by Sarah Dollendorf
The eighth annual "Paddles Up Niagara," hosted by the Niagara River Greenway Commission at Beaver Island State Park, will take place along the southeastern shores of Grand Island on Saturday, July 27.
This signature, non-competitive 4.8-mile paddle begins at noon after a traditional Native American Departure Ceremony at 11:30 a.m. "in order for us to fully respect and enjoy the paddle," said Rob Belue, executive director, NRGC.
After participants point their paddles skyward, signifying peace and the commencement of a long journey in honor of Grand Island's ties to Native American culture, the paddle will begin from the Little Beaver Launch site in the park and will continue to the East River Marsh site, finishing at the paddles' starting location.
Paddles Up Niagara will feature a new celebrity kayak race that will pit local celebrities including Vice President of Empire State Development Sam Hoyt, New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy, New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, New York State Assemblyman John Ceretto, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Director of Western District New York State Parks Mark Thomas and Niagara River Greenway Commission Chairman Greg Stevens against one another in a competitive paddle. Kicking off at 11 a.m., this novel event will premiere as an entertaining race to test the agility of local politicians and executive figures, while also showcasing the beauty the water has to offer to spectators of the competition.
Other events will begin before the canoe and kayak paddles, with a "Poker Run" kicking off the day's activities from 7 until 9 a.m., from East River Marsh around Strawberry Island. That is followed by the Paddle Fair at 8:30 a.m., where friends and family- paddlers and non-paddlers- can "Discover Grand Island," a subtheme for Paddles Up Niagara.
"Although the main focus of the day will be on the water, there will be plenty of other things to do on land for families both through our event and through the park itself," Belue said.
Additionally, visitors of the event can tour the historic River Lea House located within the park for a lunch fundraiser at 2:30 p.m. with a prepaid $14 donation.
Participants in any of the paddling events may use paddle-powered craft, including kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. There is no cost to participate in any of the day's events. However, standard park fees will apply.
Upon entering Beaver Island State Park, participants should take the first right toward the sledding hill, or Little Beaver, for parking and launching.
All on-water partakers are required to register and complete the waiver forms in order to participate. Boat crews must wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices, and each participating canoe and kayak will be evaluated before the event to ensure the safety of every participant.
Pre-registration for paddling is not required, but for more information regarding the Niagara River Greenway Commission, or to receive or download registration forms for Paddles Up Niagara, visit www.niagaragreenway.org or call the NRGC office at 716-773-5361.