Jun 292010
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

The first rubber ducky to cross the flagged finish line Saturday morning sported a yellow ascot.

Close behind were more than 50 rubber duckies, all competing for the top 10 spots in CSU’s Environmental Learning Center’s Annual Rubber Ducky River Rapid Race on the Poudre River in east Fort Collins. Jill Motley, whose duck wore the same beaded necklace as she did, came in second pace winning a gift card to Downtown Fort Collins.

Her winnings, Motley said, will be used for a night out on the town for her 16th wedding anniversary celebration since she and her husband were unable to find a babysitter Friday night.

The Loveland couple brought along their two children Halle, 6, and Jordan, 8, as well as two of their friends as part of Poudre Valley Health System’s Fit Families on the Move program and were the only participants on the banks of the Cache La Poudre this year.

“My mom rocks because she was in 2nd place,” Halle said, adding that her favorite ducks were the beaded one and the hula dancer one.

The event was originally slated for June 19, but high and rapid river flow made it too dangerous for the kids, families and rubber duckies. The race, which normally attracts many families, started as a fundraiser for the Learning Center, with each duck being $5, said Program Director Nicole Stafford.

“Now that we’re steady on our feet again it’s just a fun thing for our members,” said Stafford, who received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees at CSU.

Before taking the short hike to the finish line, everyone chose a rubber ducky and doused him or herself with bug spray. The ELC team, comprised of CSU students and two paid professionals, split up and sent one group with the rubber ducky stakeholders and one to follow their race ducks down the river.

On the walk, Jordan led the pack across a wooden bridge and through the tall grassland –– meeting a Gopher Snake, which Stafford said is a non-poisonous breed that mimics Rattle Snakes –– and tons of mosquitoes on the way.

“The mosquitoes are so bad all you can do is laugh,” Neil Motley said, adding that he’s sure he’ll get the worse bites out of everyone.

Once the group hit the end of the race path, the Motley crew kicked off their shoes and hopped in the shin-deep river to wait for the rubber ducky pack. After 10 minutes of skipping rocks and learning about the Poudre’s many creatures, Jordan yelled, “Here they come,” and with that the duck racers formed a blockade.

After the top 10 ducks had been wrangled and thrown to shore, ELC Director Brett Bruyere said it was the highest he’s seen the Poudre in at least eight years and told the group to prepare for “the critical mass of average floaters.”

“(My favorite part) was catching them and then throwing them so they could go farther down the river,” Jordan said. But the ELC team was sure to catch all floaters so they wouldn’t harm the ecosystem.

“Last year the river was so strong one of our staff members fell over and lost all the ducks she had caught,” Bruyer said.

ELC owns more than 212 acres in east Fort Collins, Stafford said, and holds five week-long summer day camps for kids ages 7 to 14 years old. In addition to their own programs, the ELC brings in outside groups like Cub Scouts for fun and educational events, she said.

As part of Fit Families on the Move, Neil, Jill and the kids go on hikes, walks, bike rides and to swimming pools. The Rubber Ducky River Rapid Race, however, will likely be the highlight of the kids’ participation, he said.

“I think for them this is the one they’ll remember. They’ve gone swimming before, but they’ve never done a duck race,” Neil said.

At the end of the dirt road the Motley crew piled into their minivan and headed off to their next summer adventure.

Assistant News Editor Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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