By Lisa Byers
CONNEAUT LAKE —
The top of Fireman’s Beach at Conneaut Lake can be seen from the dock behind the Beach Club and doesn’t appear to be too far away.
Then again, things aren’t always how they appear. Just ask the 26 individuals who made that trek Sunday morning via kayak or canoe.
“It was a pretty good distance,” said Conneaut Lake resident Matt Jorden. “For the most part the wind was in our face on the way down and then on the way back we had the wind at our back, so that was nice.”
Jorden was the first participant to complete the inaugural S.O.S. Canoe & Kayak Race, which encompassed a 4.5-mile round trip on a choppy Conneaut Lake from the Beach Club to Fireman’s Beach.
“Some of the sea walls created some backwash and made it harder to navigate, especially with a longer boat,” said Jorden, who completed the course in 49 minutes and 16 seconds. “It kind of pushes (the kayak) around. But other than that it was pretty smooth.
“The boats were respectful … I think it was a good event.”
The S.O.S. Canoe & Kayak Race is the fourth fundraiser for Crawford Area Residents for the Environment and Erie Peace & Justice Center, whose members are working to stop Crawford Renewable Energy from building a tires-to-energy facility in Greenwood Township.
Crawford Renewable Energy was issued Air Quality Plan Approval by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Oct. 24, 2011. On Nov. 28, 2011, Dr. Robert Concilus and Leah Humes, members of CARE, filed an appeal arguing that the Geneva Marsh, located near the site of the proposed tires-to-energy plant, may be significantly impacted.
Concilus said Sunday that the appeal will cost $30,000 total. So far CARE and Erie Peace & Justice Center have raised approximately $7,000.
Concilus said he expects the appeals hearing to take place this fall.
Gary Clark, community relations coordinator for DEP’s Northwest Regional Office in Meadville, told the Tribune on Friday that there have been no recent developments regarding the case.
“We are waiting for the judge in the appeal to set a hearing date,” Clark said.
Bill Jorden, who finished third overall in Sunday’s race, believes it’s a cause worth supporting.
“No. 1, I’m an attorney, so you have to look at the fact that it’s going to a good cause,” he said as to why he decided to participate in the race, “a cause to check and make sure everything is being done correctly to protect our environment. And that is always subject to review and questioning and cross-examination.
“That’s what attorneys do.”
It is CARE’s belief that the tires-to-energy plant will have a direct effect on Conneaut Lake — one reason it chose the kayak and canoe race as one of its fundraisers.
“Conneaut Lake connects to Geneva Marsh,” said Scott Hricsina, a member of CARE and one of the event’s organizers. “And this area is very dependent on nature tourism and tourism in general.
“If we have problems with contamination or big problems with pollution, people aren’t going to want to come here and enjoy the lake.
“We wanted to bring people out, have a great day on the lake and help support our cause.”
A total of 24 boats hit the water from longer kayaks like the one used by Matt Jorden, which he borrowed from Dr. Paul Shok, to shorter kayaks, tandem kayaks and even canoes.
Kevin Morgan of Montville, Ohio, was one of the few who chose to take a canoe out on the lake, which was rather choppy with a number of boats and jet skis out on the water. He wound up finishing second overall.
“That’s why a lot of canoes weren’t out there,” he said. “They’re open boats.
“It’s a little tippy. I have a seat that will lower down lower. So I had it down as low as I could get it and that helped a little.”
Morgan was also one of the participants who was out on the lake primarily for the competition.
“I live in northeast Ohio and there aren’t a lot of races this time of year,” he said. “So I thought I would get out … and it is for a great cause.”
Matt Jorden was the overall winner and took the trophy for the top finisher in the men’s long division. Mel Risinger was the official men’s short division winner following correction of a clerical error, according to Hricsina. He finished in 53 minutes, 24 seconds.
The women’s long winner was Jill Petraitis in 56 minutes, 44 seconds, while Karen Styborski finished first in the women’s short division with a time of 58 minutes, 16 seconds. Emily Castelli and Jill Jorden won in the tandem kayak with a time of one hour, four minutes and 31 seconds.
Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.