Carol Collier, AWRA President and Executive Director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, wrote a beautiful post on the AWRA blog. on 3 June 2013. It is pretty compelling and merits reposting below. She asks, 'When did you first find your love of water?' And 'What should AWRA be doing to help are youth find that love of water?'
My first water experience that I recall was with the ocean. I grew up on Long Island just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean and recall scurrying to the safety of high ground as the tide rushed in. Wondering what those strange critters were: jellyfish, sand crabs, clams, hermit crabs, fish.
But I first became enamored of water when I attended a CYO day camp on northern Long Island for several weeks during the summer of 1954. I was all of six years old. A friend (whose name has long since eluded me) and I discovered a small stream in the woods. I immediately became enthralled with damming the stream, diverting it, floating 'stick boats', creating distributaries, populating the reservoirs with frogs, water bugs, and salamanders, and engineering spillways with straws and rubber tubing. And then came the pièce de résistance: instigating a dam-break flood, usually on one of the dammed distributaries, and watching with fascination as the wave propagated downstream. Wondering what happened to the flow as bank storage and channel-bottom infiltration attenuated the wave as it traveled down the channel. Seeing the sediment load drop, forming bars and deltas. I entertained myself and others for hours.
Little did I know that I was establishing the basis for both my vocation and avocation. Surprised I did not become an engineer. A six-year-old WaterWonk!
Those were simpler times. No worries about water rights, endangered species, or allocations, right? Not really - our efforts attracted other nascent engineers and aquatic biologists and soon disputes arose over who was 'hogging all the water' or whose dam had been washed out because someone had sent a massive wave downstream. Some were more conciliatory than others; some, more intransigent. Gee, just like adults!
Now, for Carol's inspiring post:
“Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” - 'The Wind in the Willows', Kenneth Grahame
When did you first find your love of water? It seems that most of us in the water and natural resource fields developed a fondness for the outdoor early in our lives. For me, it was very early and centered around coastal marshes, tidal rivers and bays and boats. I was lucky enough to grow up on the New Jersey shore in an era when it was fine for kids to roam their environs for sun up to sun down without a parent in sight! If I didn't get a case of poison sumac each summer from wandering around the marshes, there was something wrong. I was taken for my first boat ride when I was 7 months old and still happiest when sailing. Luckily I share the love of the water with my husband, who I met when sailing at age 16.
We have two grown sons who are both Eagle Scouts and love the outdoors. We made every effort we could as they were growing up to give them opportunities to explore different environments, but it was difficult given personal safety/security issues in suburban neighborhoods and competition from multiple indoor enticements like video games.
Personally I'm worried about how the priorities of the youth of today will impact our future environment. On the one hand they have greater exposure to environmental teaching in school and are better recyclers than their parents, but will they have that more rounded understanding of the natural world and a deepseated love of the environment, whether it be mountains, rivers or the sea?
If fewer and fewer of our youth gain this love of nature, what will be the future of local and global conservation? Can there be another ground swell of environmental protection as there was in the late '60s- early '70s? Will the environment be a priority?
Every June there is a Delaware River Sojourn which is an eight day trip down the river in canoes and kayaks ( one can do single or multiple days). I love to watch the middle school and high school students who have been brought along by their parents for an "outdoor family adventure". For the most part they don't want to be seen with their parents at that age and think it is a lame vacation compared to a trip to the amusement park. At the beginning of the first day there are many unhappy, bored faces. However, after being set loose in a kayak for a day and finding that they must be in control of their destiny, the mood changes. They want to challenge one of the ACA safety patrol members to a race or learn to do an Eskimo roll. They are enjoying their freedom on the river. Getting their feet wet makes all the difference!
What should AWRA be doing to help are youth find that love of water? It is not an area in which we have been very active in the past. With the combination of members in National, state sections and student chapters, we should be able to come up with some good ideas. If there are suitable actives in your area such as the Sojourn, maybe the AWRA section could offer a competion for a free day on the water. Maybe AWRA National could develop an educational page on the website with information that would be of interest to youth and teachers.
I'd like to hear from you on how you developed your love for water and what you think AWRA should be doing to help our youth. Post your thoughts in the comments section of this blog page. Thanks, in advance, for your participation.
I'd like to hear your experiences and suggestions below as well.
"Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes water, and nobody knows what that is. " - D.H. Lawrence