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Headlines from the past: Fin swims the Fraser — all of it

In the summer of 1995, the Tri-City News reported on plans now NDP MLA Fin Donnelly had to swim the Fraser River.
Coquitlam–Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly swam the length of the Fraser River twice to raise awareness about environmental concerns. He was inducted into the Fraser River Discovery Centre Hall of Fame. | Fernando Lessa photo

Stories from Tri-City News headlines of decades past will be a reccurring feature as the publication approaches its 40th anniversary in 2024.

Most people might know Fin Donnelly as the MLA for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

But 28 years ago, Donnelly was making headlines in the Tri-City News for a planned 1,400 km swim along the entire length of the Fraser River.

Donnelly’s 1995 “Swim for Life” was his way to encourage people to think of the health of the river, according to a story in the Tri-City News on July 30, 1995

Donnelly was used to ocean swims but navigating a fast-flowing river was going to be a challenge, he said at the time.

“The thing I’m most concerned about is the river itself — the eddies the whirlpools. I’m relying completely, as I did crossing the ocean, on the experience and the expertise of the guides. I’m going to have to get educated on how to swim the river as I learned to swim the ocean,” he said.

Donnelly, whose hair reached down past his shoulders back then, completed the swim in three weeks, wearing a wet suit, life jacket and helmet. Flanked by river rafts, he used the river’s current to travel between 80 and 100 kilometres a day.

Donnelly’s goal was to raise awareness about the degradation of the mighty river and the impact of development on the salmon.

“Over the years I’ve taken on things that are challenging. For me what is important is advancing the cause, bringing some awareness to people.

“I may be drawing attention because it’s a crazy feat, but I want people to realize that the reason I’m doing it is because we have to stopping the daily detrimental activity to our environment that we depend on.”

After his successful swim, Donnelly did it again in 2000, according to the Rivershed Society, which he later founded.

Among the files of the Tri-City News is coverage of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody councils, local crime, local festivals and events similar to today’s stories you’ll find online and in print on Thursdays.

For a digital version of this week’s paper, visit the Issuu website.