Willimantic Whitewater Partnership hosts Riverfest 2013

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., May. 21, 2013
Jeff Clement enters the Willimantic River after performing a trick off of a giant slide set up at Whitewater Park. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Jeff Clement enters the Willimantic River after performing a trick off of a giant slide set up at Whitewater Park. Photos by Melanie Savage.

The Willimantic Whitewater Partnership sponsored Willimantic Riverfest 2013 on Saturday, May 18, at Whitewater Park. The event included a river float from the Eagleville Dam to Bridge Street in Willimantic, a whitewater demonstration, and food and entertainment, including appearances by Pat Kirker, Bruce John and Hillbilly Grahamcrackers.

There were activities for children, such as bubbles and hula-hooping. And there was a giant ramp built over the Willimantic River, down which kayakers were sliding, attempting to execute rolls and flips before they entered the water. The One Man Dam-a-thon, an event similar to a walk-a-thon, gathered pledges for every kayak run made over the dam.

The mission of the Willimantic Whitewater partnership is “to recapture the waterfront of the Willimantic River primarily in the town of Windham and Willimantic,” according to the organization’s website. The mission includes goals such as “increasing safe access to the river for residents, restoring the environment of the river and the anadromous and other fish populations and other wildlife, creating a regional swift water rescue and training center, encouraging environmental and hydrologic scientific research, involving and serving as a resource and opportunity for local educational institutions to participate in action research, developing an urban waterfront and whitewater park, enhancing the potential of Willimantic as a recreation hub, celebrating the cultural history of the Willimantic River and supporting the growth of a trans-cultural arts and enterprise zone in Willimantic, Conn.”

The partnership focuses on a three-pronged approach of rivers, parks and trails. Among other funding, the WWP in conjunction with the town of Windham has procured a $2 million federal SAFE-TEA LU grant to develop the Hop River/ Airline Trail Extensions in Willimantic, providing vital links to the East Coast Greenway. WWP and the town have signed an agreement stipulating that WWP will raise the matching funds for the SAFE-TEA LU trail project, according to the WWP website. For more information go to http://www.willimanticwhitewater.org/.

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