Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paddle Challengers Fierce but Friendly

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paddle Challengers Fierce but Friendly

Article excerpt

HAWORTH -- The field was deep -- nine mayors, one council president and a county freeholder. There was trash-talking. Reputations were at stake.

And when it was over, a Republican and a Democrat came in one- two.

The Mayor's Cup Challenge, Saturday's kayaking race that was part of the Hackensack Riverkeeper's fourth annual Reservoir Challenge, ended with Ray Cywinski, mayor of Demarest, beating back John Birkner, his Westwood counterpart, to defend his title. Birkner had won the race the first two years, and Cywinski the last two. James Koth, Oradell council president, was third.

Mayors, or their designees, from upper Hackensack River watershed communities were invited to take part in the race. Friendly competitions such as this help officials from different towns build relationships, Cywinski said.

"Things like this make it easier when you have to discuss some important issues -- the fact that we know each other on a personal level," the defending champion said.

But Birkner could not help taking one last jab at his competitor.

"He's got the distinction of being the only Republican to beat me in any race," Birkner said, as he and Cywinski posed for photos immediately after the competition.

The Mayor's Cup was one of three races Saturday at the Oradell Reservoir. The reservoir is normally off-limits to people who kayak or canoe, but once a year, its gates are thrown open to raise money for the Hackensack Riverkeeper, a non-profit group whose mission is to protect and restore the river.

$10,000 in proceeds

Organizers estimated that this year's event raised $10,000 and drew a record turnout of about 200 registered paddlers. About another 100 spectators were expected to show their support.

"This is as much a friend-raiser as it is a fundraiser because a lot of people that come here and paddle on the reservoir and come out and have some fun with us, they'll later in the year send a donation to us or come out to one of our other events," said Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan. …

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