By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Before there was Maple Cove, Jim Crawford didn’t fully appreciate that he lived in a river town.
But not long after the town council designated the undeveloped plot of borough-owned land at the foot of Maple Avenue as an official access to the Navesink River, Crawford became the owner of not one but two kayaks, and is now a river regular.
Same went for Wendy Spencer, who lived for years in Red Bank looking at the river, but not experiencing it. She, too, has a couple kayaks now, and is a frequent paddler.
Recent attention to the little-known river access spot “has opened the eyes of so many people to kayaking and canoeing,” said the American Littoral Society‘s Kathleen Gasienica, a breathing encyclopedia of all things river-related.
But while Maple Cove has begun to attract renewed interest the river, the small beach area will only be one component in a day-long celebration intended to enlighten Red Bankers and others about the natural and recreational wonders of the Navesink.
Paddle the Navesink Day, on Saturday, September 18, will be a rush of activity to show some love for the waterway and create a new, all-natural tradition in Red Bank.
“This is truly a river festival,” said Linda Ensor, of Navesink River Rowing club, which is anchoring the event along with the Monmouth Boat Club, the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club and The Friends of Maple Cove, led by activist Cindy Burnham, who spearheaded an effort to save the cove from sale and development.
The waterfront event, taking place between Maple Cove and Marine Park, is open to all, from seasoned paddlers to curious landlubbers.
Paddle Day activities include kayak and canoe lessons, equipment demos, sailboat rides, rowing instruction and an open house at Navesink River Rowing; a walk through Riverside Gardens Park; seining sessions put on by the Littoral Society; a tour of Red Bank’s prized clay tennis courts; and a showcase of wooden canoes crafted by local children.
Music, food, a guided tour up the Navesink, tours of an oysterman’s boat and educational talks and demonstrations from various local groups including the Navesink Maritime Heritage Association are also scheduled.
Local businesses and restaurants along Front Street will also offer either discounts or tastings for visitors, said Burnham, co-organizer of the event.
Anyone who has non-motorized watercraft is welcome to come down to participate too, she said.
Burnham is looking to draw a big crowd, with the hope that visitors will have a similar experience to Crawford and Spencer’s. Crawford especially recommends it.
“It’s a revelation,” he said. “Once you get out there you truly realize you’re living in a river town. And you don’t really get that when you go up on Broad Street. It’s a totally different world out there.”
The action takes place from 11a to 3p Saturday. View the flyer here.
Public parking is available in the White Street municipal lot, English Plaza and Marine Park as well as at Maple Cove.