WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita’s Arkansas River is getting some new life in the form of hungry youth leaders looking to make a change in the community.
“Everybody says the river is dirty, but nobody wants to get their hands dirty to clean it or come up with solutions on how to clean it,” said Jonathan Marr, the Skipper of Wichita’s Sea Scout Ship 1. “We really do want to make an impact on the river and we want to change the river.”
What is the Sea Scout Program?
Sea Scouts is a youth-led, adult mentored program of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women ages 14 to 20. Sea Scout units, known as ships, are established across the United States near oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes.
“They can learn various water activities from kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing and scuba diving,” Marr explained.
Wichita’s Sea Scout Ship 1 will specialize in kayaking. It has also teamed up with the Arkansas River Coalition, a local nonprofit, to help in its mission to protect, restore and improve the waterway.
“We believe that the more people enjoy the river, the more they will care about it and its health and that’s the type of program I am hoping to sort of design,” Marr said.
Marr’s Connection to Sea Scouts
Marr, a Connecticut native, grew up on the water. He is a rescue scuba diver, a boater, and a fisherman. He moved to Wichita in 2019.
“When I came to Kansas. I love it here, but the water activities were missing in my life, and I wanted to see if I could bring that back,” Marr explained.
The former firefighter learned of Sea Scouts after inheriting some of his late grandfather’s belongings.
“I came across a yearbook page that had a statement in there that he left his love for Sea Scouts to anyone as persevering as he,” he said.
Marr, instantly intrigued, kept digging. That’s when he found the name of one of his grandfather’s good friends.
“I ended up with a phone number and cold-called him immediately, and we ended up talking on the phone for about two hours about Sea Scouts, about my grandfather and all the stories of them rowing their boats and racing the fire department and racing the police department in Connecticut,” Marr said.
Marr said he always felt a connection to his late grandfather, even though he passed when he was just 8 years old.
“I will be honest, I was emotional at times hearing all these things I had no idea about, and it sort of inspired me to want to create this program here,” he said.
What’s next for Wichita’s Sea Scout Ship 1
The 20-member ship hosted its first official meeting on April 5.
Marr said the group will cover sea scouting basics in its first few meet-ups before diving into water activities and water conservation.
He is hopeful the ship will make the Wichita community and his grandfather proud.
“I am definitely super jazzed about starting this program here. I can’t wait to get out on the water, start transferring my love for water activities to people who are interested in it,” he said.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Wichita Sea Scout, click here.