Clean Annapolis River Project’s Annapolis River Festival is back for the fifth year and it’s looking like a great day to make a splash at Bridgetown’s Jubilee Park July 13.
CARP’s Murray Freeman is passionate about the Annapolis River and said a day full of family fun, food, and on-the-water activities is a celebration of the waterway past, present, and future.
“It’s a chance to showcase the river,” he said. “Recreationally with the dragon boat races and the canoe races. We get a couple of the whaling boats from down at the causeway and it’s interesting the number of people who have lived here all their lives and that’s the first time they’ve been on this river.”
He said the tours go down about as far as Bloody Creek and people learn about the history and get to see the bald eagles nesting along the river.
There will be canoe races, demonstrations, music, food and drink, and a lot of activities for children, and a display of canoes of different construction including birch bark, Kevlar, and cedar canvas covered.
Freeman said there will also be demonstrations like basket making, fly tying, local artists painting, and even minimalist camping – “a couple of fellows with their camping gear to show you how to go backcountry camping with less gear than most of us drag along and don’t need.”
Freeman sees the Annapolis River as a thread through the county and through history.
“The Annapolis River would have been our first highway,” he said. “Over the years it was used a lot. Of course right here (in Bridgetown) there was all kinds of shipyards, and shipping going up and down here.”
“Bridgetown’s here because it’s head of navigation, and the bridge across the river,” Freeman said. “Historically it’s as far up as a sailing ship could actually go. We’re here. Annapolis Royal is there because that’s where the ocean-going ships came in and docked and loaded and unloaded and moved it on to smaller boats and brought it up here.”
He said Paradise is on the river, Lawrencetown, Middleton. “We’re pretty closely tied to spots along the river. We needed to travel the same places. We needed to go from Annapolis up to Bridgetown, to Middleton and so on.”
Eventually roads and highways paralleled the river and, like the river, meandered through the communities that grew up beside the historic waterway. Those roads took a lot of traffic off the river.
“Recreationally I think we’re getting back to a lot of traffic on the river,” he said.
The river was even used in warfare.
“A lot of people don’t realize there were two Battles of Bloody Creek and the first one actually happened just down the river here opposite Bill Hirtle’s place,” he said. “How it got the name of the Battle of Bloody Creek I’m not sure. The second one actually did take place at Bloody Creek.”
And then there’s the river’s health, the reason CARP exists.
“River Monitors have been monitoring the quality of the water since CARP’s inception 26, 27 years ago,” Freeman said. “It’s pretty evident that runoff is a problem. We notice if we have a water sampling after a heavy rain the ecoli levels are up. Some of it is farming related but a lot of it is also related to substandard home septic fields, things like that. It’s a slow process.”
Freeman said CARP has used the soft approach to encourage homeowners to improve their septic systems, to encourage farmers to create buffers and build fences to keep animals out of the river.
“Rain gardens, things like that, show what you can do with the runoff water and how you can control that,” he said. “Lots of little things that are hopefully all going to add up over time.”
Following is a list of activities to expect at the fifth annual Annapolis River Festival that runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Jubilee Park:
Dragon Boat Races, Canoe Obstacle Course, Canoe, Kayak, SUP Races, Guided Interpretive Boat Tours, Kills Sharing Village, Food and Beverage Tent, Live Music all day, Kids Activities all day, Farming, Livestock, and Life Skills demonstrations.
Admission to Riverfest is free. Online registration is required or recommended for some events.