Free Paddling Passport Offerred
Ninth grade students across the country, including local freshmen, can go paddling down the Blue River for free this season thanks to a new program announced jointly by the Professional Paddlesports Association (PPA) and Cave Country Canoes. Called the “9th Grade Paddle Pass,” the program allows students to register and receive a passport that will get them up to 10 free paddling trips with participating outfitters across the U.S, said the program is designed to get local kids out on the water, enjoying nature.
“Many of our local high school freshmen cross the Blue River every day on their way to school, but they’ve never had the opportunity to explore this treasure right in their own backyards,” Carol Groves said. “We’re please to help PPA increase participation in paddling by young people, which we hope will lead to them being good stewards of our natural resources.”
Program Promotes Activity
PPA decided to target ninth graders for the free paddling program because “children entering high school are beginning to form patterns of what their futures will become,” said Executive Director Rachel Wisner. She cites studies showing that, compared with past generations; today’s youth are more prone to obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder and impaired social skills due to a lack of unstructured play time outdoors.
“The socially acceptable way of life for most teens is to sit inside in front of a computer or television screen after school,” Wisner said. “We want to reintroduce kids to the joys of spending time in the great outdoors.”
How to Register
To participate in the program, 9th graders must register at www.paddlepass.com, and then have a teacher or administrator verify the information and return it to the PPA. The trade association will send qualifying students a passport good for up to 10 free paddling trips, either at the same location or at ten different participating outfitters. Freshmen may choose canoes or kayaks.
Just a few restrictions apply. Students must have an adult sign for and accompany them. It’s valid anytime Cave Country Canoes is open for the half-day trip except for Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekend. Other participating outfitters may have different restrictions, including black-out dates on busy summer weekends.
Boating on Blue River began in 1969 with local businessman Paul Harpe renting first fishing boats and then canoes from his “Blue River Marina” in Milltown. Since 1983 Cave Country Canoes has rented thousands of canoes and kayaks on the river each summer.
Blue River was the first Indiana Stream to be designated a state scenic river way in 1975. It’s known for its diverse wildlife numerous springs and caves as well as fishing.