The Clearwater Storygarycwadmin2023-07-18T13:57:04-04:00
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater is a member-supported, non-profit organization whose mission is to protect the Hudson River by inspiring lifelong stewardship of the river and its tributaries with innovative advocacy through education programs.
The organization owns and operates a historic 106′ Hudson River Sloop replica, recognized as America’s Environmental Flagship. Continuing historic sloops’ tradition as a vital link between communities, Clearwater carries a message of preservation and protection of our region’s waterways to her passengers and those who see her iconic sails from the shore.
More than 50 years later, Clearwater is recognized for its award-winning environmental education programs, through which students investigate the ecology, history, and environmental challenges of the Hudson Valley– fostering generations of environmental stewards in local communities.
To date, more than half a million people have experienced their first real look at an estuary’s ecosystem aboard the sloop.
Sixty years ago, the Hudson River was near death from decades of industrial polluters. In 1966, folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, was in despair over the pollution of his beloved Hudson River. After reading the seminal texts, ASilent Springby Rachel Carson (1962) andSloops of the Hudsonby William Verplanck and Moses Collyer (1908), he announced plans to “build a boat to save the river” along with his wife, Toshi, and a dedicated group of fellow musicians and activists. They believed that a replica of the historic sloops that once sailed the Hudson would allow people to experience its beauty and be moved to preserve it.
Through decades of local organizing, Clearwater equipped Hudson River Valley communities with the most important resource to become active stewards of their environment — knowledge.In 2004, the sloop Clearwater was named to the National Register of Historic Places for its groundbreaking role in the environmental movement.
Since its launch in 1969, Clearwater has become a grassroots model for producing positive change – from advocacy education for grassroots groups to award winning, place based environmental programs for local youth, Clearwater empowers Hudson Valley communities to ensure that polluters are held accountable, industrial development curtailed, and laws enshrined to protect our river codified by local, state, and federal officials.
Get acquainted with Clearwater’s influence on landmark environmental legislation below!
In 1969, Clearwater gathered thousands of signatures calling for the clean up and protection of our nation’s waterways, including the foully polluted Hudson River. On April 14, 1970, the Clearwater set sail from New York City, headed for Washington, D.C. to take part in the very first Earth Day celebrations on April 22. Although they were among the last to perform at the Earth Day rally, the following day Pete Seeger and others were scheduled to perform at an event hosted by Congressman William Ryan (D-NY).
Before the public and members of Congress, Seeger sang the introduction to a multimedia performance that included a slideshow contrasting images of the 1850’s Hudson with the polluted river of 1970. Accompanied by music, singing, dance, and acting, the Washington Post called the performance “stunning – and frightening.” Clearwater executive director Michael Micinowski closed by calling for federal standards and funding to clean up the Hudson and America’s other polluted waterways. This event is credited with turning the tide in favor of comprehensive federal regulations which ultimately resulted in the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.
With the passage of the Clean Water Act, Pipewatch volunteers John Cronin and Karin Limburg took on Tuck Tape in Beacon in 1974. They found over twenty dumping violations of liquid adhesive, solvents, latex, sewage, and more into a nearby creek. Their evidence helped Clearwater and the U.S. Attorney prosecute Tuck under the Clean Water and Refuse Acts. Although a Tuck spokesman called them “Boy Scouts with binoculars,” Clearwater and the Pipewatch program won and Tuck paid a fine of over $200,000 – the first successful prosecution under the Clean Water Act in New York State.
When Indian Point nuclear power plant was installed in 1962, atomic power was largely viewed positively by the public. But by the 1970s, Americans were increasingly worried about the long term effects of nuclear power. Clearwater joined in the protests about the effects on fish populations, as well as calls to close the plant for safety reasons. On Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1980, Clearwater released balloons off Indian Point to show how far the wind would carry nuclear fallout in the event of an accident. The most distant postcard returned was from Rhode Island.
This briefing was co-sponsored by Beyond Nuclear, Ecological Options Network, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), Nuclear Resource and Information Service (NIRS), Riverkeeper, Safe Energy Rights Group, Unity for Clean Energy (U4CE), and others.
In the 1970s, Clearwater joined Scenic Hudson and the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in the protracted fight against Consolidated Edison’s Storm King power plant. On April 10, 1974, Con Ed planned to start cutting down trees at Storm King. Clearwater staff Tom Whyatt, John Cronin, and Cheri Warmenhoven joined Toshi Seeger and Robin Whyatt in picketing the action. Clearwater continued to support actions against the Storm King plant. After nearly two decades of legal battles (1963-1981), Consolidated Edison finally canceled the Storm King Mountain power plant and agreed to mitigate fish kills at Indian Point and its other power plants, as well as establish a research fund for the Hudson.
Clearwater offers a variety of Hudson River-based environmental education programs. Our signature program is the “Sailing Classroom” aboard the sloop – providing a uniquely powerful platform for students to learn about the river’s natural and cultural significance. Beyond the vessel, onshore “Tideline” programming along the Hudson River, as well as in-classroom at local schools brings the Hudson River to students throughout the watershed. Clearwater’s interactive education programs provide hands-on learning to engage students and promote “learning by doing.”
For many, these programs are the introduction to the Hudson River and environmental education that can forge a connection with nature to last a lifetime. Please see oureducation programs brochure for more information!
Clearwater’s Youth Empowerment Programs are no-cost three-day adventures on the Hudson for high school age students. These multi-day programs connect youth to the Hudson River as they become immersed in sail training aboard the historic sloop Clearwater and a wide range of academic (STEAM) activities.
Sloop Clearwater is a replica vessel modeled after theDutch vessels that sailed the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries with the third largest mains’l in North America. Those early cargo vessels were specially designed for the variable winds, currents and depths of the Hudson. Sailing from town to town today, the Clearwater models her course after that of the historic Dutch sloops. Their cargoes and crews were the main communication link between riverfront towns and outlying areas which now house one-tenth of this nation’s population.
In 1969, the 106-foot sloop Clearwater was launched at Harvey Gamage shipyard in South Bristol, Maine. On her maiden voyage she sailed to South Street Seaport in New York City, and then ultimately made her home on the Hudson River. Sailing every year since its launch without significant interruption or change of ownership, shows a level of stewardship rarely seen in the tall ship industry. Many other vessels have changed hands, been scrapped, or permanently moored to become restaurants and tourist attractions.
The sloop Clearwater is among the first vessels in the United States to conduct science-based environmental education aboard a sailing ship, creating the template for environmental education programs around the world. Clearwater was the first environmental group to focus on an entire river and its ecosystem, the first wooden sailing ship with a mission to preserve and protect the environment, and the first onboard environmental classroom accessible to children of all ages, races, backgrounds. Today there are several boats and organizations around the world doing environmental work and educating people using Clearwater’s hands-on method of teaching.
South Street Seaport – Schooner Pioneer; Fishing Schooner Lettie G. Howard (NYC)
Sultana Projects – Schooner Sultana (MD)
The Power of Music and the Great Hudson River Revival
Clearwater founders used music to affect change on topics like workers’ rights and labor unions, segregation and Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and environmental protection. Since the maiden voyage, music has always been a powerful way to unite communities with the shared goal of protecting and preserving the Hudson River.
In our unparalleled education programs, music is one of the many components of the content we deliver, inspiring students to come up with their own Hudson River themed song verses. If you have joined us for a sail aboard Clearwater, you’ll remember the special moment of silence, which is then broken by live music, oft sung by our musically inclined crew. This powerful experience brings our attention to what we have accomplished together for the river and the sustained impact of grassroots advocacy in this community.
Beginning with the Hudson Valley Folk Picnic, fundraising concerts became crucial to sustaining Clearwater operations for years to come. The first Picnic took place in a field in Garrison (the current site of the Desmond-Fish Public Library) in October, 1966 for the express purpose of fundraising to build the sloop. The Picnic continued every year through 1977, until it was replaced by Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival (also known as the Clearwater Festival) in 1978.
The much beloved Great Hudson River Revival grew to be one of the country’s oldest and largest annual music and environmental festivals; award-winning for its Zero Waste program, which has been modeled at many festivals around the country. It was the main fundraiser and promotional event of Clearwater’s annual calendar until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and is undergoing a re-envisioning process the organization can confidently sustain into the future.