After nearly two years of planning, meetings and refining the Riverview Project, the team at Below the Surface is ready for its most epic road trip yet—the Exploring with a Purpose East Coast tour. Over six weeks, your Readers of the Year will be driving from San Diego to Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, New Jersey and back, to bring more people into the mix to help protect our rivers.
Driving hard and fast from our San Diego headquarters in our trusty (and sometimes testy) 1990 Ford F250 "Dark Chocolate," I find myself 45 minutes east of Denver perched on a orange "homer" pail, taking a break before pushing through to St Louis to visit our friend "Muddy" Mike Clark, wild man of the Upper Mississippi. Dark Chocolate is filled with adventure gear, our computers and batteries are being charged up by solar energy gathered with GoalZero's Sherpa solar kits and we're hand-pumping our way through the nearly 152 gallons of recycled vegetable oil that powers our truck. Eleven-hundred miles into a 9,000-mile driving, paddling and speaking odyssey, we're brimming with enthusiasm.
Along the way, I picked up Mark "Holy Man" Downey, the team leader from a group of guys that paddled the entire 24,00 miles of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico in June. His trip represented the hope and promise of the work we do at Below the Surface—inspiring people to Explore with Purpose. This group took the beta version of the Riverview Mobile App and gathered over 2,000 pictures of their adventure to contribute to the Riverview Project.
This road trip is so much more than a great ride, it is the actualization of many dreams. Since launching the Riverview Project and working hard to bring on paddler/explorers, sponsors, partners and advocates for protecting our rivers we've realized that the most important element of our project is having a sustainable, grassroots and free way for people, businesses and organizations throughout the world to participate. We felt that the best way we could plug both river and ocean enthusiasts as well as people who've never been on the water into the Riverview project is by leveraging what we all carry with us—the ubiquitous smartphone and attending mobile apps.
The Riverview Project was featured in an article in the New York Times after a series of meetings with the U.S. Geological Survey. The timing couldn't have been better. I was on a plane flying back from Washington, D.C., when I met an earnest young reporter who was excited to be heading to San Diego to visit her grandparents and surf. As a direct result of our light conversation on the plane, she posted the following hyperlinked article on the New York Times Green blog. This article initiated a conversation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which ultimately joined our team to provide the resources to develop an Android- and iPhone-based mobile app.
As we're not programmers by training or curiosity, this has been a bit of an undertaking, but one that we've been blessed to be supported on by many indvividuals and groups. Through reading, asking reams of questions and patience, we've created the Riverview Mobile app. This allows people to create an account representing themselves or their organization, snap a picture, geotag, type in comments and upload their "riverview" to our maps and cross-promote on Facebook. We're in the process of integrating all the code for the app into our website and Google's Earth map! To quote our friend Shelby Stanger in the Readers of the Year article from December 2012, "Call it Conservation 2.0."
The goal is to inspire more paddling with all manner of vessel. We want to deepen the sense of community and connectedness to our waterways and coastline, share the excitement of a new expedition, promote our partner organizations and be able to demonstrate how important our waterways and coastline are beyond commerce and being receptacles for diluting wastewater and runoff effluent.
We'll be paddling and speaking all fall at events from Washington, D.C., to Boston. We'll keep you updated as we progress, and let you know when the Riverview App is available.