By Murray Lantner
On Saturday morning June 30th, 20 EPAers, friends and family, including the Regional Administrator, set out for a guided canoe trip down the Bronx River. The 8 mile trip was organized by EPA’s Emerging Leaders Network, but the heavy lifting was done by the Bronx River Alliance, who provided the canoes, guides, shuttle, gear, and lots of history as well as current milestones in the restoration of the Bronx River.
The trip began on the river in the northern Bronx at E. 219th St., there we were introduced to our two (superhero like) guides, Damian Griffin the Education Director and Josue Garcia a Recreation Specialist from the Bronx River Alliance.
After receiving some brief canoe instructions and river history, we were on our way through a forested section of the river, we saw a black crowned night heron, egrets, and more. It was pretty easy to forget that we were in an urban watershed. We then paddled through the New York Botanical Garden’s Old Growth Forest section and then portaged around a dam, that was used for powering a snuff mill, and around the Bronx River Gorge, a swift, steep portion of the river
On through the Bronx Zoo where we heard the sounds of peacocks, and saw turtle basking traps that were part of an ongoing research project on the river. After our third and last portage around the dam at River Park at E. 180th Street (the site of a proposed fish ladder), we gained Linda Cox, Executive Director of the Bronx River Alliance, another bundle of vision and energy. We then entered the lower, tidal section of the river, that started with a swift moving and shallow, rapids section, it was an exciting run and one of our canoes actually tipped. It was in this stretch that we saw large Combined Sewer Overlfow points, that fortunately, due to dry weather conditions during the trip, were not active. We then paddled or were pushed (by our guides) over a tidal weir, and then a large NYCDEP floatables boom that is designed to capture CSO and other floatables –it seemed to be doing its job – it was filled with floatables.
We also floated underneath bridges that will be part of a bike/walking path along the Bronx River as well as a series of new parks such as Concrete Plant Park. We ended the trip at Hunts Point Riverside Park, where another non-profit group was taking people out on the Bronx River in row boats. It was a fantastic trip and we are planning on doing it again next year.
About the Author: Murray Lantner is an Environmental Engineer in EPA’s Water Compliance Branch who conducts enforcement of wastewater and stormwater permits under the Clean Water Act at EPA’s Manhattan office. Murray has worked for EPA for 20 years, and started in EPA’s Chicago Office. Murray enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and paddling. Murray holds a B.S in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and a Masters in Conservation Biology from Columbia University.