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Expedition Day 1: Paddle, Listen, Learn

2010 August 31

By Robert Courtnage

ELN Members with kayaks

ELN Members with kayaks

A 4:30 AM wake-up is rough. But on the first day of our 4-day Chesapeake Bay Expedition, it didn’t feel so bad as the excitement had me extra motivated to be up and ready to go. Eighteen dedicated EPA Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) athletes trained for months to physically prepare, while ELN volunteers and Georgetown University Outdoor Education guides spent months planning logistics and outreach activities. As we stood on the dock in Ft. Washington, MD getting ready for the first leg of the journey, the calm water and sunrise rendered the scene breathtaking. An osprey let out its distinctive call and drifted overhead as folks readied their kayaks.

As a volunteer for our 4-Day Expedition, I helped setup listening sessions with local Bay experts and the public, and keep our athletes safe, well fed, and in good spirits. Judy Lathrop with Atlantic Kayaks led and educated the Team down a beautiful stretch of the Potomac, just south of Colonial Farm, MD. After helping to fix a flat tire on the kayak trailer, I shuttled the athletes back to our campsite to hear from members of the Accokeek Foundation, Mattawoman Watershed Society, and the public.

I always try to buy organic, locally grown foods, so I was really excited for the first part of the listening session which featured a tour of Accokeek’s Ecosystem Farm. The team learned about community-supported-agriculture operations and its benefits to our health, the environment, and the community.

ELN members listening to presentation

ELN members listening to presentation

Next we listened to a presentation by Jim Long, President of the Mattawoman Watershed Society, and his passion for the Mattawoman Creek, a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. Our session was open to the public and we were joined by a young family concerned about the role of government in protecting the Bay. I gained a lot from this form of public engagement as it’s a great way for the Agency to actively connect with people knowledgeable about the problems facing their community.

It felt great to be a part of the Expedition and its three purposes: the outdoor athletic challenge, fellowship among EPA employees, and a unique opportunity for our emerging leaders to meet with folks challenged with environmental issues at the local level.

About the author: Robert Courtnage works for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention on toxics issues including asbestos management in buildings and the phase-out of mercury in products. Robert loves fly-fishing and helping to increase awareness about the need to improve the declined health of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that feed it.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    September 5, 2010

    It sounds like a great start to a great project and, hopefully, more of such to come. I was especially interested in the organic farm and environmentally friendly agriculture. We have had a major national problem over the spring and summer with eggs infected by infection causing organisms coming primarily from two egg farms that ship nationwide; then, it came out during the summer about healthy livestock being fed antibiotics in their food, that we then eat the antibiotic, that the animals get antibiotic resistant infections that can and do cross over to people and remain antibiotic resistant; and during this spring, one major chemical company wanted to put on the market chemically genetically engineered alfalfa seeds. Organic, ecofreindly farming is very important and everything that can be done to encourage it should be done. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  2. Jerry Morgan permalink
    September 7, 2010

    I love these kind of events. And it is probable the challenge of doing the event that makes the learning fun.

  3. Robert Courtnage permalink
    September 8, 2010

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for your message. Community supported agriculture (CSA) and organic operations (especially smaller scale ones) definitely have multiple benefits. Their environmental benefits are enough in themselves but they also tie folks back to the land and their local community. Wendell Barry, a writer, a professor and a Kentucky farmer, speaks in his writings about the importance of agriculture to community. The industrialization of agriculture has not only had its associated environmental detriments, but it has had a toll on our sense of community as well. Becoming a member of a CSA or buying locally grown produce at a farmers market not only helps reduce the agricultural impact on the environment, but it also espouses a greater sense of place and community.

  4. Robert Courtnage permalink
    September 8, 2010

    It was a blast! I am already nostalgic about that weekend.

  5. Tom permalink
    November 21, 2011

    I completely agree with you that public engagement is a great way to connect with the people knowledgeable about the problems facing their community. It always feels great to be a part of public event. In your case it’s an expedition where you were able to meet interesting people and communicate with them. I also like such events. Of course, it’s very difficult for me wake-up so early, but it’s worth it. You did a good job. Good luck to your following expeditions.

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