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Photos Andy Calvert

Guided paddle season is officially cancelled. Coosa River Basin Initiative is a grassroots environmental organization whose board and members serve as advocates for wise stewardship of the natural resources of the Upper Coosa River Basin. As with so many other member-centric organizations, CRBI has had to make some drastic adjustments because of Covid-19 recommended safety guidelines. “We simply cannot pack our shuttle vans with people to get them on and off the water; we have to keep people safe.” says Ashley Ray, Outreach Coordinator for CRBI. So like the epic Seussian battle with paddles, this organization is tireless.

Left to Right: Courtnee Pope and Ashley Ray

Even with the pandemic, and canceled season, Ray has been busier than ever this spring. “With schools out and kids stuck at home during the shelter- in- place order, I saw an incredible opportunity to put educational activities online. We want to keep the kids involved and learning about nature.” In March, when she first started posting weekly activities, “they were kind of all over the place, but I soon found that having a weekly theme helped focus our goal- to show all the contributors to the environment as a whole, like this week, was pollinators week. 

All the activities and video links show the contributions of pollinators to our environment.” Ray describes the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Middle school and High school-age students from all over Georgia are responding and posting to CRBI’s Facebook page. “It is really neat to see the supplemental sharing that is happening. People are really engaged.” Says Ray.

Covid-19 has been a hard hit for the organization whose operating budget comes from state grants, donations, and membership. Safety restrictions have prevented the organization from being able to guide and host community events, which has hurt the membership base. “As everything begins to open back up, we are seeing more people out on the rivers.” says Ray “Which is a good thing. We are thrilled to announce that we will once again pick up water monitoring and everyone will be able to see water quality posted weekly in the Rome News Tribune.”

With the guided paddles closed, what’s next? “Initially, we were disappointed, but then we started thinking creatively to devise a way to get everyone on the water again,” explains Ray. “You will see us all on the rivers this summer. We are hosting several Paddle Meet-Ups. Our first Meet-Up is scheduled for June 20th !” It is a great way to get everyone together and at safe social distances. Paddlers meet at Grizzard Park at 8 am-4 pm. “Everyone is responsible for working out their own shuttling details, but we do have boats to lend.” It is a first come first serve, so Ray recommends anyone needing a boat they can reserve in advance by calling their office 706-232-2724.” Advocacy, education, water monitoring, and restoration- amid the pandemic- CRBI fights to continue to serve our community and our environment.