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RACINE — One of the best ways to learn about the Root River may be to see it from a kayak.

Unity Racine organized an excursion on the Root River for local families on Thursday, Aug. 24, where some kayaked for the first time, as they learned more about the environment of the river and some of the threats to the river and its tributaries.

Root River in a kayak
Laura Schultz, rear, environmental education manager, gives Maria R. Maldonado a hand with her kayak before the trip. – Credit: Dee Hölzel

Diana Valencia, of Unity Racine, was one of the organizers of the field trip. After learning about the program, she thought it would be a good activity for Unity Racine.

“I like to create fun and have a learning experience,” she said. “They walk away with an understanding of how to be more environmentally friendly.”

The event was open to everyone at no cost and many families came to enjoy the event together.

Root River in a kayak
Mrs. Flores, of Racine Unified School District, grabs some shots as the kayaks are launched. – Credit: Dee Hölzel

The trip along the Root River is a project of the UW-Parkside Root River Environmental Education program.

The kayaks launch from the Root River Environmental Education Community Center, 1301 W. 6th St., just blocks from downtown. The REC Center was created in 2008 as a partnership between UW-Parkside and the City of Racine.

Environmental awareness, fellowship on the Root River

The trip takes about two hours. Participants are given the opportunity to learn how to maneuver the kayak in the area around the launch before they begin paddling upriver toward Lincoln and Island Parks.

As some are inexperienced kayakers, they are given good advice, such as, “Do not try and stand up,” and “Avoid flipping – if possible.”

Root River in a kayak
Yocelyn Guerrero, 11, and Ana Lisa Rivera, 10, both were looking for a new experience, Rivera said she wanted some experience so in the future she would not be so scared of the idea. – Credit: Dee Hölzel

Valencia said afterward the group from Unity Racine shared a meal together where they learned more about the Root River and engaged in conversation.

In the right season, participants might find raspberries or blackberries to snack on during the trip and bring some back to add to the meal. There may also be a rhubarb snack.

On this trip, the kayakers were treated to ceviche, a Latin American fish dish that hits home the importance of keeping the earth’s waters pollution-free.

Bringing people together

Sonali Pknotek said Unity Racine was formed about two years ago as a way of bringing local groups together to share what they have going on and amplify their activities and messages.

Unity Racine meets once a month.

Root River in a kayak
Participants are expected to get their kayaks to the launch area. Leland Rucker, front, and Ariel Saldivar get this kayak to the launch site. – Credit: Dee Hölzel

Among the participants are: the Racine Urban Garden Network, Coming Together Racine, Green and Greater, which includes Zero Waste, LULAC (League of Latin American Citizens Council 320), and the Dominican Center for Justice Resources.

There are also individuals who attend, such as County Supervisor Jody Spencer, representatives from the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters.

Unity Racine has also been involved in helping to organize events, such as the March Forth to Earth Day two years ago in which there was an event to raise environmental awareness every Friday between March 4 and Earth Day.

Unity Racine also helped organize the Save Soil event on March 21. Save Soil is an international movement to bring attention to contaminated soil and to promote agriculture practices that rely on organic material rather than chemicals.

Root River in a kayak
Amelia Saldivar and Santiago Saldivar, 10, head off toward the upstream parks. Santiago Saldivar said he was not nervous at all. – Credit: Dee Hölzel

Currently, Unity Racine is helping to organize the arrival of the Golden Rule Peace Boat, which is a project of Veterans for Peace. The Golden Rule is on a 15-month mission to educate the public about the dangers of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Golden Rule Peace Boat will dock in Racine on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

For more information on Unity Racine, email Sonali Pknotek at

For more information on the Golden Rule Peace Boat visit: The Golden Rule Peace Boat headed to Racine Sept. 5-6 | Racine County Eye.

For more information on the Root River Environmental Education Community Center, visit REC CENTER | UW-Parkside.

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