National “Green Paddle” Award Goes For Los Angeles River Conservation

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A sub rosa river expedition down the Los Angeles River, which helped win federal Clean Water Act protections for the much-derided river, leads to national recognition for George Wolfe and his organization L.A. River Expeditions — the 2010 'Green Paddle' award recipient. The American Canoe Association presents the award annually for "outstanding contribution to paddlesport by protecting America's waterways."

By being on the cutting edge of river activism and by boating down the L.A. River, we’re playing a critical role in changing people’s perceptions — and even policy.

George Wolfe & L.A. River Expeditions is the 2010 recipient of the American Canoe Association’s Green Paddle Award, presented annually to an individual or group that has made an “outstanding contribution to paddlesport by protecting America's waterways.” The award ceremony took place on November 6th, 2010, during the ACA’s annual conference in Asheville, North Carolina.

Wolfe, an avid canoeist/kayaker, led a flotilla of citizen-boaters down the 51 miles of the L.A. River over three days in July 2008 to advocate for Clean Water Act protections for the much-abused waterway. The sub rosa expedition and his report — extensively documenting navigability, hydrology and other information collected during the trip — proved key to the Environmental Protection Agency’s final determination in July 2010 that the entire Los Angeles River would merit “traditional navigable waterway” status (and is therefore protectable under the federal Clean Water Act). Previously, less than four miles of the river were deemed protectable.

“The L.A. River has been kicked around and derided over the last century,” says award recipient George Wolfe. “By being on the cutting edge of river activism and by boating down the L.A. River, we’re playing a critical role in changing people’s perceptions — and even policy.”

Following “L.A. River Expedition 2008” (also led by Jeffrey Tipton and Joel Shapiro), Wolfe founded L.A. River Expeditions, which advocates for a comprehensive public river access policy, improved safety along the river, and increased river stewardship. Since 2008, in response to public interest, Wolfe has led dozens of organized recreational/educational excursions down the nicer, ‘living’ sections of the river — a first in its history. In 2011, he plans to work with intergovernmental agencies to run officially permitted river excursions, further establishing L.A. River Expeditions as the de facto organization for adventurous and responsible boating on the L.A. River.

Both L.A. County and the City of Los Angeles have developed bold river revitalization plans. Now, with the EPA’s watershed decision, many people believe that 2010 will mark the beginning of a new, more cooperative and progressive era for the Los Angeles River in which the public asserts its right to use its local river, and agencies work in sync.

“The American Canoe Association is extremely proud to recognize George and L.A. River Expeditions for their significant accomplishments,” says ACA Chief Operating Officer Chris Stec. “They have set a great example for the nation.”

The actions of L.A. River advocates led to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s landmark comments on July 7, 2010: “We want the L.A. River to demonstrate how urban waterways across the country can serve as assets in building stronger neighborhoods, attracting new businesses and creating new jobs.”

“I share this award with all the people who have worked hard on behalf of the river for many years,” adds Wolfe. “Groups like Friends of the LA River, Heal the Bay, TreePeople, The River Project, L.A. Creek Freak, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, LA Conservation Corps, Urban Semillas and many others have put forth a fantastic vision of a sustainable Los Angeles. Mayor Villaraigosa and City Councilmember Ed Reyes have also been tireless advocates for a cleaned-up, greened-up river. Special thanks is due Heather Wiley, the biologist whistleblower at the Army Corps of Engineers who lost her job advocating for river protections.”


Founded in 1880 and recognized as the "Gold Standard" for paddlesports safety education and instruction, the American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport recreation.

George Wolfe is a writer and recreational boater living in Venice, California. He is Founder and President of L.A. River Expeditions.

L.A. River Expedition’s mission is to advocate for Clean Water Act protections and a comprehensive public river access policy for the LA River; to create a viable green business that runs organized recreation/education canoe and kayak expeditions on the LA River while teaching boating skills, river safety, and fostering river stewardship; to assist in the development of other innovative, river-specific programs and events that will enhance the LA River’s social ecosystem; to advocate for the protection of America’s waterways, especially urban waterways; and to be a connector between the LA River and other rivers worldwide, in order to protect the world’s international river ecosystem.


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George Wolfe, Founder/President

Chris Stec, Chief Operating Officer
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