Chuck Mutscheller says when he was in college at a small liberal arts school in Minnesota, he paddled to and from his classes. Mutscheller is the communications director for Openlands, a nonprofit that advocates for the conservation of natural and open spaces, and while he doesn’t paddle to work nowadays, he says it’s still easy to get out on the water, even in the big city. Openlands’ Paddle-A-Trail event, which started in June and continues through Labor Day, makes paddling accessible and fun for oldtimers like Mutscheller as well as newbies by encouraging paddlers to contribute to its online WaterLog database. The database allows paddlers to share the upsides, downsides, and upside-downsides of their kayaking and canoeing outings in the Chicago area. Openlands hopes sharing information about log jams and water levels as well as water trails and rental stores will improve the paddling experience and remind Chicagoans they can find nature in the waterways they drive over every day. “It’s a pretty unique experience in that when you’re on the water, even though you’re in the midst of a busy metropolitan region, it’s quiet,” says Mutscheller. “What it really lacks is the din of everyday life.” (Ella Christoph)
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