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Columbia-Greene Trout Unlimited Chapter #569

New York State's Catskill Region

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Kennebec, Maine TU voted best chapter…


Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel


Admit it. You're like the rest of us Mainers, always wondering how we stack up with the rest of the country when it comes to things like jobs, education, taxes.

And trout.

I'm not about to begin telling you how we're doing with some of those things. But I can tell you one thing with complete certainty -- our local Trout Unlimited chapter is as good as it gets. Literally.

Last month, for the second time in the last six years, the Kennebec Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited was honored as TU's top local chapter at its annual meeting in Boise, Idaho.

"My understanding is that this is the first time a chapter's twice won the award," said Winslow's Dan Marra, in his second term as president of the Kennebec Valley chapter.

The Gold Trout award is handed out each year by Trout Unlimited, and the award is given to the local chapter that has done the most significant work in cold water conservation.

Kennebec Valley Trout Unlimited focuses its efforts each year in a few different areas, namely conservation and education.

Marra said the group hasn't really changed what it's been doing since the first time it was honored with the Gold Trout award.

"We just continue to maintain our reach as a grassroots organization," Marra said. "Bruce Bowman (of Newport) went out and received the award in Boise for us, and during the actual meeting they talked about balancing grassroots versus the bigger efforts of Trout Unlimited. What I'm particularly pleased with here is we really still are a grassroots organization.

"We infrequently turn down a request for outreach programs, whether it's fly-casting, fly-tying, conservation. Some are ongoing programs, and some are one- or two-shot offerings. But we have a committed group of volunteers that we're lucky to have."

There are 450 Trout Unlimited chapters across the country, counting more than 150,000 members. For this year, anyway, the Kennebec Valley chapter can boast itself as the best.

Among the projects the national TU headquarters touted on the Kennebec Valley resume were the Maine TU Trout Camp for kids and "Project Healing Waters," a program encouraging local members to work with wounded war veterans over at the Togus V.A. Medical Center.

KVTU has also continued its efforts to promote fishing opportunities along the Kennebec River, worked with the Atlantic Salmon Commission and provided monthly programs to area schools.

TU vice president Steve Moyer was especially pleased with the Atlantic salmon work.

"The Kennebec Valley Chapter well deserves this award for their continued dedication to river conservation in New England," Moyer said. "They have worked tirelessly to improve the future of Atlantic salmon."

All it takes to accomplish everything on the list is a dedicated group of some 360 chapter members.

"It's pleasing to see the recognition of the number of hours and recognition of efforts of our volunteers -- because this is all volunteer work," Marra said. "We're not resting on our laurels.

"We're still active, and we're continually re-inventing ourselves and responding to the needs of people out there and to the needs of the environment."

He's also quick to point out the work that state agencies and volunteer groups have done, too, from the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission to the Maine headquarters of Trout Unlimited.

"It's our partner organizations, too," Marra said. "It's not only non-profits, but state and federal agencies. That really shows that a collaborative effort can accomplish a lot of things."

Marra thinks that the accolades recently falling on the shoulders of his own chapter, as well as the work being done by the other Maine chapters of Trout Unlimited, speaks to a larger issue, too. He's aware that the numbers of both fishermen and hunters are diminishing across the country.

A trout camp for kids, as well as the school programs that introduce youngsters to things like fly-tying and fly-casting, can fight those dropping numbers.

"We're educating the next generation," Marra said. "We're really proud of that fact that we've had kids from our own chapter's trout camp to go other places across the country -- Pennsylvania, Montana, Colorado -- and they've all been really well received as both campers and instructors.

"Is there a decline in hunting and fishing? Maybe, but we're helping to do our part with that."



©2007 Columbia-Greene Trout Unlimited