Pass It On

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Pass It On
Back in May and early June I received several reminders of the importance of passing on this wonderful sport of ours and indeed, our love of all things outdoors, to our future generations.

The first reminder was a photo of Jackson Kayak pro-staffer Bridgett Howard holding a fat bluegill for a little girl about 4 years old so she could touch it. It was a great shot, with big smiles and a sense of wonder and awe in the little girls’ face, not to mention the joy in Bridgett’s face of showing it to her. Next was our annual Youth Outdoor Day at our Isaak Walton League Chapter Park out here in Warren County, Virginia. We made full use of social media this time to get the word out in the area about our event and we ended up with 3 times as many kids as we usually have. We had lots of activities set up for the kids, including displays from Blue Ridge Wildlife Rescue Center, rifle ranges with both air rifles (pellet) and .22 single shots, archery instruction, the champion turkey callers of Virginia, activities for the preschoolers, hiking, trout fishing, a static display of kayaks (who’s idea was that?)….and free hotdogs!! The following weekend we had our Family Picnic up Isaak Walton with even more fishing fun with the kids. I had the pleasure of introducing my best friend in the neighborhood (a wonderful little girl named Eve) to trout fishing with Berkley Powerbait. I know, I know…Powerbait is to trout fishing as Rooster-tails spinners are to Smallmouth fishing. But hey, she’s 10 years old and never caught anything bigger than a Sunfish…and we have 18 inch Rainbows in the chapter pond!

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Finally, I had the importance brought home to me on a very personal level. I was outside with a very young visitor to our house and it was not 5 minutes before they were insisting to return to the house because of….bugs. The kid was not just annoyed by the gnats, but actually afraid of them. As it was explained to me, this was a kid who spent most of his time in a very sterile world: daycare centers, a nice new house in the suburbs of DC in a house less than 5 years old. There no cracks or musty basements at this kid’s domicile where spiders and crickets can get in. All the weather seals are new, tight and flexible. His playtime is scheduled, (swim lessons, baseball, karate, playdates) and his school has been built in the middle of former farm fields. It is a good 300 yards from any woods or undeveloped ground.
There are no bugs in his world. He just is not exposed to ‘outdoors’ much. More is the pity.

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What does this have to do with my usual subjects of clean water and kayaking you ask?

These kids, who have so little outdoor time these days and spend way too much time in front of computers, and at swim classes, gym and karate classes and ‘play dates’ and on and on, will take our places one day. These kids will comprise the ranks of voters one day. They will (hopefully) replace us at the CCA, the Isaak Walton Leagues, our local fishing clubs, the Sierra Clubs, Trout, Duck, Turkey (etc etc) Unlimited, and yes, who will keep the keep the sport of kayaking and kayak fishing going long after we are gone.

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But how can they do that if they never develop a love of the outdoors? Develop a love of rising at O’dark-30 to drive an hour and half to catch the fog rising up off the Shenandoah. What if they never have a desire to climb Old Rag in the dark to catch the sunrise coming up over the Piedmont of Virginia to the East, or never experience a ride down the New River Gorge in West Virginia in a raft? What they never go section hike on the Appalachian Trail? What if they never see a wild turkeys flying thru a dense forest, or a Black Bear cross the trail in front of them, or smallmouth launch themselves 3 feet into the air so he can shake a spinnerbait out of his mouth and nearly hit you in the mouth with it?

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I would not trade even one of these experiences for love nor money. But if no one is helping to show these kids the value of clean water, and wild and open spaces and clean air…how are they going to care about it in the future? How can we expect them to care about helping to stop a pipeline through GW National Forest, or stop fracking in the local watersheds, or work to help get excess nutrients out of our local rivers and waterways or help keep our local fisheries Biologists and Riverkeepers informed about what they see on the rivers?

And most importantly: are they going to care enough to vote for people who will enact sensible regulations and laws to protect our environment and make sure that their children will have the same opportunity?

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Nobody can predict the future… But what we can do, is lay the groundwork and prepare the way for the outcomes we would like to see in the future. If you are not involved with getting kids outdoors and showing them the wonders of this “pale blue dot” you need to be. I guarantee you it will be the *best* thing you can do to help ensure we can continue to live on this planet. Many of the JK family are already involved in this work. I would like to see everyone who owns a Kayak to come out and help us in this endeavor. I assure you it will be time well spent.

See ya on the river (and at the next Izaak Walton League meeting?)

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