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Watershed Council and local leaders kayak 117 miles to support Merrimack River

Sen. Edward Kennedy to speak at public event after docking in Lowell

by Nicole Defeudis, Lowell Sun

At least nine kayakers planned to departed Franklin, New Hampshire on Wednesday morning, paddling toward Plum Island in an event to raise awareness for the preservation of the Merrimack River.

“Philosophically, what they’re trying to do is to draw attention to the river as a resource that is important to our area,” said John Macone, interim director and outreach specialist for the Merrimack River Watershed Council.

The river supplies drinking water to more than 600,000 people, according to the Watershed Council. Yet in 2018, more than 770 million gallons of combined sewage overflow dumped into the river, the organization states.

“There are some problems with chemicals and sewage and runoff that goes into the river and these are solvable problems,” Macone said.

The Merrimack is a popular place for recreation, including swimming, fishing and boating, and enabled Lowell to become a 19th-century leader in the textile industry.

Dan Graovac, a Plum Island resident and president of the Watershed Council board of directors, will join a group of community leaders — including 1st Middlesex District Sen. Edward Kennedy — to kayak the river, which runs from New Hampshire to Newburyport.

Some will paddle a portion of the river, while a group of nine will endure the entire 117-mile trek.

“We’re a good group of people that are going to have an adventure and have some fun out there,” said Graovac, who planned to kayak the whole stretch.

The group plans to paddle for 22 to 35 miles each day, reaching Plum Island Saturday. They’ll lug everything they need for the day, such as food, water and camera equipment, in their kayaks, stopping to camp and rest in various locations, including Concord, Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, and Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Newburyport.

A ground crew will meet the group at each stop, and also help the paddlers around such obstacles as dams and rapids. Newburyport-based Plum Island Kayak will supply boats for those who don’t own one, and RiverWalk Brewing Co. will host a barbecue-style landing party once the voyagers reach the end of the river.


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