The Great Hudson River Revival in New York over the weekend included a sendoff for the sloop Clearwater’s sail to Washington, D.C. The Clearwater Festival returned to Croton Point Park after a one-year hiatus and with it the reenactment of a voyage to stand up for federal clean water protections.
There were Native American songs and blessings for the Clearwater and her crew at Croton Point Park in Westchester County Saturday as the ship was readied to set sail for the nation's capital. The trip comes amid threats of regulatory rollbacks and proposed steep budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a reenactment of the 1970 trip when Pete Seeger sailed the boat to Washington and held a forum on Capitol Hill on clean water issues. Dave Conover is Clearwater interim executive director.
“The times, I think, require actions like this. They require powerful messages, and Clearwater is a boat, and what do boats do? They deliver things. And so we’re going to be delivering something that I think is important for people to hear, and it’s important to reaffirm all of us in the Hudson Valley that these clean water protections are essential, that environmental protection as a whole is a core American value. We can’t take steps back on the progress that has been made, that pollution often impacts the most vulnerable communities the hardest and pollution doesn’t respect borders,” says Conover. “So these messages, many of them are not new but they need to be told.”
Volunteers along with Clearwater staff and crew formed a fire line to load the cargo of concern — barrels and crates containing messages via cards, banners, petitions, municipal resolutions and more.
“Broad Old River” song
Patty Deyo from across the Hudson River in New Windsor attended the sendoff, saying she cares about the river and clean water.
“I’m coming from the Newburgh area and there’s a lot of poisoned water up there and I’m very concerned about the water, not only in the lakes, but it can seep in the ground and get into wells and what have you,” Deyo says. “It’s very scary.”
She refers to PFOS contamination. And while she did not give a handwritten message for the cargo, in retrospect, Deyo says she would write the following.
“God bless our river,” says Deyo. “Keep it clean, keep us safe, give us freedom and move on.”
Aaron Mair is former national Sierra Club president.
“We are tired of the pollute-ocrats that are running our democracy,” Mair says. “It is a democracy, not a pollute-acracy.”
The Peekskill native says he learned to swim in the Hudson River and his family fished there.
“So we’re here to honor this, as they would say, ceremonial but significant, again, calling in this old sailor, this old ship back to battle for clean water, clean air and a safe environment because it’s not a luxury, it is a human right,” says Mair. “Clean water is a human right. As the Native Americans say, “Mní wičhóni. [Water is life.]’”
“A lot of this is it’s the journey, it’s not necessarily the destination. So, yes, the message is a powerful thing to be able to deliver, but it’s also building relationships with folks,” says Conover. “And I think having the Clearwater go to waters that it hasn’t been to in many years and maybe helping to inspire other groups who are working in the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay, waters that we’re going to visiting, and sharing ideas, education program ideas, I think that’ll also be part of what we’re doing.”
While in Washington, Clearwater and partner organizations will conduct dockside events and a June 29 forum on clear water issues on Capitol Hill for members of Congress and their staffs.