River Rally ho!

Kris and Ava cleaning at River Rally in Pittsburgh

Not everyone gets excited about sitting in conference rooms for three and half days discussing how to run a non-profit organization dedicated to clean rivers. But we (Kris and Ava) did! And so did over600 other dedicated river lovers from around the world. This time, it was for the National River Rally Conference with River Network in Pittsburgh. We had the chance to join professional river experts and learn countless techniques for preserving our rivers here in our corner of northwest Ohio. Sessions included tips on how to raise money, plan river cleanups, utilize our resources better, involve board members in daily activities, and how to tell others about our unique story. But theoretical learning just didn’t cut it! We, Kris and Ava, also did a trash cleanup (from a kayak) lead by Paddlers without Pollution and discovered that Pittsburgh has much of the same type of urban trash as Toledo does. But as the old adage goes, we “left it better than we found it.”

Not only did we explore ways to improve our waterways,we had the chance to reflect on and celebrate our accomplishments in recent years. Throughout the conference, we networked and shared stories with groups from small rivers in the Appalachian Mountains recovering from mining issues, to groups from the west coast with heavily polluted rivers facing fish population declines, to groups with restored urban rivers in major metropolitan areas, all while putting our Toledo rivers and stories into perspective. We also saw, firsthand, the amazing economic and downtown revival that Pittsburgh has undergone and how central their three rivers were in that revitalization. We realized that although we have a lot of wonderful projects happening here, we still have a ways to go in protecting our rivers and making our abundant water resources central to driving a downtown renaissance. Coming back to Toledo and our precious “Muddy Maumee”, we feel a new sense of stewardship, dedication, appreciation, and hope for the future.