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Paddlers tackle the Monocacy

May 02, 2002|BY KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

Next week, Hilari Benson will row, row, row her boat, gently down the ...

... river.

Seriously.

And she will in fact do it merrily, as if there were any other way, a floating pied piper leading young and old alike to a place of ecological awareness courtesy a week long tour of the Monocacy River in Frederick County.

Beginning Monday, May 6, in Adams County, Pa., participants in the second Monocacy River Paddle will wind their way down the waterway, navigating small chunks of river each day. If paddlers continue for each leg of the journey, they will travel 50.4 miles by Saturday, May 11, when the caravan reaches the Monocacy Aqueduct at the Frederick-Montgomery county line.

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Evening programs will introduce visitors to issues concerning conservation and the environment. Nearly 150 sixth graders will take part in educational activities and eco-lessons.

Benson is executive officer of event host Community Commons, the 24-year-old agency dedicated to preserving regional natural resources. All week she will negotiate the waters, engaging newcomers to become better stewards through introducing them to the river.

"I think people were blown away that it was so wild feeling," Benson says of last year's event. "Most people say they drive over the Monocacy on their way to work but never got out of their car and walked down to the river."

The only day where paddlers will have the option to camp is Friday, May 10, when the expedition reaches Lilypons Water Gardens in southern Frederick County because of its somewhat secluded location.

Candace Desonier, enrichment program teacher at Thurmont Middle School, brought 30 students to a Paddle week activity last year and will return with a new group next week.

"This particular project was a great project for students because they teach them how important it is that they watch their own behavior at home and how that affects the Monocacy River and how that in turn affects the Chesapeake Bay," Desonier says.

Registration includes access to a boat and gear, selected meals and shuttles to retrieve vehicles at the end of each day's segment.

Having grown up in the county, often paddling sections of the Monocacy as a child, Benson welcomes a week-long opportunity to reconnect with the river. She hopes others will take the opportunity to start their own, pro-river tradition.

"You can still get on this water body and despite going right by Frederick city and other areas you didn't really feel like you were close to people at all," Benson says. "It's still a really rich resource we have, and so few people utilize it."

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