Down the river: A source-to-sea journey

  • Connecticut River Conservancy director Andy Fisk, center, and his wife Karen Fisk, to his left, participate in a paddling technique workshop run by Paradise City Dragon Boat on July 26, 2017, before a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Area elected officials as well as Connecticut River Conservancy director Andy Fisk and his wife, Karen, set the boat pace at right, joining the Paradise City Dragon Boat team in a race down the river July 26, 2017 at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Karen Fisk, wife of Connecticut River Conservancy director Andy Fisk, left, sets the pace for Paradise City Dragon Boat in a race on July 26, 2017, at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, center, joins Paradise City Dragon Boat July 26, 2017 in launching for a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. The race was a stop on the Connecticut River Conservancy's source to sea journey in which their director Andy Fisk and his wife Karen Fisk are traveling the river focusing on the ways people use it to recreate, the work that has been accomplished and what is left to do. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Connecticut River Conservancy director Andy Fisk, left, sets the pace for Paradise City Dragon Boat and area elected officials acting as guests in a race Wednesday at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Betsy Powell, founder of Paradise City Dragon Boat, guides the boat as a steer while area elected officials including Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, second paddler from left, join the dragon boat team in a race July 26, 2017 at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. The race was a stop on the Connecticut River Conservancy's source to sea journey in which director Andy Fisk and his wife Karen are traveling the river focusing on the ways people use it to recreate, the work that has been accomplished and what is left to do. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, center, paddles with Paradise City Dragon Boat July 26, 2017, in a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Paradise City Dragon Boat members move down the Connecticut River in their 40-foot-long fiberglass canoe Wednesday prior to a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt (in green, near back) paddles with Paradise City Dragon Boat on July 26, 2017, in a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. Dragon boat steer Paula Pannoni of Northampton guides the boat, at back, while Andy Fisk sets the rhythm, at front. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Paradise City Dragon Boat team member Maeve Howett of Amherst, left, Jonathan Shefftz of Amherst, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matt Beaton and dragon boat team member Karen Pleasant of Greenfield paddle on July 26, 2017, in a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The dragon head mounted on the front of Paradise City Dragon Boat's 40-foot-long fiberglass canoe looms ahead as the boat moves down the river July 26, 2017, prior to a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Area elected officials as well as Connecticut River Conservancy director Andy Fisk and his wife Karen join the Paradise City Dragon Boat team in a race down the river July 26, 2017, at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. The race was a stop on the Connecticut River Conservancy's source to sea journey, a river-long event focusing on the many ways people use the water for fun, and the work that has been accomplished and what is left to do. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Area elected officials as well as Connecticut River Conservancy director Andy Fisk and his wife, Karen, join the Paradise City Dragon Boat team in launching off the dock for a race on July 26, 2017, at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. The race was a stop on the Connecticut River Conservancy's source to sea journey. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Holyoke Ward 4 Councilor Jossie Valentin paddles with Paradise City Dragon Boat on July 26, 2017, in a race at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. The race was a stop on the Connecticut River Conservancy's source to sea journey, a trip made by director Andy Fisk to focus attention on the river. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@kate_ashworth
Published: 7/26/2017 11:54:45 PM

Editor’s note:  The Connecticut River Conservancy announced in statement Thursday that the remaining splash mob events associated with the source-to-the-sea journey have been canceled.

NORTHAMPTON — The Connecticut River wasn’t always as clean as it is now.

The river’s pollution problem was much worse in 1959 when chairman of the Connecticut River Watershed Council (now the Connecticut River Conservancy) Joseph Davidson and his wife made a trip down the river from its source to the sea, talking with local officials and documenting the journey.

He carried a bottle of water from the source of the river, the Fourth Connecticut Lake near the Canadian border in New Hampshire, and compared it to samples taken from other spots along the way. As he went down the river, the water became more contaminated.

In honor of the Connecticut River Conservancy’s 65-year anniversary, director Andy Fisk and his wife, Karen, are recreating the Davidsons’ journey, but this time they are celebrating the progress made in cleaning up the river and the work that still needs to be done.

The “Source to Sea Jump-in Journey” started on Sunday, July 16, in New Hampshire and is making its way through Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Events are held at various stops along the way focusing on themes such as stormwater pollution and riverbank erosion. Some stops featured so-called “splash mobs” in which people jump into the river for enjoyment — something they likely would not have done in Davidson’s time.

Fisk wears a red crusher hat and his wife Karen wears pearls, just like Davidson and his wife during their trip. They also carry a bottle of water from the river’s source and give out small vials of the water to those who participate in the splash mob events.

While the river may be clean and healthy, Fisk said more can be done to increase the fish population, which could be in the millions instead of thousands.

The river journey stopped in Northampton Wednesday, where the Paradise City Dragon Boat Team held a dragon boat race at the Northampton Community Rowing Boathouse.

Dragon Boat team names were named after two migratory fish: eels and lampreys. “They are part of our job of restoring this river,” Fisk said.

Some local officials joined the race, including West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who were both racing dragon boats for the first time. They and other beginners got a quick lesson from coach Betsy Powell. She said the paddling technique is easy to learn and just about anyone can hop in the boat and give it a try.

For the race, Reichelt hoped the skills that earned him a canoeing merit badge years ago when he was a Boy Scout would come in handy.

“It paid off,” Reichelt said. His team won both of the two heats. “It was really fun,” he said.

Mickey Nowak, a project manager in Springfield of SUEZ Water Environmental Services Inc., also raced on the dragon boats. He said wastewater treatment plants, which clean wastewater before it’s sent back into the river, play a major role in keeping the river clean.

Nowak said many people ask what their sewer and water bills pay for.

“It’s for this,” Nowak said, standing by the boat access ramp to the river, referring to the beauty of the river.

Seven-year-old Cali Knox, of Holyoke, came down to the dock in Northampton to watch the race. She had a picnic with her family before jumping in for the splash mob.

“It was pretty cold,” she said.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.

This story has been edited to remove reference to a splash mob event that has been canceled.




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