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Group's sojourn focuses on Potomac

July 18, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - A week ago, 16-year-old Kay Chen said she "just didn't care" about the environment. But after a week of paddling a canoe on the Potomac River Sojourn, Chen seems to be an activist.

About 40 people traveling on the sojourn docked their canoes and kayaks in Williamsport Saturday afternoon, ending a trip that began July 10 in Cumberland, Md. - a trip that floated them down the river to catch historians, fiddle music and fish.

Chen, of East Brunswick, N.J., said she learned that a forest in her travels had been mowed down 100 years ago so an apple farm, which later was neglected, could be placed there instead.

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"After seeing all of this, we can't just destroy everything that's been growing here for years to build a development," she said.

Chen's attitude is exactly what Jamie Alberti hoped paddlers would leave with Saturday.

Alberti is with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, which co-coordinated the event with the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. She said that the event was held to help people understand the challenges that the river is facing.

"This is the one event in the year that puts lots of focus on the Potomac," Alberti said.

Al Hasis, 69, of Pittsburgh, said he joined the trip with "no preconceptions about the river."

"That was a real wilderness experience," he said, adding that houses hardly were seen on the river banks, but wildlife was rampant.

Williamsport Mayor John Slayman and town historian Maurice Snyder spoke on Saturday to members of the group, who ate pizza while they rested on the grass.

Slayman greeted the group, asking if there had been any "incidents" on the trip, and the group reported there had been none. Snyder, clutching papers that he hardly looked at, carried the group through the town's history, telling them of the C&O Canal and of floods that have ravaged the area.

At the end of Snyder's talk, Hasis, sitting beneath the shade of a tree, called out and said he had a correction to make about whether there were any incidents.

"Something did happen out there," he said. "We fell in love with the Potomac."

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