I’ve been reading about Kayak/Canoe safety lately and came across the article from last June about the drowning of a kayaker on the Clinton River again. Some of the notable topics in the article mentioned how fickle the river can be and how dangerous and turbulent it is after a hard rain. The most important quote was from the Shelby Township Fire Chief:
“We’d like to come up with something that has information on the depth and current conditions up and down the entire river, and links to interpret the information,” Swinkowski said. “That might help the public and how people approach going out on kayaks and canoes.”
And while that seems like a nice, easy solution, let’s think about the reality of setting up such a dedicated website for this purpose. I can only imagine the cost multiplication associated with some branch of the government handling this task. For example, should there be single person hired to run this website, or page, dedicated to monitoring the conditions on the Clinton? That’s not going to happen with city and county budgets supposedly in arrears in today’s economy. So, the task will be added to the workload of some underling who’s already overworked and underpaid tying up loose ends of all the important government administrators. What we’ll likely get is a half-hearted approach to monitoring river conditions. Next, add-in laggy response time, lack of interest, or neglect of this website leading to another tragedy. Anyone trying to navigate the State Of Michigan DNR site or most any other government run websites knows what I mean by this. Trying to find information is, sometimes, like playing the Lotto. Then, it occurred to me that we already have an infrastructure in place – it’s called Twitter. And, if we all participate, we can provide this information to the paddling community more accurately, more consistently, and for free.
No need to make and monitor inputs to a page on a county or local municipality website. Using a hashtag (#) on twitter would allow any boater to instantly lookup river conditions on ANY river in Michigan. Instead of devoting an entire infrastructure and development costs to run a website for river monitoring, we could all take some responsibility to monitor the rivers for our fellow kayakers and canoeists on a real-time basis. Since almost all major rivers are served by a livery or two, they can be the backbone of the system by tweeting conditions of their respective runs on a daily basis during paddling seasons. The rest of us could fill in the details at put-ins and take-outs not serviced by the liveries. It would be a small contribution from everyone and result in a large value for the community at large. And not only the Clinton, but ALL rivers in Michigan (or in any state, for that matter) could be updated on a consistent basis without the need for government to throw a pittance of pence at the problem and come up with a less than stellar solution.
So, I’m proposing a format for tweets like this:
# (hashtag, for those new to twitter) <“MI”> (for Michigan) <NAME> (insert name of river) <“RiverCheck”>
And then immediately followed by info related to the <Date> <Location> <Conditions>.
For a resulting tweet that reads like this:
#MIClintonRiverCheck 4/3/14 High, swift water above Yates Dam from rain yesterday *CAUTION*
#MIHuronRiverCheck 4/2/14 low water level above Placeway Picnic Site – too many portages !!
You can then, without even logging into Twitter, go to the website and look up conditions on any river that’s been tweeted about. TRY IT – CLICK TO GO TO TWITTER. Then type in #MIHuronRiverCheck. You should see the test post. Websites could easily add a twitter post rfeed to an already existing website. If we can get the hundred or so liveries on board, it will be a great start for this system. And, it’s free.