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River Enthusiasts to Launch Year-long Focus on Russian River

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River Enthusiasts to Launch Year-long Focus on Russian River

By James Gore, Sonoma County Supervisor

On Wednesday, August 24, a diverse group of stakeholders will join me in launching their boats to kick off a year-long effort to create a new vision for improving the health of Russian River watershed. We will paddle along this “Headwaters to Ocean Descent” through the winding path of the Russian River in both Sonoma and Mendocino counties. I am fired up that Sonoma County based LandPaths and Russian Riverkeeper have joined me as outfitters extraordinaire, setting up the logistics for this trek that will include representatives from local, regional and tribal governments, as well as farmers, conservationists, scientists, water managers, and others passionate about the river.  Designed to break through historic differences and preconceptions, this journey will seek to build new types of camaraderie and “can do” amongst participants and build momentum towards a summit we are arranging for the Summer of 2017 called “The Russian River Confluence.” 

We will begin with a press event to kick-off the effort will take place at 8:00 a.m., August 24, near the natural headwaters of the River at the Ridgewood Ranch on the Willits Grade.  I’m excited to be joined that morning by Mendocino County Supervisor Carre Brown, Ukiah City Councilman Kevin Doble, representatives from both the Coyote Valley and Kashia Tribes, Resource Conservation Districts, Farm Bureau reps from both Counties, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others.  After the kickoff, a group of 18 of us will launch our boats into the river at the base of Lake Mendocino.  

The goal:  We are embarking on a journey together to explore and celebrate the Russian River. This dynamic group of people all share a desire to support the Russian River watershed.  And while we don’t agree on every issue in the present, we will all be paddling in the same direction to ensure a healthy future for the watershed.  Symbolically and practically, we want to direct the community’s energy and attention to the Russian River, the critical role it plays in our lives, and redefine how we collectively invest in the health of our watershed.

Craig Anderson, executive director of LandPaths, which has been coordinating multi-day, non-motorized trips since 2009, has recently wrote about the effort “This is an expedition that will test both sinew and resolve, demanding that we be better at working across differences in order to help this region work towards increased health for both land and people,” We will gather stories and be sharing them with people as we head down the river.  The purpose of this journey is incredibly important – and its time has come.”

The overall Descent is comprised of three distinct, yet connected, multi-day paddle explorations of the Russian River on the following dates:

August 24 – 27 Lake Mendocino to Cloverdale

Sept 7 – 9 Cloverdale to Forestville

October 7 - 9  Forestville to Pacific Ocean at Jenner (Public Float)

As part of the Confluence, LandPaths, Russian Riverkeeper, the Sonoma and Goldridge Resource Conservation Districts, Sonoma County Regional Parks, and other organizations and will be holding several “tributary” events focused on increasing awareness and encouraging community dialogue about the Russian River watershed.  Information about all events can be found at www.russianriverconfluence.org. 

 Of special note, on September 17th, the Russian River Watershed Cleanup will take place.  From Ukiah to Jenner, hundreds of volunteers will be cleaning up the trash in and around the river.  Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to register at  www.russianrivercleanup.org.

The culmination of the Descent and Tributary events will be the Russian River Confluence – a summit focused on development of a multi-generational plan to regenerate and revitalize the river. The Confluence event will be held in 2017. Details will be available at www.russianriverconfluence.org.

Like many Sonoma County residents, I grew up swimming, fishing, and playing in the Russian River.  I am inspired to work with you all to take all of our varied actions and efforts and create a Collective Impact plan to restore and regenerate the watershed and river we depend upon for life, economy, and recreation.  We hope to get hundreds of people out onto the river with us, especially during the October segment, to create a veritable ‘Splash Mob.’  I hope to see farmers, enviros, politicos, community activists and agitators…but most important…everyday Sonoma County residents join in on this important, and fun, work.