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Tandem team wins annual kayak paddling race

by: Jaime Valdez Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen and Durham Mayor Gery Schirado prepare for the annual Tualatin River Challenge put on by the Tualatin Riverkeepers.

Cars sped by overhead as Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen and Durham Mayor Gery Schirado slid their kayaks into the Tualatin River for the fifth annual Mayor's Challenge and Legislative Paddle Race, Wednesday under the Pacific Highway bridge. The annual kayak race down the Tualatin River pits mayors and elected officials against each other in a friendly competition.

The race, put on by the Tualatin Riverkeepers, is meant to bring attention to the Tualatin River Water Trail, the Riverkeepers effort to extend public access along 40 miles of the river, which has no boat ramps and river access points for miles.

'We have a lot of public access within a short distance,' said Monica Smiley, Riverkeepers executive director. 'In the urban area, like the cities of Tigard and Tualatin, there are a lot, but there is not much access in the upper reaches until you get to Hillsboro.'

Smiley said that although the Riverkeepers take more than 1,200 people onto the river every year in paddle trips, few people in the rowing and paddling community mention the Tualatin River in guidebooks because it has such poor access.

Smiley said her organization would like to add four river access points between Hillsboro and Sherwood, including one at Farmington Bridge, west of Beaverton, and at Metro's Natural Area on Southwest Munger Lane in the Scholls area.

The racers - which included Dirksen, Schirado, Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays and Metro Councilors Carl Hosticka and Shirley Craddick - spent the afternoon on the river to show their support for the project.

The racers started under the Highway 99W bridge and raced to Jenkins Park in Tualatin.

It took several minutes, but there was little surprise when Hosticka and Craddick, racing together in a single kayak - and the only elected officials entered in the 'tandem division' - easily beat the other mayors by several minutes.

Mays came in second place; Dirksen came in third.

To learn more about Tualatin Riverkeepers and the Water Trail, visit tualatinriverkeepers.org.