Racing to Save a River



     On May 5, hundreds of canoeists and kayakers from around New England will hit the water with sights set on victory in the annual Naugatuck Valley River Race. But the race slogan, “The River Is the Winner!,” tells the real story. Thirty years ago, the “Naugy” was virtually a sewer, overflowing with industrial waste that made it unfit for any type of recreational activity. Environmental laws and the disappearance of manufacturing along the river had a major impact on its restoration. But a watchdog group of citizens and community organizations started the race to raise awareness and continue restoration projects.
     The moderate six-mile course begins in Waterbury and ends in Beacon Falls. According to Robert Bradley, chairman of the Beacon Falls Lions and one of the event organizers, “the intent is to have fun.” There are also other races within the race—one between officials from area towns who compete for a coveted plaque—and one between thousands of rubber ducks in the Beacon Falls Lions’ Duck Race. The festivities conclude with A Taste of Beacon Falls held at the finish line.
     Bradley says, “As someone who has lived my entire life in Beacon Falls, and at one time was horrified by the rancid cesspool of a river—a river that would run entirely different colors on an almost daily basis—I marvel at its rebirth. What was once the most polluted river in Connecticut is now a home for osprey, trout, and countless other wildlife, and is the shining gem of the valley.”

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Racing to Save a River

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