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

Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 Wyoming Valley RiverFest

As far as kayaking is concerned, I’ll admit to being somewhat pampered.
That is to say, while I can keep pace with most anyone I’ve shared the Susquehanna river with, I have yet to paddle in anything smaller than Iowa-class boats---WWII-era battleships---which displace 46,000 tons of water and could move at 30 knots before becoming floating museum pieces.

Learning curve...Iowa-class dreadnaughts: Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin & New Jersey.

Steady as she goes? Yep. And plenty stable two. No surprise swims for Markie. Markie likes stable.

The point being, the U.S.S. Dude, our usual choice of boats for this annual event was replaced this year by the even larger U.S.S. Lego (nod to Mrs. Kayak Dude)…a boat comprised of sections that can be easily assembled and disassembled in the field, and can haul anywhere from two people to 100 people. Nope, no foolin’. A 100-man kayak. Those dragon boats have got nothing on us, just you wait and see.

We---Kayak Dude, Zach and I---put in at the Apple Tree launch up Harding/Falls way and paddled to the festival at Nesbitt Park in Wilkes-Barre. Zach, all of 9-years old, is a six-time RiverFest veteran. I have earned 10 service bars and Don can top that. While we’ve pretty much seen it all, it’s still a unique adventure every year being that the river level varies each and every year. Seriously, it’s not the same trip every time out.

While the number of participants seemed to be about the same as in past years, this year’s group had to be the slowest paddlers I have run across while on the river. Despite the annoyingly steady headwind, and despite the fact that I was clearly sporting a work-related shoulder bruise that caused me moderate discomfort while paddling, we passed much of this grouping as if they were stuck in the muck that most non-paddlers believe the river to be. Perhaps that headwind bothered them more than it annoyed us.

Far from being a tree hugger, every year I pass the junction with the acid-mine drainage-laden Lackawanna River, and every year I pass the Butler Mine Tunnel spewing only Allah knows what chemical cocktail, and every year I studiously spy that gargantuan combined sewage outflow behind Cooper’s Seafood at Pittston, and every year I wonder why we have to waste our revenues on godforsaken places like Syria and Afghanistan and Iraq and Timbuk-frickin-tu…meanwhile, we cannot find the monies necessary to exclude the pollutants from our own waterways and thereby enhance our own quality of life. Every year I paddle this stretch, and every year the D.C. folks (holding my nose) that once begged for a vote and won an election sicken me to no end.

We can give aid to obvious Jihadists in Syria, but we cannot clean our own river. Not even…wait for it…not even…“for the children.“ I cannot and will not feature that.

They told us what we needed was a $14 million dam. They told us what we needed was a $24 million
riverfront amenity. They told us there would be untold numbers of tourists and unimaginable development and previously unheard of numbers of jobs created. Turns out, all that we needed all along was those damaging pollutants eliminated from our local waterway.

If you dam it, they will come? If you put lipstick on it, they will come? Incorrect! If you clean it, they will come!

So, when some smooth-talking politician-in-the-making flashes those obligatory pearly whites, firmly shakes your hand, kisses the closest baby and then launches into the next pie-in-the-sky promise of pork whereas the Susquehanna is concerned, tell them to get their head out of the combined sewage outflow.

Tell them we want our river restored to what it once was: a clean, vibrant and free-flowing jewel.

No more acid mine drainage. No more Butler Mine tunnels. No more combined sewage outflows. No more asphalt replacing virgin forests. And no more Anthracite Era II…no more hydro fracturing of the water tables below us. In short, no more.

It’s simple. And I sooo like simplicity.

If you clean it, the tourists and the development and the jobs are likely to follow. But most importantly, the-then life-sustaining river would become a beehive of recreating for all who call this backwards county home.

End quasi tree-hugger rant.

Don, as always, thanks for having us. ‘Til next we set out for Dinosaur Island.

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