The 10th annual Tour De Coal event sponsored by the Coal River Group brought record numbers of people to the Coal Rivers.
“Our goal has always been to bring life back to the Coal Rivers’, says Kris Radford, President of the Coal River Group, ‘and it seems the Tour De Coal has become our poster child for accomplishing our goal.”
Despite terrible weather the day prior to the event hardy paddlers started showing up at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and the crowd just grew and grew. The overcast skies looked ominous during the early hours but the kayaks kept arriving and the anxious paddlers prepared their boats in the small public field provided by the Kanawha County Parks at Meadowood Park at Tornado, WV.
As the crowd grew, the weather seemed to improve minute by minute.
By the time longtime Chairman and co-founder of the event, Bill Currey blew the start whistle paddlers had jam packed the small laydown field.
At first it seemed that the crowed would be smaller than in 2013 but the organizers soon announced that over 389 people had registered to float the coal. Once the event was underway many others along the way joined the flotilla and in the end an estimated 425 paddlers completed the 12 mile course.
The Tour De Coal now represents a symbol of success for the Coal River Group’s efforts to restore the rivers.
Bill Currey notes, “People want clean rivers and they have been willing for over 10 years to help us clean up the Big, Little and Coal Rivers. Now when the announcements go out for the dates of next year’s Tour De Coal people start planning their vacations to allow them to come back home and enjoy our now almost clean river.”
The Tour De Coal event asks participants to donate $20 dollars to the CRG and each participant gets a T shirt with the iconic lone paddler design which over 10 years has become cherished keep sake for participants. Many folks wear the Tour De Coal shirts proudly throughout the year.
“The 75 veteran volunteers are how we make this a safe and efficient event,’ says Radford, ‘they come from all walks of life and through the year they work at many different jobs. But when the Tour De Coal planning begins they are all in and all about making the event the safest water event possible and giving our participants a wonderful river experience.”
Sponsors for this year’s event were Moses Ford, City National Bank, Mardi Gras Casino and Anheuser Busch. Other contributing support included Cabela’s and Kayak Kaddy. A host of local businesses provided water, fruit, hay bales, signs, supplies and money to help make the event successful. Local volunteer fire Departments, the St. Albans Fire Department, City of St. Albans and Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Authority provided additional support.