Thursday, 29 May 2003

MADISON, Wis.

Today I have a meeting with one of our major funders. The coffee pot is on and I have taken a moment to tidy up the office. The River Alliance is fortunate to enjoy the support of several foundations, and we look forward to opportunities to visit with foundation representatives, bring them up to date on our work, and hear what they are thinking.

Dams Program Manager Helen Sarakinos is off to North Carolina for the next few days. She has been invited to teach a dam-removal workshop to river advocates in the Southeast. The River Alliance helped write the book about small dam removal — literally. To date, more than 2,000 copies of Dam Removal: A Citizen’s Guide to Restoring Rivers have been shipped to eight countries. Last year, the video, Taking a Second Look: Communities and Dam Removal, won a “Best Documentary” award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

After the meeting, other noteworthy projects I’ll be working on today include scheduling summer workshops with northern organizations and working on a pair of stories for the upcoming newsletter. Thanks to our contributions and Otis’s editorial skills, we produce a quarterly newsletter, Wisconsin Rivers.

Our 2003 workshops promise to be exciting. All of them involve getting out around the state to share tools with our member organizations, Wisconsin’s community-based river and watershed groups. One workshop will involve training citizens to use the Clean Water Act to protect their home waters. Our new publication, Using the Clean Water Act to Protect Wisconsin’s Waters will be the text for that workshop.

We will also be working with river organizations’ boards of directors to conduct organizational assessments. By taking stock of where they are, in terms of projects and goals, internal communications, membership, fundraising and more, groups can better prioritize and take home action plans to help guide their future work.

Musical guests White Water wow a sellout crowd at the recent FCLARA Wild Rivers Celebration.

Photo: Lisa Goodman.

One organization we look forward to seeing is the Florence County Lakes and Rivers Association. It has been engaged in a number of projects, including a lengthy campaign to safeguard the county’s protective shoreland zoning ordinance. Florence County is home to two of Wisconsin’s three state-designated Wild Rivers. The associaton’s hard work is not over, but two weeks ago, FCLARA members took a rare time-out to celebrate and reflect on all they have accomplished. Their Wild Rivers Celebration was a great success, with a standing-room-only crowd filling the Florence Natural Resource Center to attend a cookout, see a new mural dedicated, and listen to the talented band, White Water. It was wonderful to see this energetic group smiling and celebrating. The event served as a valuable reminder to all that there needs to be celebration to balance out the hard work.

After work yesterday, Helen and I canoed the Yahara River. At that time of day, there is a great deal of activity along the river. In addition to a green heron and many ducks, we encountered joggers, bicyclists, anglers, and power boaters, as well as the weekly gathering of dead fish polo enthusiasts.

Dead fish polo enthusiasts on the mighty Yahara River.

Photo: Lisa Goodman.

Dead fish polo combines elements of dodgeball and water polo with canoeing. The genesis of this sport is said to have occurred during a quiet outing when a mischievous paddler deftly used a paddle to deposit a recently-departed fish in a companion’s canoe. Fortunately, the sport has been refined to the point where paddlers now use sponges instead of fish. There can be almost as many sponges in play as there are paddlers, which makes for a wet and lively game. While working to nail a fellow player, a paddler must remember to keep an eye on her own stern.

We paddled until nearly dusk, chatting and experimenting with different strokes. Being on the water is both relaxing and invigorating. The energizing part is staying connected with what it’s all about and not taking oneself too seriously all the time. And not getting burned out. One of the members of our advisory committee recently shared with me Edward Abbey’s words:

Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast … a part-time crusader, a half hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. … Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive.