Celebrating the River with Boat Rides, Live Animals, Exhibits & Music
by Mary Swansburg
On Sunday, June 9, the time-honored Groton Greenway River Festival will be held at the Petapawag boat launch. According to conservation activist Marion Stoddart, the River Festival began in 1997 as an event to give locals the opportunity to get out in canoes on the Nashua River, learn more about its history, and celebrate the beauty of a resource that many forget about as they drive around town each day.
Today, the festival has become an annual community effort led by the Groton Greenway Committee that brings together local businesses, environmental groups and performers to celebrate the river with the people of Groton.
The River Festival is the main event of the year for the Greenway Committee, and this year some of the activities will include free motorboat rides, free canoe rentals, live animal shows, environmental exhibits, and music performances.
These performances range from the group of local students known as Pebble Bottom River Kids; to Mohawk Elder, a group of Native American singers and drummers; and many more.
One of the crowd favorites, as well as a favorite of David Pitkin, co-organizer and committee member, is the cardboard canoe races. There can be up to 18 teams of children, with each team given two sheets of cardboard and a roll of duct tape to create a boat in 30 minutes to race on the river.
The appropriately named Greenway Committee works to maintain the Nashua River and the land surrounding it as it is flows through the town. The term “greenway” refers to the land along a riverbank that is protected for environmental purposes.
Established in 1989, Groton Greenway Committee works to protect the Nashua and Squannacook Rivers and educate the public on respectfully enjoying the area. They work to create natural flood control and maintain good water quality, as well as manage the upkeep of the surrounding trails and environment.
Since its inception, the Committee has also been dedicated to acquiring the land that runs along the Nashua River to protect it from development. They do this by seeking out land donations, as well as helping to raise funds for purchasing land that is not donated.
At this point approximately two-thirds of land along the river is monitored and protected by the Greenway Committee. As noted by Peter Carson, owner of Nashoba Paddler, having so much conservation land surrounding a river this far east is “unusual.”
Both Pitkin and Carson mentioned that the “real treat” was not necessarily an exhibit or activity in particular, but the fact the event has long been supported by Marion Stoddart. Stoddart was instrumental in initiating and promoting the clean up of the Nashua River, founding the Nashua River Watershed Association, which is an organization that works to protect the river and create programs meant to educate on environmental protection.
Stoddart emphasizes the importance of events like the River Festival in getting the community involved, saying, “It’s very important for people to know that the river, even though it’s beautiful now, could go back to being polluted.”