Coleman Awarded AW Steward of the Year Award

posted September 27, 2006
by Ben Van Camp

article photo 1

American Whitewater and Wave Sport presented the AW Steward of the Year Award to Charlene Coleman of Columbia, South Carolina, at the annual American Whitewater Gauley Festival in Summersville, WV this past weekend.  Coleman is the first recipient of the annual river stewardship achievement award which recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to river access, conservation, and/or safety on behalf of American Whitewater.  Along with the recognition Coleman was awarded the Wave Sport boat of her choice.

“We are very proud to recognize Charlene Coleman as with the first River Steward of the Year award,” said Mark Singleton, Executive Director for American Whitewater.  “We are very fortunate to have Charlene working on all our behalves and are grateful for all her efforts.”

As an active river advocate for the past 19 years Coleman has spent a lifetime on rivers all over the US.  Coleman has been an American Whitewater member since 1998 and has worked tirelessly on environmental protection and conservation on a number of projects including Saluda, Tyger, Ocoee, Broad, Congaree, and Tallulah rivers and most recently the Chattooga River.

When speaking about her work, Charlene states “The Chattooga River raises such soul wrenching emotion in so many people, it makes it hard for many to understand what we are doing is pointing out a wrong, that if not corrected could effect all natural resource users in the future. It’s not just about boating, it’s about the law.”

“We are proud to be a partner with American Whitewater in presenting this award,” said Jimmy Blakeney, Wave Sport Brand Manager.  “It is the work of stewards like Charlene that opens access opportunities for all of us.”

Over the last 15 years Coleman has been involved in educating the community, government and businesses on whitewater safety and conservation and for the last 10 years she has been working with agencies and rescue professionals on training and techniques for whitewater rescue.

Additionally, Coleman has been counseling and guiding at risk and underprivileged children, for a children’s charity- Canoeing for Kids for the last 12 years.  The program helps children challenge themselves in a positive way, build self-confidence and work with others effectively.

“This work shows children that no matter how bad life may seem, the river can cleanse the troubles and relax the soul so everything can be dealt with positively,” added Coleman.

In selecting Coleman as the Steward of the Year, American Whitewater took into consideration a number of her other efforts, including:

  • Working with a children’s charity, teaching river skills to instill confidence, reliability and an appreciation for natural resources as a source of personal development.
  • Working as an American Whitewater regional coordinator on regional access and conservation issues for 16 years. This includes many educational speeches and presentations in SC.
  • Working as an ACA whitewater kayak instructor
  • As a member of the Lower Scenic Saluda river advisory council
  • As a active volunteer for Canoeing for Kids
  • As a member of Palmetto Paddlers and serving as their Safety Chair
  • As a member of the River Management Society
  • As a member of Trout Unlimited
  • Oconee County Tactical Rescue
  • Volunteer river safety and conservation advisor to City of Columbia and SCE&G
  • 5 committees for the FERC licensing of Saluda Hydro and SCE&G including 3 Technical working committees.
  • Instructor for Boy Scout troops on river merit badges
  • Guide for local outfitters
  • Assisted training with local fire departments and public safety
Founded in 1954, American Whitewater is a national organization with a mission "to conserve and restore America’s whitewater resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely." American Whitewater is a membership organization representing a broad diversity of individual whitewater enthusiasts, river conservationists, and more than 100 local paddling club affiliates across America. The organization is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater resources throughout the United States, and connects the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data to achieve the goals within its mission.
American Whitewater
Mark Singleton
PO Box 1540
Cullowhee, NC 28723
Phone: 828-586-1930
Fax: 828-586-2840


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