< Return to index

Get Adobe Flash player

Daniel Becton Interviews Scott Mansker at Healthy Rivers Partnership.

815 Woodswether Road Kansas City, MO 64105

February 14th, 2013

Daniel Becton: So I'm here now with Scott Mansker, who works with River Miles. They put on the Missouri River 340, which is the longest, non-stop river boat race in the world. So we're going to talk to him about these ideas of community, accessibility and mobilization. So Scott, what is River Miles and what is the Missouri River 340?

The Missouri River 340 is a canoe race and it's from Kansas City to St. Charles, Missouri, all the way across the state of Missouri, three hundred and forty miles. And it's a non-stop race and we allow competitors eighty-eight hours to complete the course.

Daniel Becton: And what have you seen happen through the years as this has kind of grown into a larger phenomenon?

Scott Mansker: It's really been interesting. We started in 2006, so we're about to do our eighth annual running of the race, and what has been really neat to watch is how...You know, when I started paddling on the Missouri river twenty-five years ago, I would be the only person out there. It was very difficult to get access to the river. You almost had to know somebody to know how to get there, and get on the river and where to do that. Now, because of the MR340 and other races that have spawned from the MR340, you...any time you go out on the river you're going to see people canoeing, kayaking on the Missouri River. So that's been a neat thing to watch happen. People train year round for this race. So that's been the biggest change we've seen. We've developed this where we used to not have any Missouri River paddlers to speak of. It was a very secretive, cloistered group. Now there's this huge community of literally thousands of people who have paddled the Missouri now because of the MR340. And so we've developed this core of experts on how to get to the Missouri River and how to use the Missouri River for recreation.

Daniel Becton: What are the implications for the environment of having thousands of people in canoes on the river?

Scott Mansker: Well, it's...the implication that I see is that we now have people who are stakeholders in this river. They have been on a very intimate level for eighty-eight hours (laughs) with this river and they've become a part of it. And so, when there's calls to action about the river, whether it is legislation or a clean-up event, or something like that, they now feel as stewards of that river, that they have some say and control in it. Because it really is, it's our river. It's my river. It's your river. And somewhere in the last hundred years we have been trained to think that it's not. That it belongs to industry or transportation or the government or something like that. But what we need to remember is that, that it's really ours. It belongs to all of us. And so, that's what I've seen start to happen now is there's this cadre of people who view the river that way and they share some of the same interests as the fisherman and the barge industry and other industries that need the river. And so there's, what is developing, I think, is a partnership. That we all have stake in it and we can all contribute to its health.

Daniel Becton: Yeah, and I really like how the environment and the river gives you the opportunity to talk about everyone, that kind of evasive concept of "everyone".

Scott Mansker: Yeah.

Daniel Becton: You know, and the boat race is competition but it's building community more that it's dividing it.

Scott Mansker: Right.

Daniel Becton: Why is that? How has that happened?

Scott Mansker: Well, because it's such a daunting task to paddle across the state. The competitive nature... there are some paddlers who come from across the country and around the world to do this race and their goal is to win, but for most of the paddlers it's just to finish, just to survive that experience in one piece. And so, there's all kinds of give and take of information. There's just really this feeling, as we all sit there at the starting line before the gun goes off, that, you know, you're looking to your left, you're looking to your right and yes, they're your competitors but they're also the people who are going to help you finish this. Whether it's just a conversation in the middle of the night, or a bottle of water when you really need it or something like that. So, that family feeling happens during the race and I think it translates beyond the race to other things that are starting to begin to happen on the river.

Daniel Becton: What is it about the river that can and does appeal to everyone?

Scott Mansker: You know, when I become enamored with the Missouri River, it was the idea, the concept. I mean, I grew up loving boats and I lived in the middle of the country. So, when I realized, when I connected the dots and realized that in a boat from Kansas City, I can go anywhere in the world. I mean, with the right boat and the right gear, you can go anywhere in the world. We are a port here in the middle of the country because of the Missouri River. So I think once people grasp the geography of that, that we are all connected by this ribbon of water, that they begin to think of the river differently. And they begin to think of their town differently.

Daniel Becton: So you heard from Scott about how when we give opportunities to people to get to the river, we can mobilize lots and lots of new environmental stewards, which ultimately builds community. So that's Scott Mansker, who is with River Miles and the Missouri River 340 and I'm Daniel Becton with Project Ubuntu.