SIEVERT: Kayaking with a Side of Politics
Most of the time when I’m in the great outdoors, the things that are absent are nearly as important as the things that are present. Absent is my iPhone and its email, instant messaging, Facebook and Internet connection. Gone, too, are the radio, the television, the junk in my mailbox and advertisements of all shapes and sizes everywhere I look. And one thing that’s not usually there — which is especially nice considering the state of things — is politics. This week though, I had the opportunity to help guide a kayak tour for the Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association, the Quincy Tourism and Visitor’s Bureau and a special guest, Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon. This time, I was pleased to welcome politics to my adventure.
Simon is a stalwart advocate for the rivers, lakes and streams of Illinois. Last year, her office established the Mississippi River Coordinating Council to address specific needs of the river and its tributaries in regards to environmental protection, flood mitigation, tourism and development and commerce. The Council is also tasked with identifying sources of funding for Mississippi River resource management projects.
Quincy Bay is a unique resource on the Mississippi. Besides providing a sheltered backwater for boating traffic, the bay also has untapped potential for tourism development projects, like Kayak Quincy. It is also an ecologically diverse area that provides vital habitat for wildlife, migrating birds and more. The Bay, however, is in great need of maintenance. Silting — or the process by which sediment fills up previously navigable channels — is one of the main problems facing Quincy Bay. It’s estimated that it will cost around $6 million to dredge the bay and add four feet to its depth. This dredging is crucial to the long-term success of any management plan or development the City of Quincy hopes to have on the riverfront.
Simon explained some of the nuance in river management to me while we paddled our kayaks. “It’s interesting because we often think of rivers as boundaries between counties or states or even countries.” she said. “They often lie in more than one political zone. That makes the coordination of efforts from every level extremely important.”
I was enjoying hearing about plans to help community, state and federal organizations work together on projects like Quincy Bay when our conversation was abruptly interrupted by a large Asian Carp, which launched itself through the air and hit the lieutenant governor’s kayak with a loud thud.
“And… we probably need to invest in the study and management of invasive species too?” I asked, hopefully.
“Yes,” the lieutenant governor, clearly startled by the flying fish, replied. “Yes, we do.”
I don’t know what will come out of our day kayaking with the lieutenant governor. Money is tight at both the state and federal level right now, and it’s hard to say when we might see action to preserve Quincy Bay. I am heartened, however, to have met Ms. Simon. She’s clearly an outdoor enthusiast herself, and she cares deeply for the natural resources of our state. It’s important to remember that it takes passionate people to protect and develop our waterways, state parks and recreational areas, and I am encouraged that we have advocates at all levels of government that are doing their best to address problems facing these assets.
Click to read more about Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and the Mississippi River Coordinating Council. To learn more about Kayak Quincy and to book your own Kayak adventure, click here.
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