COLUMBIA — Janet Moreland of Columbia has been kayaking on the Missouri River for years, but she had never participated in a race until last year’s Race to the Dome. She was the first person to sign up.
This year’s Race to the Dome, originally scheduled for July 2, has been postponed until October 2 because of high water levels. This is the second year for the charity canoe and kayak race, which runs from Hartsburg to Jefferson City on the Missouri River.
Race to the Dome organizers want to ensure paddlers will be safe and enjoy their Missouri River experience.
“Last year, about half our paddlers had never set foot on the river before,” said Patrick Lynn, race organizer. “Because it’s recreational and not as competitive, we want to attract novice paddlers. We need to make sure the river is at a safe level for novice paddlers to compete.”
Race organizers assume the river will be down enough by October, Lynn said.
Moreland was glad to hear the race was postponed because it gives her more time to shop for a faster boat. She came in second in her division last year and is hoping to finish first in her next race.
The event's proceeds go to Missouri River Relief, a volunteer and equipment-based organization that works to reconnect people to the Missouri River through hands-on experiences such as river clean-ups and educational events. Steve Schnarr, program manager at Missouri River Relief, said they organize events in six different states.
"The races are really an ideal fit for us because we can use our boats, skills and knowledge to help the races run smoothly," Schnarrsaid. "The races are really cool because it gets people that ordinarily may not think of putting a canoe on the Missouri River to see mile after mile what this river looks like. After doing a race like this, people start considering the Missouri River a destination."
The October 2 date also coincides with Missouri River Relief's 10th anniversary and the Big Muddy Clean Sweep, a river clean-up project that will work its way from Kansas City to St. Louis, stopping in Jefferson City on October 1.
Moreland used to volunteer for River Relief doing cleanup and education with fifth-graders. She has since returned to school for a teaching certificate, so she hasn’t had as much time to participate.
The 2010 race raised $2,735 for Missouri River Relief. Lynn hopes to raise about $5,000 this year. Missouri River Relief also accepts donations toward its projects online. Schnarr said the money will go toward the Big Muddy Clean Sweep in Jefferson City.
"It will be an effective time to do cleaning after the flooding," Schnarr said. "It will be kind of healing for people affected by the flood. Everyone can work together to clean up what is about to happen."
The race will begin at 8 a.m. and could take between one and four hours, depending on the amount of experience each paddler has. The race will end at 2 p.m. or whenever the last boat crosses the finish line — whichever is first. If a team is on the river after 2 p.m., they continue independently of the race.
There are two routes. Race A will begin at Perche Creek Access at river mile 170.6 just southwest of Columbia. Race B will begin at Hartsburg Access at river mile 159.8 in Hartsburg. Both races end at the Noren Access at river mile 144 in Jefferson City. Race A is 26.6 miles long and Race B is 15.8 miles long.
Team start times depend on the team's division. The 12 divisions are organized by number of people, canoe or kayak and gender.
Last year, Jefferson City Parks and Recreation provided 10 boats, and Lynn said they hope to get at least that many for this year's participants.
Missouri River Relief is reconsidering the festival to be held after the race, but Schnarr said they are planning to have entertainment and food after the race in October.
Chris Egbert of Columbia has been in several races of this nature across the state and said this event is very well organized. He has already signed up to participate this year.
Registration for the October race will continue until September 30. Seventeen teams are on the 2011 roster so far.
AmeriCorps member Dan Fister said another race, the Missouri River Communities Network's Canoe for Clean Water, has been postponed until the fall. The race was originally scheduled for June 25, and Fister said no specific date has been chosen.