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WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Up the Q-River, happily, with a paddle

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Up the Q-River, happily, with a paddle

Got a kayak? How about a canoe? Either one will do.

Sounds like I’ve become a poet doesn’t it? Fuhgettaboutit!

The poetry that is. But I do want to tell you about one of longest running canoe and kayak races in Connecticut. That would be the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association’s Downriver Classic.

It’s a fun race for both hardcore paddlers and those who like to do it just for the fun and exercise.

Actually, this race has turned into what could be termed an event. Many participants come from all over the state — and some from even out of state — simply because it provides such a good time and so much camaraderie with fellow paddlers.

This year’s QRWA Downriver Classic, the 39th annual, is this Sunday. The starting point for the race is the CT DOT parking lot on the Meriden/Waterbury Road (Route 322).on the Cheshire/Southington town line. Race registration will also be taken there starting at 9 a.m.

The race starts at 10:30 a.m. The course runs five miles downriver to the finish line at historic Red Bridge in South Meriden. There is parking on the QRWA lawn at the finish line and participants can enjoy a post-race cookout and raffle at the QRWA headquarters. Awards will go to the top three finishers in various race categories.

Like I said earlier, this is the type of race that can be enjoyed by both the hardcore and beginner paddler. All participants are required to wear life jackets. Entry fee is $18 per paddler.

I do know that the QRWA has some canoes, paddles and life jackets available for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact the man in charge of the race, Dan Pelletier, at 860-754-8702 to see if any are still available.

For some of you new kayak owners, and even some new canoe owners, this section of the Quinnipiac River the race traverses can be quite scenic.

Once considered a body of water lost to all kinds of pollution and even featured in a special documentary on Channel 8 a number of years ago, the river has come back to life because of the efforts by the QRWA. Local resident Walt Hylwa, one of the earliest members of the QRWA, was a driving force in getting the Quinnipiac River cleaned up. So was former Southington resident Norm Van Cor.

I know the hard work that went into getting industries as well as municipalities to clean up their acts and waste discharges into the river because I was also a QRWA member (and still am an emeritus director). People like Hylwa and Van Cor laid the groundwork for those who came after them and it is the goal of the current QRWA to make the Q-River even better and the group is hard at work doing it.

There was a time when the Q-River was a clean, swimmable, fishable river that meandered through towns and villages, even providing power for some industries along its banks.

But as the years progressed and the population increased, so did the pollutants entering the river and fouling its once-clean waters. Back in the 1940s I can recall seeing sewer pipes that dumped human waste directly into the river, but that was finally put to a halt.

But even that was not enough, and the Quinnipiac River was almost forgotten and left to be nothing but a means to get rid of unclean water.

And then some dedicated folks from towns on the river got together to form the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association. They were brought together by a young lady named Erin O’Hare, who had walked and mapped the entire length of the Q-River and spearheaded the move to clean it up. I will never forget her dedication.

Moneywise, things were touch-and-go for the group (and still are), but they hung in there. Abandoned cars left on what is now the Q-Gorge Trail were hauled away, and those letting illegal run-offs into the river were taken to task. Slowly, but surely the river began to show signs of revitalization.

Today, the Quinnipiac River has trout being caught in it and in the upper sections from Red Bridge and above even had some native trout being caught. I know this because I did catch a couple of those native trout and released them back into the river.

The first canoe/kayak races were held in the Wallingford section of the river with a start at the Quinnipiac Street Bridge down to Banton Street in North Haven.

Then it was moved, with the starting point at the Meriden Lions Club Park at Red Bridge and the finish at the Westbrook Lobster Restaurant in Wallingford (formerly the Britannia Spoon Shop). This meant a hard flatwater paddle across Hanover Pond, a portage around Hanover Dam and then a race downriver.

Finally, the race found a home with a start at the DOT parking lot on Route 322. This is where you register for the race and start the race. The river is quite scenic in spots and courses through some really nice countryside.

Before we used the course the first time we cleared all the obstacles with a chainsaw. This is done before every race now.

Also, the course is more navigable with the removal of the pipeline that blocked the paddlers just above Carpenter’s Dam. The dam itself has also been removed.

So get out those kayaks and canoes and get in the 39th annual QRWA Downriver Classic this Sunday, May 19. It is a fun race, rain or shine.

Fishing derby

The annual City of Meriden / Meriden Rod & Gun Club / Carl D’Addario Children’s Fishing Derby at Hubbard Park went off last weekend on a high note with perfect weather, 81 kids and plenty of fish to catch.

There were six bicycle winners. In the Girls Division, the winners were Ariana Browns (ages 6-under), Giana Volo (7-11) and Jocelyn Tkacz (12-15). The boys winners were Jackson Koloadziej (6-under), Cody Jarry (7-11) and Joshua Santiago (12-15).

Cody Jarry’s catch topped everyone: a 3-pound, 4-ounce catfish.

It was a perfect day for everyone in attendance. Kudos to the City of Meriden for sponsoring n fishing derby for the kids and the Meriden Rod & Gun Club for providing the manpower to make it such a huge success.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.

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