Thursday, June 12, 2008
Connecting residents with their river
Float trips along the New River make up the heart of Shawn Hash's business.
Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times
Shawn Hash, who runs Pembroke-based Tangent Outfitters, calls to schedule canoe shuttles at Foster Falls while on the New River near the Virginia-North Carolina border Tuesday. Hash is leading a float trip down the New River to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the New becoming an American Heritage River.
- Trip marks 10 years as American Heritage River
- Beyond the river, town of Fries welcomes its visitors
- Float trip requires some manuevering
- Celebrating Radford along the float
- New River, 1st American Heritage River, still faces threats
- It’s a phenomenal, phenomenal river
- See a map of the float trip
Audio slide show
- River guide Shawn Hash tells why he organized a float trip to help residents develop personal connections to the New that will move them to protect it.
More on the river
BAYWOOD -- Shawn Hash is a conflicted man.
He can't understand folks who wake up on a Saturday morning and call an outfitter trying to set up float trip for later that day.
"It used to be that people would plan four weeks or six weeks ahead for a trip on the river," said Hash, who runs Pembroke-based Tangent Outfitters. "Now they call the shop at 6 in the morning, and they get mad if we can't get on the river by 7:30."
But planning too much -- that can be a problem for him, too.
Years ago, Hash and a buddy spent weeks mapping out a cross-country road trip. After one day on the road, they crumpled up their elaborate itinerary and threw it way.
"We just followed our nose," Hash said. "It was great."
Now Hash is leading a float trip down the New River to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the New becoming an American Heritage River. So far this week, a handful of people have joined him. More, such as Department of Game and Inland Fisheries staff and members of the Giles County Board of Supervisors, are expected later this week as the boats reach Pulaski, Montgomery and Giles counties.
There's lots of planning and coordinating and adjusting on the fly that needs to be done. Hash makes his living putting people on the river, but he's worried about too many people getting out there at one time. And yet, he's convinced that putting people out there is good for the river. If folks feel connected to the river, he said, they're more likely to do something good for it.
Hash took a whole town council out a while back. Though they'd lived next to the New River all their lives, many of them had never been on the New River before that day.
The next day, the mayor was running a backhoe, cleaning up the town's boat launch.
Hash and his brother started Tangent Outfitters in 1992 with four bicycles, two canoes and a pickup truck. With the opening of New River Trail State Park, the Hashes were convinced a bike-and-boat adventure package would sell like snow cones in a heat wave.
It didn't work out that way.
His brother moved on, but Hash stayed with it. Tangent Outfitters, now based in Pembroke, employs 22 people, nine of them year-round. Tangent still does bike trips, out of stubbornness more than anything else, Hash said, but New River float trips are the heart of the business.
People change when they get out on the river, Hash said. They slow down. They learn to follow their noses.
And yet, Hash set out on the river Tuesday with a paddle in one hand and cellphone in the other.
At supper time, Hash called headquarters back in Pembroke. Bud Foster, the Hokies' defensive coordinator, had been fishing that day. He caught a monstrous bass.
"The coaching staff is going to be all over us now," Hash said.
He snapped his cellphone shut.