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Lorain held Kayak-a-thon to showcase Black River restoration efforts
Latinos tell other local Latinos: Give water sports a try

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent

Kayakers and canoeists took to the Black River for a unique competition in Lorain. The city held a Kayak-a-thon to promote the local natural resources and water recreational opportunities, and showcase the restoration efforts underway on the Black River.

Terry Fries-Maloy of Sheffield Village and Carol Steiner of Cleveland Heights

Organizers said roughly 47 people pre-registered but just a little over 80 boats participated in the race or casual float tour of the Black River, while dozens of people lined up to watch, July 3, 2011. They plan to make it an annual event.

Darby Walsh, 37, had his wife and children ages 7, 5, 3 and 1 as his cheering team while he raced in a kayak. After the race, his daughter Abi, 7, excitedly climbed into her dad’s kayak that now rested on the grass, and called her dad “the best kayaker and the best dad in the world.” Watching her in the kayak he responded “this is a future kayaker,” he laughed. Abi said she wants to kayak but first needs to learn how to swim. Walsh has been race kayaking for 5 years. “It was a good race. It was nice to get out on the river. I'm usually on the Lake (Erie),” he said.

Participants put in on the French Creek off of Old Colorado Avenue in Sheffield and headed toward the mouth of the Black River. They would then either finish their trip at the Black River Wharf boat launch off 14th Street in Lorain (a 3.9-mile trip) or end at the Lakeside Landing boat launch near Black River Landing finish line (a 5.7-mile trip).

Lorain Utilities Director Corey Timko said the city received seven federal and state grants totaling $12 million since 2004 to work on seven separate projects on the Black River.

One of the grants from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) included a public outreach component, and that is how the idea for a kayak-a-thon was first born, Timko said. The city hired Coldwater Consulting, and it is doing roughly $8 million worth of restorative work on the Black River.

“These grants have been provided to Lorain; they saw that Lorain cares about the environment,” Timko said.

The restoration has work that will benefit the entire ecosystem, and has consisted of removing slag from the flood plain and replanting trees. Adorning along the river is the steel mill and a blue heron rookery, and bald eagles and hawks can be spotted. While kayakers and canoeists were preparing to head down to put in on French Creek, a group of deer were spotted nearby.

Ranger Brian Holmes, park manager at the Black River Reservation, said a floating dock that is handicap-accessible will be placed at the French Creek put-in in two weeks.

Kristen Risch, from Coldwater Consulting, said she was happy with the turnout. And regarding the restoration efforts, “We’re just getting started,” she said with a wide smile.

Terry Fries-Maloy of Sheffield Village and Carol Steiner of Cleveland Heights have been kayaking for 6 and 10 years, and they entered the casual float.

They said they enjoyed what the river had to offer including the rookery, and said they found the river to be “nicely cleaned up.”

Matt Nahorn, from Amherst, entered the race with a kayak. Nahorn said he has been kayaking for a few years but would be kayaking on this southern part of the Black River for the first time.

“I’m excited,” Nahorn said before the race, “Hopefully, I can keep up with the more experienced kayakers,” he said.

Sisters Catie and Elizabeth Stipe of Lorain have been kayaking for 6 years but recreationally not competitively, and have paddled toward the gem of Lorain, the Lighthouse on Lake Erie. Instead of the race, they opted to enter their kayaks for the casual float which immediately followed the race, allowing participants to leisurely paddle the river and check out the restoration.

They said they enjoyed the float because it was not too windy.

Although Lorain is the city with the highest concentration of Latinos in Ohio, making up roughly 23.3 percent of the total population, few Latinos took part in the races. One Latino believes that local lack of interest needs to change.

Angel Cardona, a kayak-a-thon participant, said “I might be the only Latino here,” he laughed, and agreed local Latinos should give these water sports a try.

Matt Nahorn of Amherst

Liz Clingman, 61, and Coleen Roy, 53, of Brookpark, entered the race with a canoe. Even though they have both canoed for roughly 17 years, it was the first race they would enter, and their first time paddling the Black River. “I see only three or so canoes entering the race, so that gives us great odds, we are going to place,” Roy laughed. The pair made 4th place in the canoe competition with 72 minutes and 17 seconds.

The winners of the Adult Kayak and Canoe races took home a variety of prizes from T-shirts, to gift certificates, and there were 32 competitors. No one entered the Junior Kayak race this year.

For the Adult Kayak Race the winners included:

First place was Joe White, of Sheffield Lake, with 39 minutes and 22 seconds; second place was Ed Leszek, of Euclid, with 40 minutes and 42 seconds; third place was Allan Thomas, of Vermilion, with 42 minutes and 25 seconds; fourth place was John Hostler, of Findlay, with 46 minutes and 10 seconds; and in fifth place was Elliott Obbey, of Amherst, with 47 minutes and 51 seconds.

For the Canoe Race the winners included:

First place was Jim Parker and Vickie James with 53 minutes; second place was John Rogers and Karyl Kniepper of Lorain with 62 minutes and 42 seconds; third place was Chris Nichols of Sheffield Village and Matt Hallen of Vermilion with 72 minutes and 9 seconds; and fourth place was Liz Clingman and Coleen Roy of Brookpark with 72 minutes and 17 seconds.

Joe White, 27, received a life jacket and paddles for winning the kayak race. He has been kayaking for seven years and has trained in Lorain. “It feels good,” he said after winning the race “It was a good competitive race,” he said. His family, which stood by, came in to congratulate him. His advice for other kayakers: “Don’t quit. Always push through to win the race.”

For more information, visit the Lower Black River Restoration web site at http://lorainblackriver.com The Lorain Growth Corporation, 401 Broadway Ave., Lorain, (440) 244-6503.

To see more pictures, see a slideshow at: http://www.flickr.com//photos/46945136@N06/sets/72157626994811415/show/

To see Video coverage of the Kayak-a-thon, log onto La Prensa's YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/user/LaPrensaWeekly


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Revised: 07/05/11 12:51:55 -0700.





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