The Power of the People and the River

By Tom O’Dowd, Sentimental Education Specialist











     Some Young Men at the Helm participants flex some Hudson River muscle!

Well it wasn’t too long ago that I was writing about the beginning of the 2011 season in my first ed blog. How quickly the time blows by!  Eight months and at least 100 education sails later (and thousands of students served), I realize there is a lot to reflect on.

Students eager to respond to a question about mechanical advantage!

How many experiences lay ahead of us when I wrote that first blog in April: more on-land and onboard Indian Point actions, many more bald eagles, GBHs, and hogchokers (some smaller than my thumbnail), seahorses (!!!), a skate, and, of course, a baby sturgeon!

Tom demonstrates how fish breath underwater!

We would go on to have sails about sloops, sails about arts, and sails about pumpkins! We would have birthday sails, graphic novel sails, and Halloween sails! We would have two Youth Empowerment Programs, multi-day programs that gave young men and women the chance to be scientists, sailors, and leaders, and to gain skills that could last a lifetime. We had sails everywhere from NY Harbor to Albany/Rensselear (where we physically cannot go farther north), and a crew-only sail from Manhattan to Connecticut to haul the sloop out and check out the hull. On the way there we passed all the creepy old prison/asylum islands in the East River as well as Riker’s Island with its cruise-ship sized prison-boat.

Awesome volunteers Bob and Anna join Tom and Education Intern Amanda by the Mid Hudson Bridge. Photo by also-awesome volunteer Rachel Lowenthal

But Clearwater is not just for the river. It is also here for the human members of the Clearwater family. And while we aim to educate the students, we must give a shout out to all our volunteers who learned and taught so much along side us this season. We had teachers, artists, scientists, students, athletes, retirees, families, SCA interns, and more! Each week had an incredible new mix of talented people, each adding their own special something to Clearwater. We couldn’t do the program without our volunteers! And it’s also great to see how the tentacles of our education program spread over the land when these volunteers go back home. These folks are translating the Clearwater message to their families, schools, and communities!

Jocelyn gets psyched for seining!

And what impact is Clearwater having? Besides inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders? We’re getting PCBs cleaned up, we’re leading the push to close Indian Point, we’re helping develop our river towns into green cities. And, we’re inspiring people to come down and enjoy their river, our river.

I’m reminded of the lyrics to an old Pete Seeger song:

Come along with me upon this broad ol’ river
Come along with me upon this broad ol’ river
And we will see what we can do
For if we work together in all kinds of weather
There’s no telling what the power of the people and the river can do

Thanks to ALL the folks who made this year possible, and we hope to see you next year.

Tom, Chris, and Carlos as Pumpkin, Lumberjack, and Submarineman




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