Students and mentors with the Greenville Woodworkers Build construct a canoe out of cypress wood. The group has decided to donate their creation to Friends of the Reedy River, a Greenville-based conservation organization. Photo provided by the Greenville Woodworkers Guild.

Since September, five students and two mentors from the Greenville Woodworkers Guild have met once a week to shape a large piece of cypress wood into a canoe. Now they hope their creation can provide a boost to local conservation efforts.

On Thursday, the students plan to launch the canoe off the banks of the Reedy River to celebrate the project’s completion. They have also decided to donate the canoe to Greenville’s Friends of the Reedy River, a conservation organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, and restoring the river.

“Our boat building program is inherently about building community; every person feels personal pride and ownership, yet it belongs to the no one person. That is community. Everyone working with personal pride towards a common goal. I can’t think of a better group that this applies than the youth and mentors of the Guild,” said Anthony Archino, a Greenville Woodworkers Guild mentor.

The Reedy River, which flows through downtown Greenville, has experienced severe pollution since the early 1900s because of nearby textile mills, sewage discharges, and runoff from increased urbanization. In June 1996, for example, Colonial Pipeline Company spilled nearly 1 million gallons of diesel fuel in Simpsonville. The spill polluted a 34-mile stretch of the Reedy River, killing about 35,000 fish and contaminating nearby groundwater for nearly three years.

Various conservation groups throughout the Upstate have worked through the years to improve the river’s water quality by assisting with education and outreach events and implementing cleanup and pollution prevention programs. Friends of the Reedy River, for example, currently holds two cleanup events each year.

“We are grateful to be the recipient of this beautiful canoe and are awed by the work and effort put into this project,” said Patricia Carson, executive director of Friends of the Reedy River. “We plan to raffle the boat later this year as a fundraiser, which will help us to do more work protecting the Reedy River.”

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