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ACA Instructor Earns River Heroes Award for Inspiring Stewardship Work in Illinois

The following guest blog post was written by ACA Coastal Kayaking Instructor, Michael Taylor (a.k.a. Captain Mike), about his June 7th clean-up on the Little Calumet River in Chicago, IL. Mike is President of the Calumet Waterway Stewards, an organization supported by the Illinois Water TrailKeepers and the ACA. On June 2nd, 2014, Mike received a prestigious River Heroes Award at the River Rally Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. He recently published a book, City Paddler, which is available on


n the north side of the river bank I spotted something unusual; I didn't know what it was, but I knew it did not belong there. It looked like a plastic

barrel of some sort and it was buried deep. I jumped out of my kayak to wrestle the unnamed object out of the mud. I soon realized it was not a barrel, but a base for a basketball hoop. In fact, it wasn't just a base, but the entire hoop. I've cleaned out my fair share of marine debris, but this was my first basketball hoop. The weather was perfect and the current was slow this past Saturday. It made

for a perfect day of paddling and an even better day for a river clean-up. This year we split our annual clean-up into two groups to cover the entire seven miles of the targeted parts of the water trail. There was more junk in the river than we could accommodate in our boats.

Two shopping carts, lodged deep in the mud, were irretrievable despite our best efforts digging with shovels. We recorded their GPS location so we could return better equipped to pull out the carts—they would not stay in the river. The event was an introduction to the river as much as it was a river clean-up.

Most of the participants had never paddled this river before, so it was exciting to open their eyes to a nice slow moving river, the ideal environment for beginner paddlers. On this particular day, we were fortunate enough to see turtles, herons and other unique birds and wildlife that populate the waterway. It is my hope that the more people we can get on the water, the more they will appreciate and try to protect the Little Calumet River from pollution and other threats. This year, one of my goals was to increase local community involvement in

the clean-up. However, most of the participants still came from out of town. Out of about 70 participants, only about 20 percent were from the local area. Tom Eckles joined us from Northwest Lake County, and Erik Sprenne came from Indiana. My challenge for next year will be to better engage the African American communities on the south side of Chicago and in the southern suburbs in this community-focused clean-up effort. These folks all share a stake in the success and use of this river that flows through their communities. I plan to begin my outreach now in order to increase local participation next

year. I'm working hard to garner the support of local goverment, churches and other organizations to get the word out. Next year's clean-up will again be held on the first Saturday in June. Mark your calendars!

The ACA admires Mike for his work as a devoted river steward and recently certified ACA Instructor. On June 10, Mike received a letter from Illinois Congresswoman Robin L. Kelly. She congratulated him on the publication of his ebook and recent ACA certification, saying, "As one of the very few African Americans with such a certification, you offer a positive role model for minority youth who are interested in environmental causes, careers or pursuits." We couldn't agree more. Congratulations Captain Mike. We're proud to call you a member of the ACA instructor family.

ACA Members Receive Prestigious Higgins and Langley Swiftwater Rescue Awards

The Higgins and Langley Memorial and Education Fund announced the 2014 Higgins and Langley Awards, which honor outstanding achievement in the technical rescue discipline of swiftwater and flood rescue. Awards go to swiftwater and flood rescue experts worldwide in several significant categories, including the Outstanding Achievement Award, Program Development Award, Special Commendation Award and Swiftwater Rescue Incident Award. ACA Level 5 Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor

Trainer Educators, Robin Pope and Sam Fowlkes, both received Special Commendation Awards, recognizing their extraordinary efforts in organizing and hosting the first ACA Swiftwater Rescue Conference in October 2013. The intensive, three-day, on-river training featured a series of workshops presented by some of the most respected names in swiftwater rescue, including Slim Ray, Les Bechdel, Charlie Walbridge, Aaron Peeler, Mike Mather, Walter Felton, Virgil Chambers, Pam Dillon and Jim Coffey. Participants included more than 100 recreational paddlers, certified paddlesport instructors and emergency responders from 22 states and three foreign countries.


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