Tour de Tar brings pair of paddlers closer to the river they protect


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Richard Adkins
, WRAL photojournalist

While many people are working at home, Clay Barber and Jillian Howell are learning their new jobs from the ground – or rather the water – up.

"On the job training is an excellent way to look at it," Barber said.

"It seemed like a really good way to see the whole river in one shot," said Howell.

The pair are paddling the Tar River, mile by mile, just about 165 miles.

"There's something about a pretty epic journey like this," she said. "You don't get that shot too often, to take 10 days and be out on the water."

They work for Sound Rivers, an environmental conservation organization dedicated to clean water in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins.

Howell is the Tar-Pamlico riverkeeper.

"It's not my river at all," she said. "It's the people's river ... and it's my goal to protect it and keep it clean so that everybody has access to it, and everybody can use it."

Barber is the environment project coordinator. "Part of my job is to manage the water trail and all the camping platforms," he said.

These outdoor assets have become more important recently as people search for ways to get outside while still maintaining social distance.

I don't want to say COVID is a good thing in any way, because it's not," Barber said. "But if there anything to take away from it, I think people are going to appreciate the outdoors a lot more, and they're going to value their outdoor spaces and hopefully take care of them more."

The paddle partners launched their kayaks near Interstate 85 a week ago. They'll arrive in Washington on Saturday.

After the trip, Barber said, "I will feel much more prepared to talk about the Tar River Basin and what you can do what you shouldn't do."


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