NRS Building

The Northwest River Supplies building in Moscow.

MOSCOW — The paddling gear company NRS is working to break down the barriers that prevent people from participating in water recreation with a project called “Just Add Water.”

The multifaceted effort has involved numerous activities around the world, such as certifying 10 leaders of a group called Outdoor Afro as kayaking instructors through an American Canoe Association course at a state park in North Carolina, said Mark Deming, director of marketing for NRS.

The Moscow-headquartered company also organized a kayaking camp on southern Idaho rivers for military veterans suffering from PTSD, Deming said.

Last year, NRS was set to host 10 festival-style events with paddling excursions in cities around the nation, but those were canceled because of COVID-19. Instead, the company released a webinar series featuring people of color talking about their outdoor experiences.

One of the segments featured Shoshone-Bannock tribal members who organized River Newe, a program that introduces Indigenous youth and their families to the middle fork of the Salmon River, Deming said. The debut of the series unintentionally coincided with the homicide of George Floyd at the hands of a now former Minneapolis police officer, and it became a catalyst for substantive discussions about race.

In its third year, Just Add Water grew partly from a realization that a large share of the people who paddle are affluent white men in the West and Southeast, who are increasingly aging. Many of them are hard-core rafters who plan their vacations around multiday trips on rivers in hard-to-reach places with big rapids, Deming said.

While NRS is dedicated to continuing to serve them, he said, it also wants to encourage women and men of a variety of fitness levels, incomes and ethnic backgrounds to experience whatever bodies of water are accessible to them. That means supporting paddlers who keep an inflatable kayak or paddleboard in a backpack in a closet at their city apartment and use public transportation to reach their paddling destination, which might be surrounded by skyscrapers.

“We wanted to renew our brand in a way that addresses these changes in the market,” Deming said.

Effects of pandemic on area’s economy topic of webinar

How well eastern Washington, north central Idaho and northern Idaho are recovering economically from the pandemic is the topic of a fall Inland Northwest Partners webinar.

Speakers include Sam Wolkenhauer, regional economist with the Idaho Department of Labor in Post Falls, and Gary Forsyth, chief economist with Avista Corp.

The event will be from 9-11:15 a.m. on Sept. 16. The cost to attend is $30, and registration is available at inwp.org.

Avista Corp. is the founding sponsor of Inland Northwest Partners.

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