Wednesday, May 27, 2015

ACA Member Paddling 1000+ Miles to Raise Awareness for Ocean Health

By Zane Havens, ACA Stewardship Coordinator

When we heard that a member of the ACA was proposing an outrigger canoe journey of over 1000 miles, we were intrigued. Long distance paddling can be both exhilarating and stressful; with exposure to the elements, long periods of exhausting activity, and extreme psychological strain all working against the paddler, it is certainly no simple feat. However, when Margo Pellegrino, wife and mother of two, told us she was attempting this paddle in order to bring attention to the environmental issues currently affecting our waters, we really paid attention.

And this is exactly what Margo Pellegrino wants. This journey is just the first part of her Big Apple 2 the Big Easy project, an expedition by outrigger from New York, NY to New Orleans, LA along inland waterways. During this project, Margo will be traveling with her documentarian, who will record their experiences and their encounters with those who are directly impacted by river and ocean health during their voyage, bringing a voice to watersheds around the country.

Margo was kind enough to answer some of our questions about her project and provide insight into what she hopes to accomplish with her effort. 

ACA: The goal of Paddle4Blue is to bring attention to the environmental issues that impact our world’s watersheds. In our country alone, there is a surfeit of different threats to our waterways; which of these issues are you going to focus on for your Big Apple 2 The Big Easy journey?

MP: I’ll be focusing on run-off issues (like last year’s toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie), the issue of plastics and other contaminants in our waterways, and the need to protect our waterways with the creation of new Clean Water Rules and by individuals taking responsibility and action.

ACA: As you make your way across the country, do you plan on stopping in cities and towns along the way to speak and educate people about your message? Are there any places in particular that you are excited about stopping in? Is there a place where you are announcing your “tour schedule”?

MP: I’ll be announcing my tour schedule online via my website, and on social media. Our folks in Blue Frontier’s DC office (as well as the logistics manager traveling with me and partnering organizations such as Earth Justice and local organizations) will also do media outreach. I’m excited about the whole journey, but I’m especially excited about being in new waterways and seeing the mighty Hudson up close and personal beyond NYC. Plus, the big city aspect is thrilling—Chicago and especially Detroit. Talk about water issues—Detroit is loaded with them!

ACA: This isn’t the first time that you have paddled a long distance for an environmental cause. What is the hardest part of the journey? What makes it all worthwhile?

MP: What makes it worthwhile is when even one person comes up to me and says, “Wow, I never really thought about that before.” Also, when I get to meet folks who have been “in the trenches” working on their local issues for years; I LOVE being able to share their stories with others. Their stories become part of my presentations later on. The hardest part without a doubt is leaving my family.

ACA: You are doing all of this on a very limited budget. How do you house and feed yourself during the journey?

MP: I’ve been doing some fundraising to cover expenses, but I’m not fancy, so the budget is minimal (a good thing, as I’m a lousy fundraiser). Of course, this journey would not be possible without the help of volunteers willing to host me and my logistics manager. It’s also a great way to share stories and information; it really is the best way for us to understand what makes an area so special, and my hosts become part of the stories I share with others. We are even happy to just camp in a yard, never mind have a bed! 

ACA: If you could choose one overarching goal of your journey, what would it be? What would you like to accomplish? 

MP: Ha! I don’t have simple goals—I want the whole kit and caboodle! I would love for folks to see the value in their waterways and why we need to keep them clean. Part of the value is that our waterways and ocean are amazing playgrounds, no matter your fitness level or what you paddle. I think that when people value a resource, they are more naturally inclined to protect it. Part of the problem (and why I’m doing what I’m doing) is that folks don’t know how degraded our waterways are; they don’t even recognize that the problems are out there to begin with! Once they understand, they really do start to care. Who doesn’t want clean water to drink and paddle/play in?

If you are interested in helping Margo Pellegrino by hosting her during this incredible journey, or if you'd like to see where she is paddling now, please reach out to her by visiting 

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