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The Groton Greenway River Festival brought hundreds of people of all ages together to celebrate the Nashua River on land and water, with education, music and activities, including the popular cardboard canoe race.

Held at the Petapawag Boat Launch, the festival was organized as a way to bring people to the river and for local groups to provide a fun and informative opportunity to learn about the challenges that face the rivers and the inhabitants of the watershed.

“We want people to enjoy and protect the river,” said Marion Stoddart, Groton Greenway Committee member.

Stoddart and committee members Carol Coutrier and Fran Stanley, were there to educate people about the Nashua River. Severely polluted in the 1960’s and considered one of the 10 most polluted rivers in the U.S., the river was restored in the 1970’s.

The Groton Greenway Committee is seeking to restore the trail connection crossing the Nashua River at Fitch’s Bridge with restoration to or replacement of the bridge. Built in 1898, the bridge is considered a rare example of an unaltered warren double intersection through truss and a narrative boat tour of the project by David Manugian, committee member, was one of the popular activities at the festival.

The Nashua River and Squannacook River have benefit from years of stewardship by the Groton Greenway Committee, local citizen groups and the Nashua River Watershed Association (formed in 1969 to protect water and other natural resources).

“There’s a crawfish!” exclaimed Sam Landry, from Groton, who was with his friend Max McManus at the Nashua River Watershed Association’s booth. The boys, both 7, used plastic spoons to get a close look at tiny river creatures that were swimming and skimming in plastic tubs. “They’re aquatic macroinvertebrates, scooped from the river, to teach what lives in the river as an indicator of water quality and show that the river is clean,” said Pam Gilfillan, NRWA Development associate.

Local musicians, including Native American drummers, provided entertainment while families participated in activities, crafts and visiting a variety of information booths geared towards the river. Squan-a-tissit Trout Unlimited Chapter offered free lessons with rod and reels and demonstrated the art of fly making while the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife handed out turtle posters, had baby turtles for looking only and a corn snake that was allowed to be handled. Families enjoyed lunch by the river and almost everyone took a canoe, donated by Nashoba Paddler, out on the river.

Diane and Pete Carson, owners of Nashoba Paddler both agreed, it was time to have the River Festival again since the last time was in 2005. According to Diane, Pete organized this year’s festival, has participated in the festival many times before and has always been interested in the greenway and the river.

At 3:30 large sheets of cardboard and duck tape were handed out to anyone who wanted to participate in the cardboard canoe race and within a half hour, craft and ingenuity yielded quite a variety of boats with 16 constructed, ready to race.

Lucas Moisson, Nashoba Paddler aquatics director, blew his whistle and the first group launched into the water. A few canoes made it back to shore, most sank and it was the same scenario with the second group. In the end, it was 8t-year old Daniel Hunter from Pepperell, who paddled his cardboard canoe to win the race. “It’s the first boat in history to make it,” said Daniel beaming with pride.

As the river festival concluded, a single kayak could be seen gliding across the river showing that the river is always there to provide enjoyment and education.

“Everyone had a great time; we’re already planning for next year,” said Pete Carson.

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