What better way to spend summers in Minnesota than paddling on one of its thousands of lakes, ponds, or rivers? While paddling can be an expensive activity, Minnesota Valley NWR’s Outreach team is committed to providing the Twin Cities community with free opportunities to safely recreate outdoors. One way the team did so this summer was by launching the Paddle with a Purpose program. This program sought to introduce participants to the basics of paddling canoes and kayaks and took place weekly on Saturdays at select locations in the Twin Cities, including Como Lake and Pickerel Lake in Saint Paul, Powderhorn Lake in Minneapolis, and Smith Lake in Bloomington.
After being shown proper techniques for paddling and equipping a personal flotation device (PFD) by program lead Christopher Dunham, refuge staff assisted in getting the participants into their own canoes and kayaks. Some staff shared canoes with participants, which led to some fantastic community engagement and trust building moments. Each session had the capacity for sixteen participants to pre-register, and though the program did not always reach maximum attendance, it received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Aside from providing recreational opportunities to our target audiences, an additional objective of Paddle with a Purpose was to increase awareness of the importance of conservation. The program brought attention to this subject by inviting participants to take trash grabbers and ice cream buckets in their canoes and kayaks and using them to collect trash from the water. The trash was brought to the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center, where it was categorized by type and disposed of. Data on the quantity of different types of trash will go towards citizen science projects aimed at monitoring sources of trash entering local waterways.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Location: Minnesota Valley NWR