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Russian Riverkeeper: Bringing people to the river makes economic sense

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | Posted by

A river to enjoy and care for. (Photo: Ann Carranza)

The Sonoma County Regional Parks is holding the Russian River Festival, a month-long series of events designed to bring people to the river to have fun. Russian Riverkeeper Don McEnhill says that bringing people to the river is what makes them care about it.

“Sonoma County Regional Parks provide a great public service,” said McEnhill. “They have more access points through the parks in Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Riverfront Park, Steelhead Beach, Sunset Beach and the Forestville River Access – those combined provide about 70% access to the river.”

The Russian Riverkeeper organization has been an avid supporter of the Russian River Festival and the Healdsburg Water Carnival that takes place on Saturday, July 27 at Veterans’ Memorial Beach.

“We’ve been a participant and supporter of the carnival since day one,” said McEnhill. “One of our strategic programs is supporting the river – getting people on the river, having a great time, means they’ll become more likely to enjoy and protect it.

“One of our goals is to increase community engagement with the river,” continued McEnhill. “The river is not just our water supply.”

On the day of the carnival, the organization will have a booth, as well as a float in the river parade. While the details of their float remain a well-kept secret – McEnhill would only divulge that it had something to do with “fish and kids,” they have a well-thought-out plan for their booth.

“We’ll ask people to register their voices about the summer low flows,” said McEnhill. “Currently the Army Corps of Engineers manages Lake Mendocino for flood control, not for summer low flow control. We’d like to change that.

“We also have five or six dozen sustainability guides for yard and kitchen river-friendly tips,” McEnhill stated. “We’ll hand those out until they are gone.

“You know, historically people from the Bay Area and beyond came to the Russian River more than a century ago to have fun,” said McEnhill. “Now we are aging getting lots of people to town from the Bay Area as a destination place for the weekend. It makes economic sense to bring people to the river.”

He goes on to explain that when tourists come to spend a weekend on the river, they also spend tourist dollars on lodging, food and at other stores in town, bringing more money into the community.

McEnhill himself thinks the coolest thing about Healdsburg is the swimming lagoon at the Veterans’ Memorial Beach. He also said that last year’s wine barrel races were one of the highlights of his twins’ summer experiences.

“Coming down the river on our float, and seeing the crowds of people on the bridge is inspiring,” said McEnhill. “If you don’t have a float come watch, and make that float next year!”

The Healdsburg Water Carnival is Saturday, July 27, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Healdsburg Veterans’ Memorial Beach, 13839 Old Redwood Highway. Parking is available in the lot at the beach, in the Syar lot at 13666 Old Redwood Hwy. and at the Max Machinery parking lot, 33 Healdsburg Ave. Parking is $7, free with membership to the regional parks. Admission to the event is free.

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Ann Carranza,
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