Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Battles with Paddles on the River
By Caitlin Davis
Sep 17, 2012, 12:33

photo by Caitin Davis “Boaters start your paddles!” Boaters pulled their kayaks out into the Appomattox River at City Park in Hopewell as they prepared to paddle to Petersburg during FOLAR’S 5th Annual “Paddle or Battle” an event for racers and casual boaters.

With paddle boats of all colors, red, blue, yellow, green, lining the shore of the Appomattox River at City Park in Hopewell on Saturday, residents of the city and nearby communities were ready to “Battle or Paddle.”

FOLAR, Friends of the Lower Appomattox, hosted the 5th Annual “Battle or Paddle” event, inviting participants to complete the 10 mile course from City Park in Hopewell to Pocahontas Island in Petersburg.

Steve Thomas, a representative of FOLAR, said the event doesn’t just raise money and promote awareness of the organization. It is also a way to encourage people to visit the river and spend time outdoors in nature.

“FOLAR’s goal is to promote and give people reasons to enjoy the Appomattox River,” Thomas said.

Thomas, who was an avid paddler himself for almost 50 years, said rivers can completely change a community.

“To us at FOLAR, the river is everything,” Thomas said. “The nice advantage to being on the river, there are so many places to walk. We are trying to get people out and walking...”

FOLAR’S mission is not just to promote the Appomattox River, but is also to create a “greenway-blueway” trails system from the Appomattox River in Hopewell to Lake Chesdin, more than 23 miles away from the city. The money raised from the event will go towards helping complete the trails system.

Wayne Walton, Chairman of FOLAR and Vice-Mayor of Hopewell, echoed Thomas on the importance of the river to the community.

“The river is the reason we’re here,” Walton said. “It brings the community ties it all together.”

The event drew almost 40 people, the best turnout the event has ever had, Walton said. He explained the course was switched this year, due to changes in tides, which effect the river from the Chesapeake Bay to Richmond.

Walton has a lifelong love of the water. He said he was raised on a boat and has had a boat since the late 1970s.

“The river, it has a calming effect,” Walton said.

As the first round of paddlers who chose not to participate in the competitive battle aspect of the event took to the water at 9 a.m., Matt Marsh-Larose, from Chester, stood by the shore putting together his paddle and getting ready to launch.
photo by Caitlin Davis Matt Marsh-Larose, of Chester, puts together his paddle to get ready for FOLAR’S 5th Annual “Paddle or Battle.” Larose chose to paddle during the event on Saturday.

Larose, who classifies himself as an active person and enjoys running, weight lifting and ultimate frisbee, said since it had been a while since he had been on the river, he did not want to battle.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the water and I’m eager to do it,” Larose said. “Especially when the weather’s like this, it’s just nice out.”

The next round of boaters, the battlers, got on the river at 10 a.m. Marilyn Nicol, from Richmond, brought her kayak to the shore and eagerly awaited her chance to get into the water. Nicol attended the first “Paddle or Battle” and rented a canoe. She said that was when inspiration struck.

“It will be interesting to see if I can push myself,” Nicol said.

Not only did Nicol want to battle with her paddle, she wanted to use this event to help FOLAR.

“I wanted to help FOLAR preserve and maintain the wonderful riverside,” Nicol said.

Nicol said being on the river is peaceful and clears her mind.

“It takes away the stresses from work and life,” Nicol said.

Nicol said the event was great for people of all ages, not only because it got the community out and active. It also helped raise awareness of the importance of the river.

“Without the river we’d all be sunk,” Nicol said.

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