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ACA wants kids to paddle river
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In an ongoing effort to connect with area paddlers, the American Canoe Association is planning a big day on the river June 1. Its second Celebrate the Rappahannock "Paddle Green” event will be held at Riverfront Park in Fredericksburg, at the junction of Sophia and Wolfe streets. And this year it will co-sponsor the Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe Race at Old Mill Park.While the overall focus is connecting with the community, ACA stewardship coordinator Greg Rolf says the organization is trying to reach out to youth with the message that enjoying the river and protecting it and areas downstream go hand in hand."If you get them to start paddling while they’re young, you create a relationship with a waterway that will continue to evolve,” he said.

Celebrate the Rappahannock began as part of a pilot Paddle Green effort last year—a community development initiative promoting recreation and good on-water stewardship.This year, it runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, at Riverfront Park. Among the activities: on-water canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle board instruction; races for all age groups; riverside cleanups; and a film festival. Rolf said stemming the flow of marine debris—particularly plastic—is a component of Paddle Green events this year, known as the Stream to Sea Initiative. Microscopic particles shed by plastic bags and soda bottles are ingested by insects, fish and other organisms, working their way up the food chain. Fredericksburg, Lake George, N.Y., Portland, Maine, and Bend, Ore., are hosting Paddle Green activities this year. Black River, Ohio, held one earlier this month.The program is "especially for first-time paddlers, to get them to realize that drain and [stormwater] runoff goes into the river,” Rolf said.The Virginia Outdoor Center and ACA are co-sponsoring the Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe Race at Old Mill Park. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Races run through the day; the canoe-poling national championship and Paddle for a Cause fundraiser are among the events.

Founded in 1880, the ACA moved its national headquarters to Fredericksburg in 2008. It is located at 108 Hanover St., up the hill from the Rappahannock.There are more than 4,500 ACA-certified canoe, kayak, rafting, safety and rescue, and stand-up paddleboard instructors in the United States.Along with its paddling and cleanup programs, the organization has worked with local businesses to help get the word out about what it does.Rolf, who joined ACA in January, said he’d like to see it have more of a presence here, "and to keep those relationships continuing.”

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431

rdennen@freelancestar.com

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