Friday, October 16, 2015

Paddle Green Spotlight: Boating in DC

Written by Colleen Devlin, the Environmental Coordinator for Boating in DC. Colleen fell in love with rivers as a rower, but plans to grow old with them as a kayaker and stand up paddle boarder. Anyone interested in learning more about Boating in DC’s stewardship initiatives can reach her at This article originally appeared in the September issue of the ACA's Paddle eMagazine. 

The Potomac and Anacostia Rivers in the heart of our nation’s capital have traditionally been accessible only by motorboats and private rowing communities. Fortunately, Boating in DC’s Key Bridge, Ballpark, and National Harbor boathouses have opened the locals’ eyes to not only the world of recreational paddling, but also to the poor treatment of our urban waterways. 

Addressing and promoting the cleanliness of the Potomac and Anacostia has been important to me since my pre-teen years, when I would watch helplessly as the current carried garbage downriver and out of sight everyday at rowing practice. Now, 10 years later, Boating in DC has provided the perfect outlet for me to finally take action! 

Though each Boating in DC location provides interactions with flora, fauna, and the great outdoors that are often hard to come by in our bustling city, paddlers also return to shore lamenting about garbage sightings in the river. 

It did not take long for Washingtonians new to paddling to realize that our historic rivers need far more attention than what they receive. Do-gooders will often return from paddling with garbage they have collected, ranging from plastic bottles, to two garbage bags full of Styrofoam, plastic, and glass. This inspired us to begin our first of two river stewardship programs. 

Our first initiative gives a 5% discount off rentals to “friends of the river,” those paddlers who bring back trash. For some, the initiative has morphed into a challenging scavenger hunt, with 30-year-old men unloading assorted treasures, beaming with satisfaction over their booty. It’s less about the discount and much more about the action taken. 

DC area paddlers interested in making an immediate improvement to the cleanliness of our rivers can take part in our second initiative, which is a weekly community cleanup on the Anacostia River every Sunday morning from 9:30 to 11:00 AM at Boating in DC’s Ballpark Boathouse location. 

The Anacostia has a bad reputation. With jokes of mutation upon contact, it is no wonder it carries the denomination, “The Forgotten River.” The Anacostia needs as much attention as it can get, and we are proud to be one of the local organizations doing its part to help. In partnership with the ACA, our nocharge paddle equips volunteers with gloves, a grabber, and, of course, ACA Paddle Green Bags. 

Our first session was comprised of 5 people, who in only 60 minutes, managed to collect 145 pounds of garbage. The following week, our volunteer team tripled in size and amassed 264 pounds of trash, including a cooler, a dishwasher door, a 3-foot Styrofoam cube, and a weather balloon. I have noticed a challenge developing to get volunteers to stop on time. 

They say it is addictive. I say, “Tell your friends.”

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