Last week I had the opportunity to speak at TAP-IN Colorado a reverse pitch event. This event was the last of three held in 2017 TAP-IN's goal is to raise awareness, increase community engagement, and start conversations about how to address water challenges facing Colorado. Unlike a typical pitch night where people propose solutions, TAP-IN has the "pitchers" present problems impacting their communities along with some opportunities to get involved. The audience then asks questions to discuss how to address the issue. Some pitchers had solutions they were working on and needed community involvement, and others were looking for fresh ideas to get started problem solving.
"We each had 5 minutes to give our pitch and convince the audience that this issue impacted them and they needed to do something about it. "
To kickoff the pitch event, a panel of local leaders and experts shared their insights into water issues facing their organizations.
Gigi Richard from the Hutchins Water Center at CMU
Tim Carlson from Many Rivers Brewing
Robin Brown with BROWNHOUSE PR &Events
Joe Burtard with Ute Water Conservancy District
David Graf from Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Chuck Sullivan from Something Independent moderated the event and asked the panelists about what they were doing to address water issues.
After a short discussion, it was time to hear from the pitchers! We each had 5 minutes to give our pitch and convince the audience that this issue impacted them and they needed to do something about it. I waited my turn listening to other pitches and the questions from the audience. I was first up after the break. I brought the audience back from the break with some old camp tricks.
"If you can hear me stomp once"
"If you can hear me stomp twice"
"if you can hear me stomp three times."
STOMP STOMP STOMP
I was off.
Welcome to the Flow.
Let me paint you a picture of the past so we can understand the problems that we face presently. Over 70 years ago a precedent was set for how we treat our waterways here in the Grand Valley.
This is the DOE along the Gunnison River testing uranium, a Uranium processing plant at Las Colonias. Here is a Junk yard at Watson Island also along the river.
About 35 years ago the Grand Junction Lions Club decided to do something about this. Working with the Tamarisk Coalition they cleaned up the island today with a disk golf course and event space.
I applaud their efforts but realize there is still a long ways to go. We have a dirty habit of mistreating our waterways, and still have to clean up trash along the river banks today.
The facts are this. The Western Association to Enjoy Rivers (W.A.T.E.R.) Club engaged in un-advertised river cleanup since the early 1980s it became an “official” event with civic partners like Mesa County, Town of Palisade, City of Grand Junction, City of Fruita and other business sponsors. The first recorded cleanups were from 2012 - 2017 where they collected 98 yards of trash and 125 tires. The average was 16 yards of trash and 21 tires each year. Plus the occasional oddity find like a hot tub or coach.
At our boat ramps today you can still find broken glass. You can still find trash and abandoned homeless camps. When you float the river you still find tires and at times float past properties where people throw trash down the river bank into the water. We still have junk yards along the river and properties that can’t be sold because they are filthy and misused. We have hazards in the river some man made, and some natural like overhanging trees that create strainers and sieves.
Why should we care?
We should care because we want our friends, family and neighbors that recreate in on and around our waterways to be safe.
We should care because we don't want trash in our rivers that cause negative impacts on the environment.
We should care because we want to sell and develop properties along the river bank.
We should care because we want to be an example for others that live along our namesake waterway.
We care because this is our river!
Other communities are already taking full advantage of their waterways. Moab built the infrastructure 40 minutes outside of town and people paddle the Moab Daily extensively. They see the economic, ecological, and ethical benefit from their efforts.
The Bike community in the valley has raised more than 39 million dollars through grants, partnerships, and contributions in the last 10 years.
they recently received $4.6 million to develop 4 ½ miles of trail. That’s more than a million dollars a mile.
If the bike community can do it why can’t the paddle Community?
Let's we come together and start investing in better access to our public waterways. Let's apply for grants, raise money, and provide better education and signage at river access.
Let's host events and festivals that highlight this great resource.
Our river should be a designated National water trail! There are only 21 in the nation and only 1 other on the Colorado River. We could be the first in the state if we did it!
All we need is an act of Congress or a designation from the Secretary of the Interior?
Another amazing fact is the outdoor industry has an $887 billion impact in direct consumer spending. Additionally, they estimate that outdoor recreation accounts for 7.6 million jobs and $120 billion in tax revenue.
After seeing those numbers. I could see the river being a worthy investment.
There is no other time than now, to make a difference, to start a conversation, to make an impact, to take action, to speak up.
Our waterways are not realizing their full potential.
So, what can we do about it?
How do we realize our full potential?
This was my pitch. I hope you feel like this impacts you and that you have a reason to do something about it. I had a few people ask me questions. I told them how the GVPC is working to raise funds to build better boat ramps through the Grand Valley because they are not scaled to the size of this community. We talked about the Colorado River Cleanup, and how people can get involved. It's happening Aug. 4, 2018. We began a conversation that will impact the community moving into the future. How do we realize our full potential? How do we improve the value of our waterways? Let's follow the examples of the successful bike industry, let's do the same for the paddling community.
There were many other great pitchers that night.
Brad Piehl - JW associates
Dan Chehayl - Ouray Ice Park
Tim Carlson - Many Rivers Brewing
John Whipple - Grand Valley Paddling Club
Zach Smith - Colorado Water trust
David Graf - Colorado Parks and Wildlife
To learn more about their presentations and how to get involved check back here on the GVPC website and also check out the TAP-IN Colorado page. They filmed the pitches and will be putting those on the website soon. Also, be sure to check out the KJCT News 8 coverage of the event.
I encourage you all to learn more about our rivers, get involved, and take action to help our waterways realize their full potential. One great way to get involved is to join the Grand Valley Paddling Club today.