On the river, I don’t hear many paddlers talking about what rising water temperatures will do to fish stocks. I don’t hear how bank erosion contributes to farm chemicals entering our waterways. At a very basic level, these things won’t affect the influx of paddlers entering our sacred resources…..rivers, streams and tributaries leading to greater waterways.
A Change In Perspective of our Resources
Paddlers have become consumers of rivers rather than vested stakeholders. Mountain bike groups and cross country ski clubs build the trails they recreate on. Fishing clubs sink money and manpower into restoring fish habitat. As paddlers we get our amazing resource for FREE. But, just because we don’t have to pay for it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth anything.
Put-in to Ocean and Everything in Between
Current social media-centered paddling has turned rivers into nothing more than a series of features. You would think that there is nothing in between them or connecting them. You may hear a paddler explain that there’s really nothing between the Licking River and the Muskingum River. I’ve heard that there is nothing from the Mohican River to the Walhonding, which leads to the Muskingum, the Ohio River, to the Mississippi and ultimately,…the ocean. The whole thing is a river, a water resource.
Impact of Paddlesports
As paddlers, we’re mostly focused on the more exciting pieces and bits of our paddling inventory. What about the ecological and magical value of the whole put-in to-ocean thing? We need to recognize that what is upstream of the put-in and below the take-out is vitally important. We’re getting a free ride on our precious resources. One that we’re not so vocal about defending, short of a ramp/launch proposal.
So how do we move from consumer to steward? There are a few key groups at the state and national levels working hard, but more important is local ownership. We must stake a claim to a river we call home and make it our own, getting organized and contributing to caring for it, alongside other paddlers and stake holders who share it with us.