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Paddle Day! – Sunday, August 19th 2012

I went to scout out what I would call “Paddle Day” at Riverlands,  the new Audubon Migratory Bird Center located near Alton.

http://riverlands.audubon.org/visit-us

This event was AMAZING!  The photo above is courtesy of St. Louis Sail and Paddle, a shop that sells kayaks and sailboats, and graciously brought all sorts of paddle toys for the public to try out.  They had paddleboards, which you stand up to paddle; they had kayaks that you pedal; they had sailboats you could put two whole families on.  It was a total blast to try out all the toys and enjoy the water on a beautiful day!   Evidently, until WWII, Saint Louis was quite the sailing hotspot; perhaps we need to build it back up.  Here’s a link to the St. Louis Sail & Paddle Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/StLouisSailandPaddle

‘Big Muddy,’ another Saint Louis outfitter was there, along with the Alpine Shop, and virtually every non-profit that has anything to do with rivers.  The US Fish and Wildlife Department was there with a box of interesting turtles, the Lewis and Clark re-enactors were there with period costumes, weapons and elk stew made in a cast iron pot; the US Army Corps of Engineers was there with a replica of the river on a table in a trailer.  Plus, there were geocaching activities, maps, treats and give-aways of all kinds.

This event was part of a federally funded program designed to encourage people, especially families, to be active and get outdoors.  The theme this year was ‘connecting with rivers and waterways’ and the whole program is called “Summer of Paddling;” it includes a series of paddle events up and down the length of the Mississippi River thanks to large and small collaborations between non-profits, government agencies and small businesses.  I have heard that next year the theme will be bicycling.

Here’s the official link to “Summer of Paddling;” in all honesty it took me a fair amount of work, and a lot of question asking, to figure out exactly what “Paddle Day” was about, so I’ve tried to describe it in this blog as clearly as possible.

http://www.sop2012.org/

I thought the timing was good, as school had just started, and sports had not yet called families to the ball fields for Saturday games.   It was a glorious day, and mid-August is a good time to play with water, and not let go of summer just quite yet.

THIS IS EXACTLY THE KIND OF THING WE NEED TO HELP NURTURE ALONG THE FAMILY-NATURE CONNECTION!  Sorry, I typically don’t shout, but again, it was simply AMAZING!  I regret I didn’t take any pictures; if I did, you would see that attendance was very light.  In fairness, you need hundreds if not thousands of families to fill up great nature spaces, but still, the event was definitely not overflowing with people, which was good, because you could easily get on any paddle toy without waiting.

I have written all over the Facebook Pages of every ‘Paddle Day’ organization I could find, encouraging them to please, please repeat this event next year.  Like Earth Day, it will grow and people will come.  One intriguing thing I learned about was the Mississippi River Water Trail: it’s like a hiking map, except for kayaks and canoes.  If you are an experienced paddler, you are familiar with them.  The idea is to create a national trail we can all use and be proud of, like the Appalachian Trail.   Our rivers define us here in Saint Louis especially, and we are right to be proud of them.

I’ll be monitoring this event for next year, and if it comes up over the horizon, you can be sure that I’ll give you a shout out via social media, and push it via the Green Spiral newsletter.   Until then, there’s still time to get out and paddle around before winter sets in!

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