LEADING canoeing coach Craig Mustard was joined by top paddlers Andy Birkett, Bridgitte Hartley, Abby Solms and Jarryd Gibson at Camps Drift recently to install a trash boom to prevent rubbish and water hyacinth travelling downstream and fouling the prime canoeing venue.
Mustard, the winner of the Coach of the Year Award at the KZN Sports Awards in 2015, came up with the idea to put up the boom because a boom erected by the Dusi uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) higher up the waterway had broken. He consulted with Duct and they agreed to work side by side to tackle the problem.
It cost Mustard R4 000 out of his own pocket, but when he approached local businesses along Camps Drift for support they were very receptive and Stihl agreed to refund him his costs.
“You bash into rubbish and water hyacinth every day,” Olympic medal hope Bridgitte Hartley said. “[For sprinters especially], it gets caught on the nose of the boat. So, it makes a lot of difference for the sprinters,” she stated.
Maritzburg College matric pupil Jarryd Gibson, who was the leading U18 sprinter in South Africa last year, agreed: “It gets stuck in the nose and the rudder and messes up training sessions.”
Five-time Dusi winner Andy Birkett weighed in: “The pollution is a big problem at the Drift, especially when the hyacinth gets into the water. Hopefully the boom will limit it.
“It does help us Dusi paddlers with our training, but the real benefit will be for the sprinters, and come the Marathon World Cup here in April, and especially when we have the World Marathon Champs in 2017, it will play an important role in keeping the rubbish out of the water.”
With support from Lotto and the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation, Natal Canoe Club has become an increasingly popular destination for European-based paddlers to train at during the cold months in the northern hemisphere. Now, with the rand at an all-time low, and ahead of the Marathon World Cup, the number of overseas visitors is to pick up significantly. With such good facilities, it was, therefore, vital to do something about the state of the water, Mustard said. Regular rubbish collection is done along the edges of Camps Drift and the new boom will make the job easier. The appointment of a full-time employee to oversee the clean-up is being considered, he added.