Paddling With Mayor Steve Benjamin


Recently I had the opportunity to go on a paddle trip with Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin and over two dozen young African-American professionals.  The paddle trip was a part of Mayor Benjamin’s Talented Tenth Conference. The purpose of the conference was to show young educated African American’s that Columbia has a high quality of living (and great rivers) and is a good place to pursue a career.  Thousands of college graduates leave Columbia every year to for careers in Charlotte and Atlanta resulting in a “Brain Drain” effect in South Carolina’s state capital.  To learn more about the program check out this article in the State Newspaper.

Along with Jay Alley, founder and director of Canoeing for Kids we paddled the 3 mile long Columbia Canal which connects to the Congaree River Blue Trail.  As is the case with events like this, several of the young professionals had never been on a river before and were terrified to get in their boats. Once in the water it did not take long for them to gain confidence, relax and start enjoying themselves. A great time was had by all and hopefully Columbia’s rivers and greenways will inspire some of the talented young people I met to stay in Columbia and become involved in protecting clean water.

 Mayor Benjamin is an enthusiastic supporter Columbia’s rivers and the Congaree River Blue Trail.  He understands how valuable healthy rivers with recreational access are for communities in the Columbia area.  This past summer he wrote an opinion editorial for the State Newspaper highlighting Columbia’s rivers and the Congaree River Blue Trail as an example of local project that is helping people reconnect to the outdoors for the Obama Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

If majorities of decision makers and the public are going to understand the values and benefits of healthy protected rivers it is critically important to get them out there enjoying them for themselves.  If you have a relationship with your city council, county council, mayor, or state legislator, ask them to go paddling so they can see first hand what we all work so hard to protect.