Work will be a bit different on Monday for many local and state officials who will spend the day kayaking down the Connecticut River as part of an inaugural event designed to highlight the river’s importance to the region’s vitality.
The contingent in the event, called “A Tribute(ary) to the Connecticut River,” will begin in Northfield and make stops at several communities along the way.
State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, is co-organizing the paddle with Karen Foster, executive director of Northampton nonprofit All Out Adventures, which seeks to bring outdoor recreation to people of all ages, experience levels and abilities.
Comerford, who represents 24 cities and towns across Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties, said she views the Connecticut River as the spine of her district that’s important to the region’s natural environment and communities.
“If you talk to our chambers of commerce, they may talk to you about the river’s importance to our regional development, our eco-tourism,” she said. “And if you talk to our farmers, they’re pumping out of the Connecticut to be able to irrigate their crops. And if you talk to Indigenous leaders, they’ll talk passionately about the river’s importance to native communities past, present and future.”
Comerford said state officials, such as state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides, will paddle with local elected officials and community leaders, starting in Northfield at 8:30 a.m. at the Riverview Picnic Area, and make stops on the journey down the river at Barton Cove in Gill, and in Sunderland and Hatfield before arriving at Northampton Community Rowing in Northampton at 4:30 p.m.
Foster said her organization will provide the kayaking gear, along with guidance by certified kayaking instructors.
She’s happy that All Out Adventures is collaborating in the effort.
“We have this treasure here in Western Mass., and certainly conservation efforts have made a significant difference, but certainly we have a ways to go,” Foster said. “It’s not uncommon at different points for sections of the river not to be recommended for swimming or boating. So certainly, we have work to continue.”
As an added benefit, Comerford said it’s important that legislators from the eastern part of the state spend time in Western Massachusetts “so they can see the natural splendor … which I think is unparalleled in its beauty.” The effort will help when issues of protecting the river come up on Beacon Hill, she said.
Other legislators participating in the event are state Reps. Natalie Blais, Dan Carey, Mindy Domb and Lindsay Sabadosa. Also joining the group will be Rhonda Anderson, Western Massachusetts commissioner on Indian Affairs and the founder and co-director of the Ohketeau Cultural Center; Julia Blatt, executive director of Massachusetts Rivers Alliance; Kristin DeBoer, executive director of Kestrel Land Trust; and more.