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Riverkeeper on the Tugboat Trail

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Riverkeeper will get some one-of-a-kind promotion this summer on the Tugboat Trail, a community project in the Town of Esopus to promote Hudson River heritage and downtown beautification by displaying a series of decorated tugboats in and around Port Ewen.

Port Ewen, which sits on the bluff at the mouth of the Rondout Creek, was founded as a company town related to the operations of the D&H Canal, and its history has been intertwined with Hudson River commerce. The Presentation Catholic Church even has a statue, Our Lady of the Hudson, beside its parish hall, acting as a patron saint of sorts for tugboat captains.

Drawing on that history, community members have organized a colorful annual display of tugboats anchored through the summer along Broadway and Route 9W.

Port Ewen also has a storied place in Riverkeeper’s history. A case brought by the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association against Exxon for polluting activities of tankers near Port Ewen’s drinking water intake in the Hudson River ultimately led to the establishment of both the Hudson River Improvement Fund and the Riverkeeper program that now gives us our name. The Hudson River Improvement Fund provided grants to worthy projects in the Hudson Valley for 30 years, and in its last round of grants in 2016 helped to fund the opening of Riverkeeper’s new lab and office at the Hudson River Port on the Rondout Creek in Kingston.

The Riverkeeper patrol boat, the R. Ian Fletcher, is a 36-foot wooden Chesapeake deadrise, built in 1983 in Bivalve, NJ, to work commercial shellfish beds in Delaware Bay. (Read more facts about the R. Ian Fletcher.) The plastic boats displayed in Port Ewen are about 40-inches long, and conform to the shape of a tugboat.

Artists Ryan Williams and Conor Landenberger collaborated on the project to transform the tugboat into a form that is unmistakable, to those who know our patrol boat.

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“Both agree that it was a very interesting project. To not have control of either the model nor the concept made them look at problem solving and outside-the-box thinking as much as creation,” they wrote in an artist statement

Riverkeeper member Chad Gomes, a Port Ewen resident, connected the dots to find the artists to make the project a reality. All of them donated their time and creativity to the project.

Look for the tugboat on display this summer, and stay tuned for information about the annual fall auction, when you’ll have a chance to bid on this and other creations to support the Tugboat Trail.

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View Williams’ portfolio at asubtledifference.com or @asubtledifferencedesign on Instagram; and Landenberger’s portfolio at thunderberger.com or @thunderberger.

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