Presented annually to an individual or a group that has made an outstanding contribution to paddlesport by protecting America's waterways.
2014 - TBA
2013 - Tom Eckels
Tom is the Program Manager for the Illinois Water TrailKeepers (IL WTK)
Program, which is jointly sponsored by Openlands and the Illinois Paddling
Council. The program recruits and trains canoeists & kayakers to
"adopt" a waterway for the purpose of cleaning it up (trash removal)
and to report conditions to appropriate authorities regarding hazards to
humans, log jams, portages, dump sites, & pollution sources. This
information is also made available to the greater paddlesports
community. As a coordinator of volunteers, Tom is also a volunteer. His
efforts to build the IL WTK program have involved countless miles and hours,
all of which he performs without any compensation, and with no expectation of
reward or recognition. Tom is driven by his love for paddling and strong desire
to protect the integrity of our waterways. Tom took over management of the
IL WTK project about five years ago, and due to his efforts, the WTK program has
expanded tremendously. At the beginning of his tenure, the program was active
in only 4 rivers, in 3 counties around Chicago. Under Tom’s leadership, it has
grown to include volunteers across Stephenson, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Lake,
Cook, DuPage, Kane, DeKalb, Will, Sangamon, and Christian counties, including
water trails on the Sugar, Kishwaukee, Kishwaukee South Branch, Fox, Des
Plaines, Chicago (North Branch), DuPage (East and West branches), Little
Calumet, Salt Creek, and Sangamon Rivers, covering well over 250 miles of
rivers. While the largest numbers of volunteers and adopted water trails are
still located around the Chicago area, the program now has several volunteers
in rural areas, as far south as Springfield, the state capitol. Beyond that,
multiple partnerships have been created through his leadership efforts, with
retailers, liveries, governments at the village, city, and county levels, as
well as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park
2012 - Durbin Creek Wilderness Society
This project began May 1st, 2011 when Eric Bersinger and Josh Woods went for a paddle on Durbin Creek and made the decision to "re-open" the "Historic Bartram Canoe Trail" of log-jams, fallen trees and get rid of illegally dumped materials around the Bartram Canoe Trail Park and launch area ...........in January 2012, we brought on our 3rd member, Chris Naff, a St. Johns County Firefighter and "Master of the Chainsaw" to round out our "Power Trio"...this is a story of 3 citizens making a difference...We are the Waterway Stewards of Durbin Creek......"The Durbin Creek Wilderness Society"....we create paddling trails...
2011 - Kentucky Waterways Alliance
Since 1993, Kentucky Waterways Alliance has been a leader in the fight against pollution in our waterways – winning stronger protections for over 90 percent of Kentucky's rivers, lakes and streams. We work with communities on local watershed issues at the state and national levels advocating for the best regulations possible. With a mission to protect and restore Kentucky's waterways, our work is making a difference in the quality of life for all Kentuckians one protected stream at a time.
2010 - George Wolfe & the L.A. River Expeditions
L.A. River Expeditions is committed to being a leading force in the creation of a revitalized Los Angeles River — not 25-to-50 years in the future, but starting NOW! We are Angelenos who believe that boats such as canoes and kayaks are a positive and natural part of any river, and we understand the common-sense proposition that public river access is the central component to any successful river revitalization plan. We, as public citizens, want to renew our connectedness to and responsibility for our local waterway, the Los Angeles River — the historic heart and soul of the city.
2009 - Elmer Eddy & the Stewards of the White Oak River Basin
The Waterway Stewards are dedicated to bringing Waterways to a trash-free condition and keeping them there. This includes tremendous efforts by volunteers to pick up tons of trash. However, picking up trash alone is not enough. We must go to the source of the trash. People, of course, are the source. We try to increase awareness of littering, involve citizens in clean-up, and educate our young people. Our message is simple, if nobody litters, there won't be trash to pick up. Please do your part!
2008 - Black Warrior Riverkeepers
Black Warrior Riverkeeper's mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. We are a citizen-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving water quality, habitat, recreation, and public health throughout our patrol area, the Black Warrior River watershed. This vital river basin is entirely contained within Alabama, America's #1 state for freshwater biodiversity. Patrolling waterways, educating the public, and holding polluters accountable has made us an important proponent of clean water throughout the basin. Our staff identifies pollution problems and works on fixing them while increasing public awareness. Black Warrior Riverkeeper is a proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance.
2007 - Friends of the Rappahannock
Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) was formed in 1985 as a non-profit, grassroots conservation organization. We are citizens from all walks of life, whose common goal is to maintain the water quality and scenic beauty of the Rappahannock River and its tributaries. We work with a wide variety of stakeholders, from local governments to elementary students, to educate about the river and to advocate for actions and policies that will protect and restore the values that make the Rappahannock River so special. We promote environmentally responsible planning through active participation in the civic process. Our professional staff provide technical support to local governments, developers, and teachers in areas of special expertise, including Low Impact Development codes and ordinances, Watershed Planning, Water Quality Monitoring, Invasive Species Control, and Streambank Restoration. We believe that community education is an essential tool for promoting environmental awareness and protection. As a result, we lead a variety of public education programs which focus on understanding and protecting the river's unique natural, scenic and historic resources.
2007 - Tennessee Clean Water Network
TCWN empowers Tennesseans to exercise their right to clean water and healthy communities by fostering civic engagement, building partnerships and advancing and when necessary, enforcing water policy for a sustainable future. Our Goals…Strong policies and programs that result in more effective protection of Tennessee waters. Increased rate of compliance with contemporary clean water policies. Meaningful and engaged public participation in the protection of our state's waters. Water is the common thread that ties all life together. Maintaining clean water protects the health of our families and provides numerous recreational opportunities while sustaining plants, animals, and aquatic life. Tennessee's waters are among our most precious natural resources. Since these resources continue to be polluted by toxins and other pollutants from some industry, sewage plants, runoff, potential threats from outside TN watersheds and other sources, critical aquatic ecosystems will continue to be lost or degraded, and the health of our residents and our ecosystems remain threatened. TCWN will work to protect the water resources of Tennessee.
2006 - Steve Harris
Steve Harris of Pilar, NM, has been a student of the history and natural history of Southwestern Rivers since 1975. He is president of a river outfitting business, Far-Flung Adventures, and executive director of the basin-wide streamflow advocacy group, Rio Grande Restoration. A single father of three, Steve speaks and writes on water policy, ecological restoration, river and flood rescue/mitigation, eco-adventure travel, and other river issues. He has served on a number of public water resource programs, including the New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission and the Middle Rio Grande ESA Collaborative Program's Water Acquisition and Management subcommittee.
2005 - The Bayou Preservation Association
The Bayou Preservation Association is a citizens' group whose mission is to "protect and restore the richness and diversity of our waterways". BPA facilitates collaborative projects and public awareness about the region's streams and bayous in order to foster watershed management, conservation, and recreation along Houston's defining natural resource. Houston calls itself the Bayou City. With over 2,500 miles of waterways, protecting and transforming the bayous into "beautiful ribbons of green" makes good sense. If properly managed, they can provide recreational opportunities close to neighborhoods, scenic views to offset the stress of city living, and reduce flooding by maintaining the water-absorbing qualities of the floodplain. Since the 1950s many of the natural streams of Harris County have been converted into single-purpose storm sewers. Many streams were "channelized" (sides dug out and uniformly sloped) and lined with concrete to increase the flow of water through them. Trees and habitats were destroyed to "improve" our naturally occurring drainage systems. Concrete bayous were constructed with no concern for aesthetics. Unfortunately, this is the image of a bayou that many Houstonians have. BPA advocates a "watershed management" approach to flood control, which controls flooding by managing the amount of water leaving a watershed and also balances the needs for storage, conveyance, habitat, recreation and aesthetics.From tree plantings to town meetings to policy review, BPA is working to effect responsible management of our bayous and put nature back into our stream corridors.
2004 - Northern Forest Canoe Trail
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a 740 mile inland paddling trail tracing historic travel routes across New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. NFCT connects people to the Trail's natural environment, human heritage, and contemporary communities by stewarding, promoting, and providing access to canoe and kayak experiences along this route. NFCT is internationally regarded as the preeminent water trail organization in North America, serving an international market of paddlers and recognized as a model for water trail development and management. NFCT provides trail access, meaningful trail experiences, trail mapping, trail construction and stewardship, but in addition, it differentiates itself by the depth of programs and involvement within the communities such as rural tourism development, and youth paddling programming.
2003 - Wolfe River Conservancy
The Wolf River Conservancy (WRC) was founded in 1985 when a group of volunteers came together to successfully oppose a new gravel mine along the Wolf River near Summer Avenue in Memphis. Afterwards, these volunteers chartered the Wolf River Conservancy as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement Wolf River lands for muscle-powered recreation and education. The founding members had a vision of the Wolf River as a future greenway and wildlife corridor through the city, protected from the kind of degradation suffered by waterways such as Nonconnah Creek in south Memphis. The Wolf River Conservancy is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the Wolf River corridor and watershed as a sustainable natural resource. What we are doing: Protecting habitat within the Wolf River watershed. Spearheading the Wolf River Greenway project along the urban Wolf. Connecting people of all ages to the Wolf River through education. Providing outstanding recreational opportunities for our community.
2002 - Saco River Task Force
2001 - Water Keeper Alliance
Today, water resources are declining in quality and quantity in virtually every part of the world: More than a billion people are living without access to safe drinking water; California faces the most serious water emergency in its history; Australia is in the midst of an epic, 12-year-long drought-the first industrialized nation to deal with water scarcity on this scale. Waterkeeper Alliance provides a way for communities to stand up for their right to clean water and for the wise and equitable use of water resources, both locally and globally. The vision of the Waterkeeper movement is for fishable, swimmable and drinkable waterways worldwide. Our belief is that the best way to achieve this vision is through the Waterkeeper method of grassroots advocacy. Waterkeeper Alliance aspires to protect every major watershed around the world. We also continue to reach out and collaborate with other leading national and international environmental and public health organizations to serve the needs of our global network. The growth of the Waterkeeper movement is a testament to the strength of our model. From the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon to the Ganges, Waterkeeper Alliance has become a powerful voice for the world's waters.
2001 - Robert Kennedy, Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. Mr. Kennedy was named one of Time magazine's "Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The group's achievement helped spawn over 190 Waterkeeper organizations across the globe. He has worked on environmental issues across the Americas and has assisted several indigenous tribes in Latin America and Canada in successfully negotiating treaties protecting traditional homelands. He is credited with leading the fight to protect New York City's water supply. The New York City watershed agreement, which he negotiated on behalf of environmentalists and New York City watershed consumers, is regarded as an international model in stakeholder consensus negotiations and sustainable development.
2000 - National Park Service
Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, we are proud to safeguard these nearly 400 places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year. But our work doesn't stop there. We are proud that tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individual citizens ask for our help in revitalizing their communities, preserving local history, celebrating local heritage, and creating close to home opportunities for kids and families to get outside, be active, and have fun. Taking care of the national parks and helping Americans take care of their communities is a job we love, and we need - and welcome - your help and support.
1999 - Jim May
1998 - Provo Canyon Coalition
1997 - Rich Bowers
Mr. Rich Bowers is the Northwest Coordinator for the Hydropower Reform Coalition. Originally founded in 1992 as a loose association of conservation and recreation groups, the Hydropower Reform Coalition has grown into a broad consortium of more than 150 national, regional, and local organizations with a combined membership of over one million people. We represent stakeholders from canoeists to conservationists to lake homeowners. Together, our efforts have protected or restored thousands of river miles, thousands of acres of watershed land, and countless opportunities for boating, fishing, and other forms of recreation. All of our members can - at no cost - draw on this vast reservoir of collective knowledge and experience to improve conditions on dammed rivers in their own backyards.
1996 - Bill Spitzer
Bill grew up in Florida and served in the U.S. Navy in the early 1960s (both of his children were born in the Philippines). Bill was one of the first staff hired by the new Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, created in 1965. He was one of the authors of the first Nationwide Outdoor Recreation Plan and a prime strategist for urban national parks. In 1988 he was instrumental in establishing the NPS's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, and was also a key player in strengthening the NPS National Trails System program. Bill was the principal inspiration in 1990 for Trails for All Americans, which laid out the vision of a trail within 15 minutes of every American home. Typically, the report was a joint Federal/state/local/private effort. Bill's signature was collaboration and collegiality. Bill was also a key player in strengthening the whole National Trails System, building base budgets for most of the 17 established national scenic and historic trails. Bill was a unique blend of visionary and pragmatist. He believed in partnerships and grass-roots advocacy but scorned half-baked ideas that he sensed would never fly. His first rule was "only get involved with programs and projects that have strong public support."