runs and have never experienced a situation like 3aw6 has described. Most of these people that participate in these events do so for the love of the sport and some of them have to spend an entire year saving up to attend this one event, not all of them are the “millionaires” you people are trying to paint them as. There are many many charities and non-profit organizations that benefit from these Poker Runs every year across North America from the hundreds of thouands of dollars that are raised from the runs and clubs that organize them. Is Kingston going to make another idiot decision like it did with the casino and cancel the Poker Run? I certainly hope not. But if it does, there are many businesses that are going to feel the effects of it the first year its not here. The Poker Run will continue every year, it just may be another city who benefits from it.

  • Ah, RicoJ, a typical Kingstonian. When someone disagrees with you you have to show your blatant ignorance and start throwing insults. Such a common behaviour of so many residents of this city. If you don’t like my opinion, or facts for that matter, that’s just too bad. This city is so overrun with self-interest groups trying to force things to be done their way and because of their ignorance, they think that their “goals, objectives and desires” are shared by everybody and that anyone who disagrees is wrong. Lies, propaganda, deceit and censorship are the abvious favourite tools of the trade here in good ol’ Kingston.

  • Erm, this is a joke, right? Of all the things to protest, this seems like a very minor and insignificant item.

    SPLASH needs to get out more.

    The arguments just seem so frivolous and nitpicky in nature. Regular citizens do worse on a daily basis for the whole summer, so why pick on the rich, when they at least entertain while doing so and bring money into the already struggling downtown area?

    How about working on something useful instead, like pushing the city to incorporate more bicycle lanes into the road system, and encourage people to cycle in the downtown area?

  • @eyesinthecity Regarding the prevalence of self-interest groups, I do not think that Kingston has an overabundance, especially when you compare us to cities of similar size or composition. These types of groups spring up for a reason, and certainly some more noble, well educated, and/or well funded than others. In certain cases, these groups offer a sober, second voice so that key issues are not overlooked by elected officials. When it comes to SPLASH, I think you’d be hard pressed to disprove the 5 points listed in the above post, so it would be incorrect to label them as complete falsehoods. Further, although RicoJ would have been better off to offer an argument as opposed to an insult, your sweeping generalization of Kingstonians is similarly malapropos.

    That’s all to say that I am still on the fence about this. It might be dangerous for business if we bid farewell to the Poker Run in these trying economic times. And could you imagine if Amherstview or Wolfe Island turned around and welcomed the event? Perhaps we could request a portion of the registration fees be donated to improving the local waterfront / environment? But even then, we could run the risk of pushing the event away.

  • The event brings revenue to the city and it is one of the main attractions of their city yearly, putting an end on this event is like putting an end on one of the city's tradition.

  • Say goodby to the poker run it will probably go down the same road as the casino if people that are bitching about it don’t stop. So very sad….

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