The Hudson River flows through Westchester County and its banks are just a few blocks from the ECOBAGS Home Office in downtown Ossining. The river’s presence is a constant companion for those who commute in and out of NYC each day, reflecting the seasons and the insistent beat of development along its shores.
In the past few weeks we’ve had several one-on-one interactions with the Hudson River. Sharon, our founder and CEO, keeps kayaks at the boathouse that hugs the shore, between the elevated train tracks and the water. She and I went out last Tuesday night after work for a magical paddle on a very still river; it was nearly lake-like in its stillness so the paddling was easy. There was no wind, the evening was a warm 70 degrees with no humidity.
We made our way across to the point in Croton Point park and as we made the turn a great blue heron took flight, screeching like a pterodactyl. In the stillness it was difficult to believe that so many had willfully and knowingly polluted this river for so many years; a river that is such an asset for its sheer beauty but also for its ability to support life and commerce along its banks. We left the water reluctantly, with a spectacular sunset unfolding across the water.
On Sunday of this past week Sharon swam across the Hudson, in the Hudson River Swim for Life, She swam across on a day when the water was less still, the wind more intense. She swam (this time) for Leukemia and raised $1,200 but she also swam because she CAN swim this river, because it’s come back from the point of death to be a river that supports recreational swimming and wildlife. A river she cherishes, along with the thousands of people who find fun, nature and enjoyment here.
After the swim, Sharon wrote, “I made it across the river in a little over 2 hours. Blake (my husband) was an amazing guide. He paddled along side of me, calmly and steadily directing my course. The water was choppy and there was considerable wind. Add to that the fact that the tide took a little longer than expected to turn. When it did we glided toward the beach. It’s easy when you’re riding a tide. It was a challenging 3 mile swim for me, but the sun was shining so I kept going.
OK, full disclosure, I hitched a ride for a short while holding onto B’s kayak. I wanted to take time to enjoy the view. Not too many opportunities to be mid span on the Hudson looking at the Tappan Zee Bridge.
But here’s the best part – we raised about $1200.00 for Leukemia and Lymphoma research, which is amazing, and we raised the money in less than a week! I think the whole event raised something like $200K or at least that was the goal. YEA TEAM. So, thanks again for the donations, the support and all the amazing conversations. And, of course, thank you Pete Seeger for having the vision to make the Hudson River clean again.”
The Hudson’s water quality has come back significantly from the days when it ran a murky, tinged green from the toxins that were poured directly into it from factories as far north as Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains. General Electric Company dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the river for years, and these toxins were ingested by fish and birds, creating a dangerous situation for the ecosystem and for the people who consumed the fish and birds.
The legacy of pollution still haunts the river, where fishing is limited to “catch and release” in many sections and Superfunds are being used to clean up the PCBs.
This week, however, we celebrate what the Hudson River is and are hopeful for what it can become, with the help of our friends at RiverKeeper and you.
“I do this swim to bring into focus what is possible. If the Hudson River can be made clean enough to swim then cures for cancer can be created – made – found.” Sharon Rowe
What’s your favorite place in the natural world? Please share. Thanks.