Storm destroys shed, canoes at environmental center

June 15, 2008|By Jasmine Jernberg

A fierce storm that tore through the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center has sidelined one of its most popular programs: its educational canoe tours.

High winds June 4 downed trees, knocked out power and phone lines and destroyed eight of the Edgewater facility's 10-canoe fleet, along with a canoe shed and a canoe stand recently built by a volunteer Eagle Scout. Canoeing programs at SERC have been suspended until further notice, center officials announced last week.

The hiking trails have been cleaned of debris and electricity restored - after being out for up to 67 hours - but the solution is not as simple for the canoe program.

New boats will cost the program from $800 to $1,000 apiece, and a new canoe shed will set the nonprofit back about $3,200. It has no insurance coverage for the damage and no guarantee of support for replacements.

"We have no other funding source other than donations," said Karen McDonald, public program director.

Summers are a busy time at SERC, where individuals and organized groups can sign up for two-hour excursions along Muddy Creek. The guided tours instruct participants on the ecology of the bay area.

Kimbra Cutlip, a spokeswoman for SERC, said the loss of the program will have an unfortunate effect on the center's revenues.

"The canoe programs are among our most popular," Cutlip said. "People enjoy getting out on the water and enjoying the water systems and the bay."

The summer camp program has been modified to replace canoe trips with more guided hikes and bay-related activities.

"It's kind of a handicap, starting a major season without half our team," McDonald said.

In the meantime, the center's other programs, including lectures and seminars for adults and readings and crafts for children remain open to the public.

The center welcomes donations to help replace the fleet. Call 301-238-2737 for more information.

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