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A Race with an Eco Raft and the Kalamazoo River = FUN!

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eco raft race

UPDATE 8.25.16, According to City of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation the event has been rescheduled for Oct. 1 from 2 to 4 p.m.

So let’s build a raft and race it down the Kalamazoo River! That’s just part of the strategy for the upcoming Eco Raft Race-Kittiwake Cup, put on by Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation, coming up on August 20th. The fun begins at Mayor's Riverfront Park, ending at Arcadia Ales, from 4:00p.m. - 6:00p.m. The raft race is in part an effort to bring the community together, raise awareness about protecting our waterways while having a contest, and blast all at the same time!

So what does an Eco Raft race look like- keep in mind that the raft should be able to be disassemble and recycle at the end of the race. That’s right! Using all eco-friendly and/or recycled materials for your raft is a crucial part of this event. Prizes will be awarded to the fastest raft, best crew, and most creative raft.

If you happen to be just finding out about this event and have no time to build a raft or assemble a team- no worries! Tell your family, friends, and co-workers they can come and join the water parade and help pick-up some trash while floating and following the rafts in a kayak or canoe.

History tells us that the word ‘Kalamazoo’ is derived from the name “kikalamezo”, a Potawatomi name given to the river flowing through this area. One interpretation of the word means “boiling pot”, another “mirage”, and another one meaning “stones like otters”. We may never know exactly where the name originated from, but we do know the name stems from the beautiful body of water we now call the Kalamazoo River.

The Kittiwake Cup is a celebration of the community’s returned ability to safe recreational use of the Kalamazoo River. Believe it or not the Kalamazoo River was once avoided, during the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s because of all the contaminants polluting the river from the various industries. Thanks to the EPA, local cleanup projects, and a ton of hard work from donations, and volunteer work, it has been cleaned and deemed safe for recreational use since 2008. We now see kayaks and canoes in abundance on the river every day in the summer.

I’m a kayaker and am thrilled to see wildlife thriving now. Turtles hop down from their logs and make a sploosh in the water as I paddle by, and sometimes they stay still, sunbathing on a log, not to be seen. There’s even a familiar crane, “Phil,” as I like to call him, who sometimes follows me the whole journey. I always forget I’m in the middle of the city; I’m just floating with the fish and the water, enjoying the surrounding beauty.

Show your support and how creative, beautiful, and limitless our city is by parading your eco-friendly raft down the Kalamazoo River, or join the parade for the Eco Raft Race- Kittiwake Cup. Either way a great time will be enjoyed at this community river event and don’t forget to look for a huge bald eagle’s nest and this majestic bird soaring in the sky that I’ve enjoyed many times.

Visit kzooparks.org for rules, details, and to sign up for the event. See you there!

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