The Real Reason for the End of Wafting
Riverdave's Journal
March 4, 2009
         Wafting the Eno did not end, as the Herald-Sun’s March 1st editorial claims, because of a “lack of insurance.”  Wafting ended because the Durham Parks and Recreation Department took away our base of operation, the old blacksmith shop.  The alternatives they left us, of storing our equipment under the mill or in a temporary pod, are completely inadequate for the continuation of our wafting program.  Wafting requires a dry and secure place to store boats, paddles and life jackets, a place for a reservation landline phone, a desk and file cabinet for handling registration paper work and money and shelter from inclement weather for ourselves and waiting participants.

          In 1995, in an agreement with assistant DPR director Tom Maynard, I was given the title of “Resident Field Naturalist at West Point on the Eno Park.”  In that agreement I was also provided an office in the basement of the McCown-Mangum House, given triplicate waver forms produced by the City of Durham for registration of participants, and told that the City of Durham was self-insured and would cover my needs for liability insurance. With the beginning of the 1996 Wafting season, I was informed by the West Point Park Manager, Beth Highley, that I was no longer required to use the waivers in registering participants.  As a consequence, the City of Durham ceased to provide me the waiver forms.

          We have operated faithfully under these terms through 2008.  Our yearly contract with the DPR has never called for any further change.  As self employed individuals, we keep records for three years and then destroy them, so we do not have a copy of our 1995 agreement with Mr. Maynard. The CIty of Durham should have these records on file, but the West Point Park Manager claims that she cannot find them.

       Also, contrary to what the Herald-Sun editorial stated on May 1st, It is not a “minor miracle” that no serious wafting accident has happened. Instead, my safety record can be attributed to the careful focus on detail in the management of this program by myself and my partner, in such matters as the quality upkeep of our equipment, the ability to accurately monitor and interpret changing river and weather conditions and our careful screening process of participants who might have otherwise endangered themselves and others.

          No matter how welcoming the DPR director Rhonda Parker is to our return to Wafting with insurance, without the use of the dry and secure office space of the Blacksmith Shop, my partner and I are unable to continue to offer the same high quality and safe program that we have done in the past. The City of Durham has its priorities and they have clearly demonstrated what they are by their actions of denying wafting the continued use of the old blacksmith shop. All decisions in life are about priorities.
          In 2008 wafting had a sharing agreement with city programs for the use of the blacksmith shop that worked smoothly.  But for 2009, we were never consulted in any way to try and work out a shared use of the building and neither were we notified in a timely manner of our relegation to the mill basement. As a consequence of their actions, DPR has replaced a unique, guided river program which brought in revenue to the City of Durham with a taxpayer subsidized youth camp, the likes of which already exist at West Point Park. 

          With no other choice before us, this spring my partner and I will morph our love of nature education into a new land-based program known as TreeCamp. This program will focus on trees as a powerful healing remedy for that rapidly spreading modern malaise of nature deficit disorder.  

Photo by Riverdave: Wafting the Eno River at West Point Park, Durham, NC