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Paddlers Celebrate the Rebirth of the Cuyahoga, 50 Years After the River Burned

photo of Blazing Paddles
About 250 people came out for Blazing Paddles on Saturday, about three times the turnout last year.

About 250 people participated in the second annual “Blazing Paddles” event Saturday, as part of the commemoration of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire.

At Merwin’s Wharf, competitors got to experience the Cuyahoga in everything from outrigger canoes to carbon-fiber race boats.

Organizers say the goal is to celebrate the river’s rebirth, by encouraging people to support infrastructure and legislation that helps keep the water clean.

Gerry James is with the Kentucky Waterman series of events for paddlers of all skills levels. His organization co-sponsored Blazing Paddles, an event he says is a model for bringing people from all walks of life together around waterways like the Cuyahoga.

“What I’m looking for in events is exactly what we have here: we’re looking for diversity. We’re looking for inclusivity. But we’re also looking for that environmental advocacy component.”

This year’s Blazing Paddles attracted about three times as many people as last year.


Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.