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Grant Smith, one of the many honorary judges of the Great Oyster Point Runoff, prepares nearly 30 on-water participants for Poseidon's Parade.

Last month, as part of the Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Event Series, Charleston Waterkeeper held the Great Oyster Point Runoff on and around downtown Charleston’s Colonial Lake.  The SPLASH Event Series, presented nationally by Toyota in partnership with national founding sponsor, KEEN, is a national event program that engages local citizens in water-based activities.  Charleston Waterkeeper was the second of the Waterkeeper member programs to host an event, after the Hackensack Riverkeeper‘s River Flotilla held earlier in the fall.

The goal of the Waterkeeper SPLASH Event Series is to encourage the public and clean water enthusiasts nationwide to discover, learn about, and celebrate the many ways to have fun on, in, or by the water.  The Great Oyster Point Runoff was no exception!

“We came to a great realization: a community won’t truly appreciate and care for a waterway – enough to act to protect and improve it – if they haven’t personally enjoyed it!  We want individuals to protect and improve Charleston’s waterways, and the first step to making this happen is to encourage the public to go out and enjoy these amazing resources – even the ones in the heart of downtown Charleston!”

Participants of Charleston Waterkeeper's Great Oyster Point Runoff take to Colonial Lake for a day of celebration.

Throughout the day, over 500 attendees came by the Ashley Avenue side of the Colonial Common to enjoy the day’s festivities.  Between the Strada Cucina and Taco Boy food trucks, local oysters, beer from Palmetto and New Belgium, music from Mark Mandeville & Old Constitution and the South Carolina Broadcasters, SUP and fly fishing workshops, and dozens of educational partners including the SC Aquarium, SUP Cleanup, the Charleston Parks Conservancy, Charleston Community Sailing, and Surfrider Foundation, the Great Oyster Point Runoff had something for everyone!  In case you missed the event, here’s a great slideshow capturing the fun (a big thanks to Kathryn Wagner Photography for putting it together!).

The Great Oyster Point Runoff sought to encourage the public to experience Colonial Lake in a way very few have – at least in the last century! In addition to the on-land activities, the main feature of the Great Oyster Point Runoff was, of course, the water part! The day kicked off with an open paddle where individuals in kayaks, on SUPs, and even in Optis (small sailboats) scattered across the lake, while outfitters from Nature Adventure Outfitters, SUP Safaris, and Flipper Finders provided crafts for willing participants.  We encouraged everyone and anyone to “float a boat” on Colonial Lake! Eventually, the band of judges paraded down Ashley Avenue to announce the start of Poseidon’s Parade.  Onlookers from land watched as 30 boats gracefully made their way around the lake for a two-lap journey.    Shortly thereafter, the exhibition race began, and minutes later, it ended.  The winner of the Great Oyster Point Runoff exhibition race took home the esteemed championship belt.

The Great Oyster Point Runoff council of judges prepares for Poseidon's Parade!

Alex Herlocker took home the Great Oyster Point Runoff Championship Belt for winning the exhibition race. Those lifeguards sure can SUP!

For more photos from the Great Oyster Point Runoff, hop on over to our Facebook event album here, or check out Kathryn Wagner’s album here (if you choose to purchase prints from Kathryn, she will donate 50% of the proceeds to Charleston Waterkeeper!).

We were not only honored to host the second SPLASH event in the nation, but we were also incredibly fortunate to host Waterkeeper Alliance’s Executive Director Marc Yaggi and KEEN’s Care and Community Manager Chris Enlow (a graduate of the College of Charleston!). Both Marc and Chris enjoyed attending the event and are excited about Charleston Waterkeeper’s efforts to protect the public’s right to clean water.

The day was an incredible success! As noted earlier, over 500 people came out for this year’s Great Oyster Point Runoff.  The event provided an opportunity for the Charleston community to celebrate its fundamental right to clean, playable water.  Charleston Waterkeeper also had the opportunity to shed light on the issue of stormwater runoff – arguably the biggest source of degradation to water quality nationwide.  As part of our water quality monitoring program, we published two months of water quality data we had collected throughout Colonial Lake and Cummings Creek.  According to our results, the Colonial Lake watershed’s water quality is within “normal” limits and is suitable to sustain aquatic life. In total, the event raised $2,000, all of which will be used to advance our water quality monitoring program.

For the official release detailing the event’s success, go here.  There was also some great post-event coverage from the Great Oyster Point Runoff.  Check it out below…

We’ve received a lot of interest to do a similar event again next year… We’re sleeping on the idea, and we’ll certainly keep you all posted!
The event would not have been possible without the help and support from our sponsors, volunteers, vendors, educational partners, staff, board members, and all of you who came out to the Great Oyster Point Runoff!  Thank you!

For past blog posts related to the Great Oyster Point Runoff, go here.