"Eco-Cruise" Finally Success!

11 Aug
August 11, 2008

For several years now the Blackwater Nottoway Riverkeeper Program (BNRP) has promoted a program we call Eco-Cruise.

Eco-Cruise is a floating classroom tour of the rivers aboard the BNRP pontoon boat. The cruise is made available free of charge to groups and organizations that have environmental committees, do community clean-ups, beautification projects or in other words help our environment in some form or fashion as a group. Unfortunately in the past the Eco-Cruise program enjoyed only moderate success, which stunned me. Other Riverkeeper Programs throughout the country stay booked all summer and they charge $20 a head! Well I’m happy to report that this year marks a big turn-around for our Eco-Cruise program. I have already taken fifteen groups out this year, which is twice what has been done in previous years. Some groups enjoying the tours this year are the PDCCC Kids College, Village at Woods Edge, Isle of Wight Museum Summer Camp, Boy Scouts, Drewryville Woman’s Club and 4-H Jr. Master Gardeners to name a few. Groups are taken for a tour that last approximately a couple of hours. Usually the wildlife cooperates and they get to see several species of wetland critters. Some critters like the snakes are very popular with the kids, but usually are the least favorite of the elder crowds. We usually see lots of waterfowl, turtles and such and get to see some crazy things every now and then like a groundhog we saw swimming the river on one trip. You just never really know what you’re going to see. Of course part of the trip is devoted to teaching the groups about the problems the river faces. I must say that kids today are pretty darn smart about water quality issues. For instance when we see the cows in the river at the Pretlow Farm they know that is a bad thing. It is always interesting to hear them describe why cows in the river are bad. You never know what will come out of them when they articulate what comes out of the cows. I usually get ask why the farmer does not keep them out of the river. This gives me the chance to explain that there are programs available to farmers to help them pay for fencing and alterative water sources like a well. I also explain though that it is a voluntary thing for the farmer to do what is good for the river. Typically that is enough information for them to chew on about that subject. But every once in awhile I get that one really persistent child that will still want to know why then are the cows still in the river to which my answer is “ I don’t Know”. Of course they know that littering is bad and I usually will get someone on board to scoop up a bottle or two. With the older groups I also like to add a historical dimension to the cruise. There is quite a bit of fascinating history connected to both our rivers. Yes the Eco-Cruise is a floating classroom of biology, history and science all rolled together. It is my hope that some of the children I take out will grow up to become advocates of these rivers and work to make them cleaner and safer to fish and swim in. I am glad the people of this area are taking an interest in learning about these two great rivers in their back yards. The two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

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