DiZoglio, Vargas Among ‘Valley Voyagers’ to Complete 4-Day Paddle to Raise Merrimack River Awareness

A four-day kayak trip along the Merrimack River raised awareness of local and regional environmental issues. (Josiah Morrow photograph for WHAV News)

For the last four days, more than a dozen lawmakers and local leaders made Merrimack River awareness their mission as they kayaked and camped the entire length of the 117-mile waterway, stopping in Haverhill Saturday before wrapping up their trek in Plum Island.

Calling themselves the “Merrimack River Valley Voyagers,” the group—including state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, Reps. Linda Dean Campbell, Christina Minicucci and Andy Vargas—brought attention to environmental issues, economic development and recreational opportunities as they stopped along the way from the start of the river in Franklin, N.H. Kayaking 22- to 35- miles each day of the trip, participants also stopped in Concord, N.H. Manchester, N.H., Nashua, N.H., Lowell and Lawrence.

During Haverhill’s rest stop, Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President and paddler Dougan Sherwood reflected on what the group learned throughout the weekend.

“This is a very special river for any city or town it travels through and we’re very lucky that it travels right through our downtown. All of us who’ve been part of this journey are coming away with a new appreciation for how wonderful, special, complicated and fragile it is,” said Sherwood, who worked with Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn and Lawrence Partnership Executive Director Derek Mitchell to get the idea off the ground.

“Cities all over the world would kill to have a river like this run through it. We have all the resources to make the Merrimack Valley and Haverhill in particular truly world class,” he added.

A DiZoglio-backed bill passed in the Senate last week will formally establish a Merrimack River District Commission, made up of state officials and members of local and regional environmental groups, along with an advisory panel of local officials to work with it.

The Merrimack River provides drinking water to about 500,000 people in Lowell, Methuen, Andover, Tewksbury and Lawrence, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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