The White River Alliance was seeking ways to replace its bigger events while encouraging people to enjoy the river.
“As the pandemic broke early this spring, the Alliance was in the middle of planning for some of our biggest annual events, including the White River Dragon Boat Races and Festival,” White River Alliance Executive Director Jill Hoffmann said. “With so much uncertainty, we just couldn’t be sure that an event of that scale could be held safely. However, we still wanted to encourage people to spend time on the river.
“Free Paddle Days seemed like a way to do that safely. They also help encourage past years’ dragon boat teams to keep their teams paddling in 2020.”
The White River Alliance, a nonprofit for regional water resource protection in Indiana, in cooperation with the White River Canoe Co., 17180 River Rd., Noblesville, will offer six Free Paddle Days. The dates are July 17 and 26 and Aug. 7, 16, 21 and 30. The White River Dragon Boat Race has been postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.
A short meeting with a White River update will be held at 1 p.m. July 17. The first 50 attendees will be eligible for a free single kayak.
Free Paddle Days are about keeping a spotlight on the river and how it can provide so much to the population’s quality of life, Hoffmann said.
“It can be a respite during these challenging times. It connects us all and can therefore provide a sense of community while recharging our spirits,” Hoffmann said. “Ultimately, the river needs the whole community to steward and protect it, so yes, we hope the Paddle Days bring more awareness and support to our work and the programs that are doing just that.”
In partnership with the cities of Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville, Free Paddle Days offered Aug. 7 and Aug. 21 will serve as a replacement for the annual Hamilton County White River Clean-Up. The first 85 single kayak and/or canoe rentals are free and departures are available from 9 a.m. to noon on the hour. Participants are asked to clean up any small trash or debris encountered during the paddle. Boats with the biggest trash haul will be awarded a Visa gift card.
“We hope that the combined effort will give people an opportunity to safely participate in the clean-up this year by providing the appropriate conditions for the sort of social distancing that might have otherwise been a challenge at a single large event,” she said. “Multiple days help space out the clean-up efforts across a larger stretch of the river, and they allow room for both corporate service opportunities and general public participation by having weekend and weekday paddles.”
For more, visit thewhiteriveralliance.org/programs/white-river-paddle-days and whiterivercanoe.com.