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Kayakers to gather for Paddles Up Niagara
Paddlers in colorful kayaks will take to the water today for the first Paddles Up Niagara, an eight-mile downstream journey along the western shore of Grand Island from Beaver Island State Park to Eagle Overlook in Buckhorn Island Park.

About 140 kayakers from across Western New York and Southern Ontario registered to participate in the event, which will begin at 1 p.m., said Paul Leuchner, a member of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, which is sponsoring the event.

As the voyagers set out up the west channel of the Niagara River, American Indians from the region will perform a traditional departure ceremony.

The Coast Guard and other area law enforcement agencies will be positioned throughout the course as a precaution. "We'll have security in place," Leuchner said.

Kayakers paid no participation fee, and transportation will be provided for the participants when they reach Eagle Overlook, Leuchner said.

The Niagara River Greenway Commission intends to make the Niagara River paddle an annual event as it pursues its goal to create a 35-mile-long continuous recreational park from Lake Erie at Buffalo, through the Tonawandas, Niagara Falls and Lewiston, to Youngstown on Lake Ontario.

"We see this as a celebration, in the true Native American tradition, of the natural gifts we have in the Erie and Niagara county region," said Robert J. Kresse, the new commission chairman.

"I don't think anybody could have envisioned that we'd have the funding to develop a greenway that will be comparable, at least, with the Niagara Parkway on the Canadian side of the river," Kresse, a Buffalo attorney and conservationist, said Friday at a commission meeting in Niagara Falls.