To make the biggest impact possible in each city Canoemobile visits, every day of paddling relies on a collective effort of community support and deep partnerships with local, state and federal organizations and agencies.
This year, Canoemobile Boston/Somerville introduced more than 1,000 community members to their Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers with the support of Toad&Co, the National Park Foundation, the National Park Service, US Forest Service, RBC Wealth Management, Groundwork Somerville, city schools, nonprofits, and local and state lawmakers.
Boston Canoemobile days were spent teaching local citizens of all ages, backgrounds and abilities about their waterways that historically have been feared or seen as too dirty for recreation. Through local partnerships, Canoemobile worked to help change these perceptions through Voyageur canoe river paddles and land-based education.
The National Park Service taught students about the historical significance of the rivers while the US Forest Service brought furs and skulls for students to learn about animals in their parks. RBC volunteers did everything from moving boats, to helping set-up, paddling the river, and playing “Ships and Sailors” with students from Boston Public Schools’ Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Even the Mayor of Somerville paddled alongside a girl who was at first afraid but ended her canoe ride excited about her new experience.
“Canoemobile is an introductory experience and the cultural fear around water takes a bit to overcome,” said Teresa Butel, US Forest Service intern serving with Canoemobile. “Sometimes participants are afraid to get on the boats in the water, but when the paddle is finished they come back to the shore with smiles and want to go again.”
During an event with Green Academy, several young girls were almost in tears as they stepped carefully into a boat for their first time. When the boats returned to the dock, their screams were replaced with calmness. Their fear was gone and replaced with pride in paddling for the very first time.
“We aim for Canoemobile not to be just a one time canoeing experience, but to inspire continued action,” said Teresa. “We want to ease fear and give community members an emotional connection to their waterways and parks, hopefully inspiring them to be future stewards.”
A special thanks to Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, State Representative Christine Barber, State Senator Pat Jehlen, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places Stephanie Toothman, and Legislative Director at Environmental League of Massachusetts Erica Mattison for attending Canoemobile events and promoting community and water stewardship in the Boston area.