Featured River Restorers:
by Tim Kingston
Mark Angelo has been an avid paddler and fly fisher for more than four decades. His great affection for rivers and awareness of threats to them began when he was a young boy. During his younger years, Mark lived near the Los Angeles River, which had been fully encased in a concrete culvert, and even at an early age he realized this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. The damming of Glen Canyon in Arizona in the 1960s had an impact on him as well. He grew to appreciate the full magnitude of the event in later years as a paddler on the Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado River.
Shortly after university, Mark moved to Vancouver to become part of the Fish and Wildlife Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He was happy to live in a place with a great river heritage and, ever since, has been an avid river advocate. He also serves as Rivers Chair for the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia, which works to conserve and enhance outdoor settings and resources in BC and to secure public access to them for recreation. Mark worked with both organizations to found BC Rivers Day, which is now World Rivers Day, held annually on the last Sunday in September; it has been celebrated by more than 30 countries since its inception in 2005.
“I’ve always believed that rivers are the arteries of our planet. They are lifelines in the truest sense and they have immense value from a natural, cultural and recreational perspective. While virtually everyone who has been active in the field of river conservation has experienced some lost battles, it’s those times when a river might be saved or restored, or when you see some tangible signs of progress, that inspires you and keeps you going.”
Mark emphasizes the importance of communication in river advocacy. “There’s no question that communication and media relations are key. If we can make a case effectively, I do believe that most people want to see our rivers properly cared for. And once you can demonstrate public support and media interest, the chances of making some real progress is greatly improved,” Mark says.
His hopes for the future run deep. “Having spent some time in the Varanasi, India with one of my river restoration heroes, Dr. Veer Bhadra Mishra, it was wonderful to see the great reverence that locals and pilgrims had for the Ganges River, their country’s holiest waterway. Yet, despite this, the Ganges, like so many rivers in different countries, is polluted and remains troubled in many ways. My hope is that we’ll see a time when we not only revere rivers – but we also actually treat them in a way that’s consistent with that devotion.”