“I want to catch a fish!” These words filled the air on a hot August morning as more than 40 youth from Hartford, Connecticut took park in the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders fishing event at Riverside Park.
The Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders program aims to get urban youth outdoors, teaches them to fish, and connects them to nature, while at the same time, fosters positive relationships with law enforcement and safety professionals in their community.
The event was an outstanding success thanks to all the partners who coordinated and supported the program.
The City of Hartford Police and Fire Departments contributed time to help the young anglers cast, bait hooks and reel in any fish they caught. Staff from Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s angler education program taught kids how to cast, tie knots and identify fish. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge educated kids about the Connecticut River Watershed through its Watershed on Wheels traveling exhibit. And the Wilson-Gray YMCA and Family Center helped transport kids from their neighborhoods to the park in order to participate in the event.
Riverfront Recapture, a non-profit organization that maintains Riverside Park and other city parks, provided a great location to hold the event, and worked with Bass Pro Shops to donate a rod and reel to every participant.
Members of each organization also spent time, energy and money planning, organizing and gathering resources so that all kids who attended the event would have a meaningful experience connecting with diverse groups within their community.
“We are teaching our youth that the Connecticut River is a tremendous fishery, right in their back yard. Through this exciting collaboration we are giving them tools to enjoy their free time and learn about their natural environment”, said Craig Mergins, Directory of Community Event and Engagement at Riverfront Recapture.
The program also supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. By partnering with police and fire departments, the Conte Refuge hopes to create connections within urban communities in the Connecticut River watershed. Through these connections, the Refuge aims to encourage urban youth to feel comfortable in nature and foster a love of the outdoors.
Ideally, with a new fishing rod in hand and the skills they learned at the event, these young kids will continue to fish, carrying with them the desire to protect and conserve our natural world, not only for themselves, but for generations to come.