The challenge of regional planning: Next verse, same as the first?
BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for February 26, 2009

Wafting's end: more on the insurance issue, and Council rumbles

The fallout's still falling from Monday's announcement that Dave Owen would be ending his Eno River wafting program, launched from the city-owned West Point Park on the Eno, after almost twenty years of offering the tours -- the last year of which having seen Owen playing a key and very public role in advocating for the park's transfer to the state park system.

In a brief interview on Wednesday, Durham Parks & Rec chief Rhonda Parker told BCR that DPR wasn't looking to single the wafting program out, but was instead asking them to meet the same liability requirements as other contractor programs.

According to published reports and Owen's own statement released Monday, Owen could have purchased liability insurance, or could have had all his participants sign standard-issue liability waiver forms and submit them to DPR. (Owen chose this path in 1995, but says he was told by a then-DPR official that he could skip that; returning to signed liability waivers, Owen says, "is unthinkable without an office where paperwork can be properly handled."

Parker told BCR that the provision of this insurance is something all programs are being asked to do. "It's a program that we do value in he park, but we do have to have insurance coverage," Parker said. "We do have oher partners -- the Schoolhouse of Wonder, and various other groups -- that are providng services in the park, and we're requiring them to have insurance," she added.

She also re-emphasized that Owen had had the option to operate the program under the city's methodology, by using city liability waivers and the City's registration/sign-up system for participants.

Parker said that every program like Owen's was being examined by the City in partnership with the city's risk management department to make sure they were in compliance, and that this was an effort she was taking on as a relatively new director of the department.

Asked by BCR which other programs had been specifically found to be in compliance, or not yet in compliance, with these rules, Parker did not cite specific examples, reiterating that DPR was "bringing everyone online" to make sure each program has appropriate liability coverage.

And she didn't rule out -- for her part -- a future return of the popular program if Owen were willing to comply. "The door is open. I thought he was going to come back," Parker said. "That was a decision he made, but the door's still open for him."

The N&O has a couple of more updates on the story at their blog, noting that City Council has started to get citizen complaints about the change (one resident wrote, "Durham without Wafting is like Durham without the [Starlite] Drive-In… What’s next? The Bulls leave town to go to Raleigh?")

Meanwhile, City Councilmen Mike Woodard and Eugene Brown both expressed regret and concern over the loss of the program, with Brown speaking out in an email:

Why are we now, after nearly 20 years of safe trips with over 2,000 guests, demanding that he purchase liability insurance, or that we take away the blacksmith shop as his office? ... The cardinal issue is that this is a unique and educational opportunity for our citizens and it is being denied to them by one of city departments that call itself parks and rec. Sometimes our departments need to live up to their name. What's really going on here?

Update: Dave Owen updates BCR on the matter.

i cannot work out of my car.  when i used to store my boats under the mill,  the city provided me an office in the mccown-mangum house.  often my equipment was flooded out under the mill and covered with a six inch layer of mud.  the independent ran an article criticizing wafting's moldy and rotting life jackets.  collecting money is dangerous without an office as many eyes are upon me.  rhonda parker's assertion that i was given "formal notice" to vacate the office is totally bogus.  the decision to start a new program in the blacksmith house was made without consulting me and i was not informed until i happened to ask the park manager, beth highley, about the coming season on december 30th.  if i had not asked, i would not have been informed to this day. this is what i call a a "leak," not a "formal notice."  i found out that the decision to invent a new nature camp was made back in the summer of 2008 and was advertised in the fall.  with a price of $100 a week for this new nature camp to be run out of the blacksmith shop, they are undermining their own contractor of schoolhouse of wonder who has to charge $250 a week to survive, and subsidizing it with taxpayer money by hiring an additional city staff person to help run it. ...

there is no way i would allow the city to handle registration for wafting.  the process of registration on the phone and collecting money is a necessary process that i have to do personally because it is a way to screen out those who are not good candidates for wafting - the overweight, restless children, certain types of elderly or handicapped who can't paddle, those fearful of snakes and spiders who can cause panic and pandemonium among the group at just the sight of such a creature, those that consume alcohol, the party crowd and those who are out for just a "boat ride" and not environmental education.  these folks have the potential of severely disrupting a wafting group and would compromise the safety, integrity and the quality of environmental education that we offer.  DPR has no conception whatsoever of this and somehow thinks that by following their "rules" to the letter and having millions of dollars of liability insurance is going to protect the public, while in fact, what they are proposing will actually endanger and put our citizens at risk.  a one million dollar pay-out [doesn't] compensate for a loss of a precious life.  so the the city of durham thinks they are going to improve on my 19 years of screening?  with my years of experience, i can tell how much someone weighs just by listening to their voice on the phone!

DPR can now easily decide to vacate the blacksmith shop for my wafting season, and cart the kids in a van in their newly advertised nature program up to lake miche.  this would be a much improved environment for a summer camp with an outstanding and safer facility at spruce pine lodge, have the run of the area without the dangerous traffic at the west point park circle, and have a much better quality of camp experience for their kids.  as a child growing up in durham, it was lake miche where i attended dpr summer camps.



It's a sad, sad story. A very depressing one in which it sounds like the DPR was just pretty much disrespecting him and his program by not communicating with him in the first place. I hope they can come to an agreement and bring him back to do these tours...

My fiance and I were supposed to go on their night tour last year but we never got around to doing it. If the progrm ends, I will be highly disappointed that we did not get out to do the wafting...

Kevin Davis

For those who might have missed it in the original version, I've added a reply to the issue from Dave Owen at the end of the post. It's worth reading carefully, and in full, to understand the perspective offered.

Ross Grady

We used to take our students wafting, until an episode in summer of 2007 when River Dave started riffing continuously about "orientals" and their propensity to eat anything, and blamed them for the decline of turtles in the Eno. This did not go over well with the Asian students in our group, and we decided not to go back. Our program manager attempted to convey her reason for this decision to him via email, but the exchange was not a pleasant one.

Reading his comments in your article about his weeding-out process, I'm reminded again of my thoughts from 2007, namely that this is not necessarily a person I wanted representing Durham to visitors from elsewhere.


I'm confused - why can't he just have everyone sign a form before they start?

I'm also impressed - "with my years of experience, i can tell how much someone weighs just by listening to their voice on the phone!" Can he also pick out "orientals" and the disabled just by talking to them on the phone?


this comment -
"because it is a way to screen out those who are not good candidates for wafting - the overweight, restless children, certain types of elderly or handicapped who can't paddle, those fearful of snakes and spiders who can cause panic and pandemonium among the group at just the sight of such a creature, those that consume alcohol, the party crowd and those who are out for just a "boat ride" and not environmental education. these folks have the potential of severely disrupting a wafting group and would compromise the safety, integrity and the quality of environmental education that we offer."

sums up why the city should let this guy go. I thought that the city was inclusive, not exclusive with their programs. Shouldn't we be trying to educate people who have supposed fears about nature so that their fears are overcome or at least reduced. I would be willing to bet that the city doesn't exclude people on their nature programs based on age, weight, or "fears". I guess that you need to be a fit, calm, nature lover, to go on his trips. Well that rules out 65-70% of Durham at least. Great job of helping people experience nature River Dave.

My other concern is about those generalizations of Asian eating anything and more specifically the turtles in the river, therefore causing the drop in turtle numbers. What kind of statement is that? What does he blame the Mexicans for, the Blacks. Inflamatory statements like that show a low level of sensitivity, surprising considering how River Dave claims he is so sensitive.

I think that River Dave should just do what he is best suited for and become a psychic. I mean if you can tell someone's weight just by hearing their voice over the phone you must have a special ability. The guys at the state fair get to look at people when they guess the weight, they got nothing on Dave.

I hope that the city gets rid of this exclusive program and brings in a program that allows a wider variety of people to experience the beauty of the Eno River. There must be another contractor or paddle group that is more inclusive.

Michael Oehler


You're right. We definately need a nature program in Durham that lets drunks paddle, lets overweight and out of shape people endanger themselves, and lets misbehaved children ruin the experience for the rest of us. What the heck? Can you read? Riverdave simply states the obvious-- you need a certain level of awareness, fitness, and desire to participate in this program. Drunks can't swim Edison Johnson. Rowdy children aren't allowed to disrupt programs at the library, and elderly overweight people can't endanger themselves by participating in aggressive aerobic activity of the public dodgeball league. Come on. If you'd ever studied the history of the Eno in Durham, you'd know that it has been fished and hunted by all portions of Durham's population. For many years, whites and blacks fished and caught turtles for food. Now, not many whites and blacks are doing this, but as Durham's demographics have changed, so have the demographics of those fishing and hunting on the River. Many of these people don't know the laws about catching fish or turtles. Riverdave states the obvious. Just as Latinos need to be specifically made aware of the United States tougher drunk driving laws, so too, many immigrants need to be made aware of our wildlife laws. Lastly, to say that there must be "another contractor" who could do what Riverdave does is insane. Have you been wafting? Do you have any idea the level of knowledge this man has of this specific river? This type of knowledge can't be learned from a book. He has lived as a part of the river for many, many years. Sadly, as has happened in so much of our society, your desire for an "inclusive" program simple shows your ignorance of what this program is about. If the city lets Riverdave go, this city will have lost a treasure beyond value.

Molly Brown

with my years of experience, i can tell how big a jerk someone is just by reading their egotistical postings on a blog!

This guy comes across as:
racist (Orientals have eaten all the turtles out of the Eno? What's next: African-Americans will eat all the hens out of your backyard?);
prejudiced against the disabled;
a know-it-all;
a pouter and a whiner; and
an e.e. cummings wannabe (Use capital letters! This isn't poetry class!).

Someone in state parks told me that they wouldn't allow an outsider to conduct such a program in their parks, as they have trained staff (with better manners, one would hope) to provide this service. Mr. Owen should be careful what he wishes for (state control of West Point)--he may just get it. The state wouldn't let him beat up on them the way he's beaten up on the city.

Maybe it's time to let "riverdave" float on downstream. Durham can do better.

Shelley Winters

"Riverdave simply states the obvious-- you need a certain level of awareness, fitness, and desire to participate in this program. Drunks can't swim Edison Johnson. Rowdy children aren't allowed to disrupt programs at the library, and elderly overweight people can't endanger themselves by participating in aggressive aerobic activity of the public dodgeball league."

I am deeply offended by this! Though I am thinking that I can save money on purchasing a plus-sized scale by just calling this Riverdave guy up when I need to weigh myself. I'll do that, just as soon as I finish my sea cruise.

Just Wondering

By River Dave's criteria, would he have allowed Margaret Nygard on a wafting trip?


I was initially sympathetic to Riverdave on hearing of DPR's set of decisions about the wafting program. After reading his further response, I no longer am. It sounds to me like he feels disrespected because of the way he was treated by the city (and I'll let others argue about what really happened, because most likely the truth is somewhere in the middle of what both sides are saying). But the fact that he believes he is the only one who can run the program, collect the money, screen participants, and be responsible for liability is a concern to me. And his comments indicate a distinct lack of respect for those who don't fit his mold of who should participate in the wafting program. If he wants to run things that way, then by all means he can do so - as a private entity not connected to the city. If the program is at all connected to DPR, they should have a say in how it's run. That he is unwilling to compromise (and is insulting to entire groups of people) is a major concern to me.


It is very simple. Dave Owens is an intolerant elitist and has an extremist approach to environmentalism. He really does not want to encourage the majority of the public to participate in nature activities and conservation. He would like to make West Point his own private Walden Pond.


Asian people are way too smart to eat *anything* out of the Eno... and the only wafting I'm getting from Dave is bringing me the stench of a river ego run wild.

dave owen

Gee - thanks everyone! but wafting is not for everyone. my screening is for safety. the fact is, drunks have disrupted our trips, the overweight have damaged our boats, restless children have frustrated and infuriated other participants, some elderly and handicapped have felt cramped and uncomfortable in an inflatable boat. without screening, such a program could at best provide a "boat ride," at worst a safety hazard. if the DPR or NCSP wants to offer "boat" rides to the public, i wish them good luck!

as for the "size" of wafter's, i have noted a shocking trend growing over my nineteen years of wafting, and that is that the citizens of durham are inflating in size. our boats have weight limits, beyond which we cannot carry folks safely. like i said, wafting is not for everyone. hiking the banks of the eno is probably a preferred way of exploring and enjoying the river for many - including restless children.

as for "orientals" ravaging turtles, i never for one moment claimed that was happening on the eno river. but it is happening in other larger rivers in n.c and our state legislature has had to pass new laws in recent years to curtail it. i have nothing against "orientals." if you read my bio i consider myself and "orientalist." it is interesting that the march issue of national geographic arrived yesterday with a story on the conservation page called "Turtles in Hot Water." The article describes how the native turtle populations of china have been decimated and now the chinese have "turned to the turtle-rich waters of the United States" to keep it on their menu. Every ethnic group has its environmental sins. I don't have to mention america's long list which are self evident and in our faces. But the employees from IBM who who were offended by my insights, and other chinese as well, need to face up to their responsibility on this important particular issue ...


it seems that you have an excuse for everything and you are always right...if you truly are an enlightened spiritual being...then try reflecting on your actions over the past two years...could it be that your karma is finally catching up to you?

dave owen

dear upacreek ... in terms of handling a two hour river trip on a millpond, yes, after 19 years and 40,000 wafters of all ages and backgrounds (ages 7 weeks old through 92 years), i have evolved and fine tuned this particular river program so that it runs fairly smoothly and efficiently. as stated above, it is not for everyone for safety reasons and it is not for everyone for philosophical or stylistic reasons either. i state clearly in my essays on my website my perspective on nature and the environment so that anyone signing up for my program knows pretty much what they were getting into. most come away quite satisfied, a few are elated and a few are not happy. i only claim to offer one perspective. there are many others. but in terms of my particular program at west point park, it has done well because i have paid close attention to the details and learned through trial and error what works and what doesn't.

i'd be eager to see someone do a better job, keep everyone safe, and make it work financially for them as well ... riverdave

Mike Halligan

Just get some insurance like every other outfitter in the country. Sorry free ride is over.


I, too, was initially sympathetic to you, and upset by the city's action. However, I was turned off by your description of the interaction, and your defense in this comment thread. Your comment that you can tell someone's weight over the phone was very offensive.

Having read a few of the essays on your website, it is obvious that you are very knowledgeable about the area's ecology, and I am sorry that the city is losing a valuable resource.

However, I cannot support someone that uses city property to run such an exclusive program. You should not use public resources to run a program that denies service to a large portion of the public. If you feel that you cannot run the program you wish and be inclusive, you must provide your own office space, your own insurance.

Judging from your comments, you are very proud of your record with the Wafting program. You state that you would be eager to see someone else do a better job, but I suspect sarcasm. It seems you would be eager to see someone try and fail, thereby proving you invaluable. I hope your ego is not keeping you from a workable compromise with the city, depriving the residents of the area of a fascinating and educational outdoor experience.


Say, Dave, are you married? Because I've got a feeling that Magistra Ygraine Mitchell would be the perfect woman for you!


You state Dave that you would like to see someone else succeed financially as you have, well nobody else is going to be given the advantage that you have had. The city has covered you for all these years. You should be thankful, but instead when told you must provide insurance like the rest of the contractors it's cry to the media time. Lame, you could have just tried to work out all the details with the city instead of saying you don't like this so you are going to quit.

Michael Oehler, comparing wafting to aggressive aerobic activity is laughable. The section of the Eno that is used for wafting is a lake, it is dammed up, no real current. It doesn't take much to be able to paddle that section. Then you defend Dave being able to keep drunks out of his program, what is your point? As you state no program allows drunks to participate. Now if Dave has the ability to discern over the phone who is going to come to his program drunk just by hearing their voice, he is truely a psychic. Finally Michael, I doubt that Dave is the only one with a great knowledge of the flora, fauna, and cycles of the Eno River basin, but my guess is that the others who have this base also have the tact to not generalize about ethnic groups when talking about environmental issues.

Dave, even if you were just making a generalized statement about orientals eating turtle from North American rivers, did you talk about the environmental problems that whites have caused, or blacks ,latinos, anyone else who has ever cause an environmental impact? If not then you should understand why you offended people.

I think the biggest threat to the environment is the self righteous environmentalist who judges others and makes nature seem like something so delicate that you have to walk barefoot, wearing organic hemp clothes, chanting "the earth is our mother, we must take care of her" just to be able to go out into the forest. But then again do you really want people who use air conditioners, or watch TV, or even use a refrigerator (yeah I heard you on the story going on about refrigerators), trying to interact with nature? There is no way they can have the deep connection needed to experience nature the proper way.

dave owen

thanks yertle for your input - in fact, before i would mention any ethnic group, i would always, deliberately mention first that "we as americans do so and so," giving examples of our own environmental sins. always! and i always do it in a tone of good humor, so as not to sound gloomy.

let's face it, the facts are the facts. our planet is in big trouble because of our flagrant disregard of the delicately balanced ecosystems that sustain life. we must be open and talk about them and not be defensive. ignoring them will cost us our future. i'm up for such a dialogue, are you?

i have made some personal commitments, like not having a tv, that help me to align myself better with the natural world. yertle, countless people have thanked me after wafting trips for encouraging them in that direction. if tv is your cup of tea, then drink it and enjoy it. perhaps there are other commitments you have made that help align you with the natural world,



I have a bigger concern than your wafting program. I googled your name and came up with a bunch of postings. Here are a few things that came up: Black Meadow Ridge, Friends of the West Point, transfer of city land to the state and Schoolhouse of Wonder. It seems that you and your wife have your sticky fingers in everything at West Point on the Eno Park.

Everyone needs to know who you really are and what you are about. And your ethnically disrespectful post has done a great job at shining a light on that.

The people of Durham need to start questioning what your intentions are with the park.
What has made you such a self-righteous man? Why do you think that you can make changes that only better your life? This is not the way that someone who is part of Friends of West Point should be thinking or acting, or someone who is doing a program at West Point. Dave, we have found you out, you are the problem.


Man, there's a lot of riverdave hate here today, and it all sounds suspiciously similar.

Whatever you may think of him personally, the man has given a lot to Durham and should be commended for it.

dave owen

thanks enrique for you comment. so let me ask you, is it wrong in this month's issue of national geographic magazine to speak of china's "appetite" for turtle and for american conservationists to call their harvest "unsustainable?" the online edition says, "So voracious is China's appetite for turtle that it has all but eradicated its own turtle population before turning to the export market." the magazine goes on to treat various conservation issues all over the globe, including those that we are grappling with in the USA of our making and blundering.

and yes, i am quite openly involved in the movement to protect black meadow ridge. and i hope that you are too! ... riverdave

Samantha E.

Yikes, did I mistype in my sleep and wind up on a WRAL comments section without realizing it? The tone of many of the remarks here is certainly similar to what I've often found there much more often than on BCR.

The wafting program has been a favorite of many people in the community over the years. It seems to have been a consistent income generator and a good way for locals and visitors to learn about the natural history of the Eno. I hope the City and the program operator can find better ways to communicate, address the concerns raised on all sides, and keep the program running in some way.


Why is this about anything other than a person running a business on public property without liability insurance? Any public entity would have to do what the city is doing. Dave is probably getting more accommodation than other municipalities would offer--use our liability insurance if you can follow out rules.


I think we're all adult enough to disagree on a thread and I do not find any of these comments either similar enough to have been posted by the same person or over the line. Indeed, considering the trouble areas this whole situation touches on, I think this is a remarkable civilized thread. WRAL comments invariably deteriorate into knee jerk political camp bleating (on both sides)and become clogged with irrelevant and unoriginal feuds. The comments here, even when people disagree, tend to be nuanced and usually contribute a new slant. I would hope that this blog continues to accommodate both room for debate (healthy -- and kind of the point of blogs, in my opinion)and humor.

I'm not concerned about Dave being unfairly attacked -- he's the one who keeps coming back here to invite comments on himself. He must like it on some level and he seems perfectly capable of defending his own comments and actions.


Dave, I think that it is important to question why many of the turtles on the Eno are disappearing. I also find it poignant to wonder why your opinion or any other insensitive comment that you have made is being brought up during a program that the Department of Parks and Recreation promotes. On their website it says that,

"Durham Parks and Recreation provides opportunities for our community to Play More! We strive to make our programs, services, and facilities accessible for all individuals and families, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, national origin or ability level."

Whether your turtle quandary is a fact or not, you need to ask yourself if you could potentially be offending someone with your words. And you have!
The Eno River has no opinions to how people look. It doesn't care if people are fat or skinny, tall or short, black or white. Nature is something to be experienced no matter who you are.

Also it seems the city has been a great ally to you. They have listened to all your rants in all different subjects that you have brought up (land transfer and wafting). Furthermore they are working with you to meet your needs but but when the city decides to do something different that doesn't fit your needs, you can't make the changes with ease.

I am not going to apologize for being harsh, I feel like there are a lot of things going on here that people are just not willing to open their eyes to. What are your true intentions with the park? Are you trying to make a fuss over something that is considered "the rule" (like getting your own insurance)? If your program is so important, do you think that die hard wafters are going to care if you have a pod for a few months to work out of?

dave owen

part one:

ok commentators, here i go. i’m going to try to respond to what i hear from you all.

1 - on december 30th i asked the wpp manger about the prospects for my 2009 wafting season. i was told that a decision had been made months before without informing me and that i could no longer use the blacksmith shop for wafting. since that date, although proposing alternatives, not once have i demanded that the blacksmith shop be given back to me. my only concern was the way that i was not informed earlier in a timely fashion so that i could make alternate plans for my next step of reorganization. rhonda parker invited me to speak at her dpr office about this concern and i did meet face to face with her. i learned from that meeting that she was very uninformed about my wafting operation and since then she has made several incorrect assertions about it.

2 - on february 5th i was informed by rhonda parker that i would be required to provide a copy of my insurance certificate if i wanted to continue wafting, based in the mill basement. not once since then have i asked the city to waive that requirement.

3. on february 12th i was informed by beth timson that i would need to use waivers. not once since then have i asked the city to dismiss this requirement.

4. on february 23rd i informed rhonda parker and city officials that i was no longer interested in wafting under the conditions that they had laid out for me. i posted this to my web site because i felt that it was important for past wafters and those still desiring to waft, to see the requirements that dpr had put in front of me that i found unworkable - the primary one being that i cannot operate a safe and quality program out of a muddy mill basement and using my car as an office.

5. in this letter of 2/23 i also challenged dpr’s decision making on the introduction of yet another kid’s summer camp and placing it in the blacksmith shop, but i did not request that the blacksmith shop be returned to me.

6. please note here that my posted letter of 2/23 was not a request for anyone to change anything for me or my wafting program. rhonda had clearly stated that wafting could no longer use the blacksmith shop and the alternatives she put forth were not acceptable to me. it was a letter of termination on my part as i did not believe that i could continue to run a quality program under the existing circumstances. this is not “whining” on my part, this is simply a surrender by me to the obstacles that dpr put in my path if i wanted to continue my program. i then announced that i would do a land-based program in the spring instead that would not need equipment or an office.

7. i will point out that i do not believe that dpr had, or has to this day, any proper understanding of what is required of me to run a unique and safe river program at west point park. i know this by hearing the alternatives they suggested about running my program from a pod or from the mill basement or having their staff take registration for me. also, i think all of the commentators in this thread have no idea either in these matters and have been quick to judge my program based on their lack of understanding.

i do not claim that wafting is the final word on public river programs at west point park. it could very well be that someone else can develop a successful program with another emphasis different than mine and project a different style. i welcome that possibility. my complaint all along has only been about the way dpr did not include me in the process of change in a timely and respectful manner. i make no claim on the blacksmith shop. it is managed by dpr.

see part two following -

dave owen

part two:

8. and for those who have responded critically to my personal style as leader of wafting expeditions, i say the following. environmental education is a most serious business, the consequences of which are tremendous if we are to avert the destruction of our planet. this is a very heavy subject.
as a teacher of this material, i often use humor as a method to reach the public, especially to alleviate the heaviness of the issue of human caused climate change. i learned this from my experiences with other outdoor guides that i have listened to in my travels around the world. it could be that on occasion, someone for some personal reason will not understand or take my humor well and then miss my point altogether - as did the chinese lady from ibm who wrote in. the fact is, through the years i have taken thousands of asians wafting - local residents, visitors (i took an entire group of the world’s top nuclear physicists several years ago who were in town for a conference at duke and most of them were asian and showed up for wafting in business suits !#@?), international asian student groups, chinese church congregations and entire extended families of chinese, korean and japanese.
i usually bring up the turtle issue with them and they are eager to talk about it. i have learned many fascinating details about their turtle eating tradition. i regret that the ibm lady was offended. all i can say is that for one reason or another, some people are more sensitive to certain issues than others. but i do have a master’s degree in cross-cultural communication and have lived in asia many years myself, learned an asian language fluently, and generally know what i am getting into when i share on these subjects. and i always make it a point to be self critical first, in order to be fair and to set the stage for any criticism that i may need to direct towards others.

9. wafting the eno is my program. i have a particular perspective on nature and what i understand to be the important issues of environmental education today. i make no claim it is an exhaustive perspective. it can’t be, as i am just one person and have experienced only a infinitesimally small corner of the universe. i have had my mentors in nature study and experience and now pass this heritage on to wafters. most participants in my program tell me that they come away enriched. in fact, since there is so little monetary compensation in this work for me ($13 X 2000 participants a year minus 15% to dpr), the fuel that runs this program is all the positive feedback that i get from participants. despite it’s low pay back monetarily, wafting has provided me with a great pay back of positive feedback as i hear all the wonderful stories of how wafting has deepened the commitment to their life in nature and helped many heal from the modern epidemic sickness of nature deficit disorder.

but again, this is my and partner’s unique program. even if someone shows up without reading my web site comments and finds my presentation and style rub them the wrong way, instead of being “offended,” i am hoping the mature will learn from perspectives different than their own. i myself often put myself with those who share different views than mine so that i am challenged in a new way.

i have refused to run a diluted, always politically correct, common denominator river program, or what i would call a “boat ride.” instead i offer a uniquely tailored experience that challenges and often pushes peoples’ boundaries. if dpr or ncsp want to run watered down “boat rides” at west point park in order to satisfy and pacify everybody from all backgrounds, and heavily subsidize it so that it doesn’t cost the public a fortune - then so be it. but i’m moving on to a unique land-based program that will not require an office or equipment. neither will there be weight limitations!

thanks kevin davis, and to all those who have respectfully participated in this thread - riverdave


I think you explained your position quite well, Dave.
You're never going to please all the people all the time, especially those who believe a right not to be offended is enshrined in the Constitution. You should just stick to your guns and run the progam as you have always run it, but waivers are a fact of life in these litigious times. It should be up to you as the manager to determine the depth and scope of particpant limitations, e.g., weight, age, and handicap. No one has an absolute right to participate in ANY wafting activity, be it run by you or by the taxpayers. I would hate to see the city try and run this with extra personnel and liability insurance, so if you can't continue with waivers, I'd rather see it cancelled. The city just doesn't have the funds and there are other priorities. Folks who want to give it a try can rent their own kayak and grab a brochure for a self-directed tour at their own risk.



So lets start with the fact that the "wafts" you use have a 400lb weight limit. I do not believe that you have an abundance of people over 400lbs who are wanting to get into your programs. So screening people for weight... really? If you are claiming that your "wafts" will be damaged by someone under the specified weight limit then I think that is an issue you should take up with Sevylor and perhaps you shouldn't be selling them on your website.

Secondly, one of the best ways for people with lower body disabilities and/or balance affecting disabilities to get into kayaking is to use an inflatable kayak. So perhaps you have missed an opportunity to provide a service to an under served segment of our community based entirely on your pre concieved ideas about the abilities of others.

And lastly, as someone who has encountered you around town many times through the years, I would say that your greatest barrier is your ego. I have seen you speak down to people in so many situations when it was uncalled for. I only bring this up because I believe that you honestly want to have a positive effect on the world but are holding yourself back. Please be honest with yourself on this matter.

dave owen

so "i love the eno" refuses to identify him/herself, hiding behind his/her beautifully concocted names ... ok, here goes ...

through experience i have found that anyone weighing over 240 greatly increases the risk of punctures. besides that, because women carry more weight in the lower part of their body (men in upper - sorry to have to provide you with an anatomy lesson), if women approach 240, they often do not even fit well into a narrow inflatable kayak and are either uncomfortable or embarrassed trying to get in and out. and the majority of americans are not honest about their weight when asked, so i have to make an allowance for that as well.

as for the sevylor tahiti - i guess you don't know that it is the most sold boat in the history of boat making in the world and its design hasn't changed in 50 years. it is a story of success. i know the ceo personally and doubt he can be persuaded to modify a boat with that kind of success rate!

as for disabilities, i have worked with about everything everything you could imagine - mentally retarded, blind, quadriplegics, broken limbs, missing body parts - you name it and they have probably been wafting. if someone comes with a healthy person who can paddle, then the infirm can sit in the front and just relax. in fact, i ususally take the handicapped person who participates in my boat in front of me, so i can give them special attention. other wafters join in to lift such a person in and out of a boat. i make every effort to include the disadvantaged. in my thai massage practice, which i give to the public at no charge, i particularly invite disadvantaged folks to come receive a two hour session. but still, there remain many whose personal situation is just too complicated to allow for wafting or thai massage. i have to screen to protect them, others, myself and the city of durham.

as to speaking down to others - come out from hiding my closet friend and meet me for coffee some time and we can discuss this matter one on one ... riverdave


I was checking out your website and noticed you use the .org domain. Are you a non-profit organization? This is a misleading use of the domain. It seems that your problem with city had to do with the potential of less profits. Are you donating all the profits to help improve West Point on the Eno? Do you think you are not running a business? You do exchange your service for money ...right? This disconnect maybe why you are so inflexible and dont believe you need to compromise. You are a business not a church....preacher man

dave owen

dear upacreek - perhaps i need to remind you that one does not have to be a non-profit to use ".org." in any event, non-profits provide income to their employees. is there something wrong with that? wafting was in business to provide a unique service to the citizens of durham, not to give away money. the main issue i have with the city over the future of wafting is that i cannot run wafting out of the muddy basement of the mill as they suggest. practically it just won't work ...

Kevin Davis

Folks, thanks everyone for the comments on this thread. I think the ground that can be productively covered, has been covered; and with that, I'm making the call to close discussion on this thread.

If folks have new perspectives pertinent to the issues themselves, feel free to email them to me at info -AT- and I'll consider them for posting; I've made the same offer to Dave Owen by email.

While this thread has veered to the ad hominem a couple of times, I thank everyone who's shared their thoughts, and I thank Dave for taking the time for posting his perspective as well.

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