As part of the Farmington River Coordinating Committee’s (FRCC) Outreach and Education efforts, the Farmington River Stewards have been protecting and educating along the Farmington since 2015. Meet the 2020 Farmington River Stewards!
The Stewards program has been successful in educating thousands of people about their Wild and Scenic River. One special part of their outreach is the FRCC’s Junior River Rangers Program. Participants receive a Junior River Rangers Activity Booklet in which participants are encouraged to complete activities that help them learn about the River and the environment. Because the resources are also available online, there have been Farmington Junior Rangers from all over the country! The Farmington Junior River Ranger Activity Booklet may be found on the Farmington Junior Rangers website.
With a mission of making the Farmington River a fun and safe place to recreate, their time is spent educating and engaging river users. Usually their outreach events involve days on the river with the general public, garnering appreciation for the river, reducing human impacts, and creating a fun and safe environment.
Stephan Bastrzycki, who is contracted by FRCC to oversee the River Steward program, explained how they’ve been navigating safe summer activities on the river this year. “We definitely started out [our outreach activities] more conservative. Safety is a top priority, and we quickly realized there were way more users than ever before on the Farmington. I would say the number of people in certain user groups on the river (fishermen, tubers, boaters) and surrounding area (picnic and trail areas) have in some cases doubled. In the State forest, we are usually lucky if we see a couple of other people, now trailheads are full. The way that people are using the river is very different this summer, too.”
This has been a common theme across different public lands this summer. Many people have been escaping to the outdoors, particularly in their own backyards, to reconnect with activities like hiking, river recreation, biking, or to simply enjoy being outside. “People are rediscovering the outdoors. We’re interested to see if everyone goes back to their old lifestyle or whether we will see increased usage [in subsequent years]” Stephan said.
Safety is of particular concern this year, as the tubing concession business is closed. In the past, the tubing concession had lifeguards on duty, watching over the Class 3 section of the River in case tubers were caught in rapids. The concession also brought a sense of order to recreation, cleaned up after themselves, removed trash and informed users what to bring and what not to bring on the water.
“Even though visitors may not have the intention of trashing the river, a lot of [what they bring] ends up in the river...it’s important to ask: do you really need to bring all of this stuff?” Stephan explained. With less oversight and more users this year, it’s a concern that more trash has entered the waterway, often from unsecured items while tubing. The Farmington River Stewards have used different ways throughout the years to educate the public on littering and trash that gets into the waterways. The “No glass, No trash” campaign has been an effective motto for the river, with signs along major put-ins. River Stewards also typically clean up trash, but these efforts were reduced this year for safety reasons. We all can continue to do our part to keep the Farmington River clean.
The River Stewards have also been spending time creating informative and educational videos. As the summer has gone on, they’ve come up with ways to safely hold in-person outreach events, such as partnering with Barkhamsted Recreation’s “Family Fun Day” along the river. For this event, participants could make nature-inspired crafts, go on a socially distanced hike, and learn about conservation along the Farmington River, Leave No Trace principles and minimalistic backpacking.
Despite unexpected challenges, the River Stewards have found creative ways to work towards their mission of a healthy Farmington River and a safe and fun experience for all.
More information can be found on the River Stewards website and on their social media links found on Facebook and Instagram.
Return to Partnership Wild and Scenic River News | August 2020