Croton Point Park, one of the most scenic places in the Hudson Valley, and located on the Eastern bank at the widest part of the Hudson River, was the gathering place for the Great Hudson River Revival, A Music & Environmental Festival, organized by Clearwater this past June 21, the first day of summer. Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a dynamic advocacy organization founded and inspired by the late American folk music icon Pete Seeger, has become a friend of the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program thanks to program director, Dr. Heidi Hutner.
Dr. Hutner has seized on the parallel missions of her program and Clearwater as a bridge to turn theory into practice. Not content to simply get her students and fellow faculty aboard the Clearwater Hudson River Sloop for annual sails of the New York Harbor, Dr. Hutner has established a deeper working relationship with Clearwater that has engaged both Stony Brook faculty and students in the vital activism that has been the organization’s hallmark. The Croton Point Park event, which included Green Cities volunteers recruited by Clearwater from throughout the region, also included Sustainability Studies Program students, alumni and faculty. Upon graduating in May, program alumna Shameika Hanson was hired by Clearwater as volunteer coordinator and events supporter, paving the way for other Stony Brook University students to become more closely involved with Clearwater.
Under the management of Clearwater’s Environmental Action Director, the able and experienced Manna Jo Greene, Green Cities volunteers circulated throughout the festival gathering signatures on petitions for causes that ranged from the proposed retirement of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, to opposition to fracking, to stricter control of the transport of hazardous fuels carried by railroads, among others. At the start of the event Ms. Greene’s team members were introduced to each other and given an orientation to Clearwater’s political objectives, an agenda near and dear to Pete Seeger and friends. Together, the volunteers ran an information table and tent. Along with the Green Cities and other tents provided for festival attendees, the public education agenda was complimented by delicious food, fun crafts, spirited music and dance. The whole 508-acre park seemed to teem with the event’s positive energy.
For those who wished to spend the entire weekend at the festival, there were a variety of lodging options available. Hundreds of tents and campsites could be seen throughout the park’s designated camping areas. Folding lawn chairs, portable BBQs, random Frisbee games and separate small gatherings of musicians gave the assembly a party atmosphere as people of all ages could be heard laughing, playing and singing. Vehicle license tags revealed an amassing of folks from a widespread geography. Amidst the fun and festivities though, serious discussions about people and the planet were had. All those who love Pete Seeger and his music could take heart in knowing that Pete’s memory and legacy were at work. Those volunteers with clipboards circulating among the crowds were regularly reinforced by the enthusiasm of those wanting to sign their names.
Thousands of signatures were gathered at the event and the petitions containing those signatures were forwarded to New York’s Governor Cuomo and other leaders in Albany. I had the great privilege of serving as a Green Cities volunteer at Clearwater’s festival. It was an especially great day for me; I attended the festival with my son, who had just graduated from college, and got the opportunity to revisit a much-loved place of my childhood (I was born upstate by the Hudson River, in Troy, and grew up in Nyack and Haverstraw on the opposite side of the river).
The latest event in the Sustainability Studies Program’s growing partnership with Clearwater took place on Friday, September 26. Students, alumni, faculty and friends of the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program took another cruise around New York Harbor aboard the 106-foot, single-mast Clearwater Sloop. For those who have tried it, there is something nearly magical about helping to hoist the sails and man the tiller while learning more about our river ecosystems aboard this marvelous “floating classroom.”