ssǝɹddns ɹou ɹɐǝɟ ɹǝɥʇıǝu plnoʍ ʎʇǝıɔos ǝǝɹɟ ʎlnɹʇ ɐ ʇɐɥʇ ƃuıʇnɔolɯnɔɹıɔ suıɐʇuoɔ ǝʇıs sıɥʇ

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2011 Wyoming Valley RiverFest: Part I

I suppose I should start with a couple of excerpts culled from today’s Times Leader, both of which were attributed to one of the few people who first envisioned RiverFest, John Maday.

“The sole purpose of RiverFest is environmental education and environmental celebration… and that’s the only purpose of it,” he said. “To teach people, you have to bring them to your classroom, and this is our classroom.”

And then this comment on Kayak Dude’s wildly successful protest event.

Maday said it is the protesters’ right to protest, and that he supports their right to make their voices heard.

I sincerely applaud his candor and his sense of fair play as it applies to our constitutional rights to free speech.

Don (KD), Zach and I were the very first of the hundreds of paddlers to put in yesterday. And as the day progressed, Don reiterated time and again with the multitudes of people who crossed our path that the bridge protest had absolutely nothing to do with the event itself.

Instead, it was all about the corporate sponsorships. A clear message was being sent to the organizers of RiverFest, as well as to two of it’s newest corporate sponsors: If “environmental education and environmental celebration” are the primary reasons we flock to the river en masse once a year, then those who claim proprietary ownership of millions upon millions of gallons of hazardous chemicals that are being injected into our watersheds at this very moment have no place at the table. No way, no how.

Interestingly, the usual suspects I have always considered to be hard-core River Rats--the paddling protectors of the environment--are suddenly deeply divided on all things hydro-fracturing and environmentalism. And the two sides break down like this: some have stuck to their principles, while some others have sold out by leasing their tracts of land to the gas-riggers.

Early yesterday afternoon, some were on the bridge raising awareness. Some were down there sleeping with the enemies of safe, potable drinking water, Chesapeake and Williams, in Nesbitt Park. And I find it sad to think that those who once seemed to be so staunchly unified and so single-minded in purpose have become so easily divided by politics and the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Going forward, I think we need to keep with the original purpose and spirit of the Wyoming Valley RiverFest as it was framed by one of it’s founders, John Maday. Environmental education and environmental celebration should always be the order of the day while celebrating upon and on the banks of a long-endangered river.

So, should those companies armed with clever-sounding spokespeople, who brought fracking to an unsuspecting Northeastern Pennsylvania be allowed to participate?

I dunno. When I’ve paddled past the pronounced acid mine staining fueled by the tainted waters uncontrollably bubbling up out of the river’s banks, I’ve never once imagined the now-defunct coal companies being invited to this valley’s foremost environmentally-conscience event.

If Blue Coal or the Knox Mine Company wouldn’t be invited, why would Chesapeake Energy?

To be continued…

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