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Riverkeeper Boat Captain Works for the Hudson

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – The Hudson River has played an important role in John Lipscomb's life.

Lipscomb is Riverkeeper's Boat Captain and has been with the organization for 11 years. He spends his days protecting the river and educating the public about the environmental issues surrounding the river.

“Working for this river is essentially what I do,” Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb, a Piermont resident, first discovered the river around the age of 4, when his family moved from the Bronx to Irvington. Lipscomb said he used to live in the stream that runs down Washington Irving's property.

Later, Lipscomb and his family moved to Tarrytown, where he learned to sail on his father's boat. Lipscomb said the waterfront was underutilized when he was in high school in the 1960s.

“The river was not the front door of Tarrytown,” he said. “The river was sort of the backdoor.”

Lipscomb ran a boatyard in Nyack for nine years before joining Riverkeeper. He also worked for several years sailing around the world and doing documentary film work. Sailing around the world was something Lipscomb said he had planned to do since his childhood because his horizons were always farther and farther away.

Lipscomb came back and worked for a boatyard when his daughter was born because the film work took him away for several months at a time and he didn't want to be gone that long.

Since coming back, Lipscomb said he's found “infinite depth” and horizons in the Hudson River. Lipscomb said Riverkeeper's work involves protecting the Hudson River through testing, litigation and public awareness. Perhaps more importantly, Lipscomb said, is to get people to realize that citizens need to keep up the river.

The organization does this in many ways, including publishing data reports and doing regular patrols up and down the Hudson. A patrol boat looks for signs of environmental trouble and deters people from harming the river through things such as pollution. The boat also serves as a reminder of Riverkeeper's mission.

“Most people in those houses see the boat and they see the Riverkeeper on the side of the boat, and that does an interesting thing,” Lipscomb said. “It breaks through a sort of subconscious wall and gets easily into the mind that 'Yes, the river needs keeping.' That's the first and biggest step: that the river is not able to protect itself.”

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