It's the Day After Earth Day. So What Are You Gonna Do Now?!

As we wrapped our Earth Day Happy Hour last night we thought about the events that led to the first Earth Day back in 1970, and the unique role Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River served as the flash point for a nation awakening to its burgeoning environmental crisis.

Our Earth Day Happy Hour was a fun night (who tries to program against Dingus Day?!) spent with supporters, friends, fueled by an amazing “Blazing Paddles” cocktail created by The Duck Island Club’s bartender, Song (ask for it during your visit to this hidden gem of a cocktail lounge). The evening was capped with the ‘69 Cuyahoga River Trivia Contest where the winners took home a copy of David & Richard Stradling’s “Where The River Burned”, a deep dive into Cleveland’s social and political scene leading up to the ‘69 fire. Thanks to Ideastream for putting it together. You can test your knowledge of that fire here.

We couldn’t help but wonder what organizers of the first Earth Day thought on the day AFTER the first Earth Day. Now what?!

The “Blazing Paddles” cocktail

The “Blazing Paddles” cocktail

Share the River’s mission and public motion are built upon four pillars:

  • the importance and demonstrable positive impact of common sense environmental regulations.

  • the value of public investments in clean water infrastructure (like NEORSD's Project Clean Lake).

  • the positive impact of engaged, long-term recreational use of our nations rivers, lakes and streams.

  • the benefit the above three have on waterfront cities' appeal 1) as a place where people want to work, live and play and 2) as a tourism destination.

The large public turnout for recent events like Rails to Trails Conservancy’s Opening Day for Trails reminds us how public use of greenspaces, trails, rivers and the like for recreation demonstrates to public officials, agencies, philanthropic organizations and media the public hunger and support for those natural experiences. Cleveland is uniquely positioned as a historic, urban tourism destination with an expanding network of off-road trails connecting to main arteries that run along the Cuyahoga River like the Ohio & Erie Canalway that’s currently being extended to downtown Cleveland at Canal Basin Park.

Here are a few suggestions of how you can continue yesterday’s Earth Day vibe:

  • April 27: The 4th Annual Cuyahoga Falls Kayak Race. Is there any better way to enjoy the Cuyahoga River’s resurgence than a whitewater competition in an urban environment? We think not.

  • Now: Sign up for Western Reserve Rowing Association’s Summer Rowing League. There’s NO better way to experience Cleveland than from 18” above the Cuyahoga River and odds are, after a summer on the river, you’ll become an advocate for the river!

  • May 11: Canalway Partners Riversweep: Cleveland’s largest done-in-a-day clean-up of the Cuyahoga River corridor.

  • May 18: River Day - an opportunity to spend some time along the Cuyahoga and its system of wetlands, tributaries and, of course, Lake Erie, where the river ends.

  • Address our nation’s addiction to plastic by changing YOUR behavior! Campaigns like Ocean Conservancy’s Skip the Straw are admirable but they are the low hanging fruit of the “reduce, reuse and recycle” mantra. Straws are a teeny portion of the single-use plastic pipeline but Skip the Straw DOES start conversations about what else we can do to move needle on reducing plastic consumption. Check out the question we asked Sarah Lowe, the Great Lakes regional coordinator for NOAA's Marine Debris Program during Lake Erie Waterkeeper’s recent Lake Erie Conference. Her answer is a pep-talk for how we can be more mindful and sustainable with our consumption behavior.

  • June 21-24: Register for the River Network’s River Rally: River Rally provides an inspiring and energy-infused touchpoint for nonprofit groups from across the U.S. and beyond, as well as for agency and foundation representatives, industry innovators, philanthropists, academics, students, and community leaders. It includes over 70 learning opportunities, an awards ceremony, novel social events, and access to thought leaders and change agents.

  • June 22: Participate in our Blazing Paddle Paddlefest, a public paddleboard, kayak, and canoe celebration of how the Cuyahoga River has risen like a phoenix since the 1969 fire ignited the environmental movement.

No doubt we’ve missed other obvious ways to continue the Earth Day vibe so e-mail us your suggestions to sharetheriver3@gmail.com and we’ll add them to this list!

Today is River Day!

Today is River Day!

Today is Cuyahoga River Restoration's River Day, where 29 different events and activities give you an opportunity to spend some time along the Cuyahoga River and its system of wetlands, tributaries and, of course, Lake Erie, where the river flows into

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Otters on the Cuyahoga River?!

Back in September local environmental, sport-fishing and naturalist circles went deservedly bonkers over a Plain Dealer article about a Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District water monitoring survey team finding a walleye fingerling 10 miles from the mouth of Lake Erie, a rarity on the heavily industrialized Cuyahoga River. Cuyahoga River Restoration's Executive Director, Jane Goodman, said "Fish are our benchmark, our canary in the coal mine".

But a couple of months later we had our own canary moment when we learned a pair of river otters had set up shop in the 33,000 acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park where the Cuyahoga River winds its way between Akron and Cleveland. How could we just be learning this top of the river food chain mammal and key indicator of a freshwater ecosystem's health can be viewed just a short hike from Cleveland or Akron? So a few weeks ago we headed down to Peninsula's Riverview Rd. between Bolanz and Ira roads. Check out what we saw just off the marsh's boardwalk:

image by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

image by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Turns out river otters used to be plentiful across the nation but water pollution from industrial runoff pretty much wiped out the aquatic food chain, leading to a 75% spiral in river otter populations in the mid-to-late 1800's. By the late 1960's U.S. cities and their citizens realized they had to protect their waterways and, with the help of the 1972 Clean Water Act, ecosystems and habitats eventually rebounded to a point where 21 states felt conditions were right to implement river otter restoration projects.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife reintroduced river otters in 1986, releasing 123 otters relocated from Louisiana and Arkansas into 4 river systems. The project went so well that by 2012, river otter populations had swelled to over 8,000. Earliest reports had river otters finding their way into the Cuyahoga National Valley Park in August 2010 and subsequent park surveys confirmed their arrival in 2011.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Biologist, Meg Plona, says five young (and 2 adults) were first observed in the Beaver Marsh in 2013. Beavers created the marsh after the Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club helped clean up an auto junk yard formerly located at that site in 1984. "We don't know exactly where the adult pair at Beaver Marsh came from" says Plona "Having made a great comeback they were de-listed as a state endangered species in 2002 and presently occur throughout eastern Ohio, including their return to CVNP." 

When asked about the status of the adult pair's offspring Plona added "We don't know where the offspring are or what they are up to, as they are not marked animals - young otters are self-sufficient by the time they are 5 to 6 months old, but the family group remains intact for at least 7 or 8 months or until just prior to a new litter. Yearling otters can disperse up to 20 miles or more from where they were reared." Plona says the river otters are protected like all native mammals in the park, 'however there are no "special" protections or management strategies in place for the otters at this time."

Plona notes there are optimal times to see the otters "River otter sightings at the Beaver Marsh usually occur in the very early morning when there is minimal human disturbance. In general, these mammals are also very active at dusk and throughout the night feeding on fish."

Want to marvel at the Cuyahoga River Valley's comeback? Take a trip to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and go see the river otters for yourself! Once you do, perhaps you'll consider sponsoring a Beaver Marsh acre via the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park!