The Spokane Riverkeeper is thrilled to announce that the 2015 Mike Chappell River Hero Award goes to Andy Dunau. Although we don't have strict criteria for selecting who receives the River Hero Award, we all agree that it is given to someone whose work helps preserve and protect the Spokane River. There is no doubt that Andy's work does just this, but before I explain further, I wanted to give a bit of history.
In 2011, the Spokane community lost a real hero when Mike Chappell, then director of Gonzaga’s Environmental Law Clinic and one of the driving forces behind starting Spokane Rivekeeper suddenly passed away. That year, we held Dirty Martinis for Clean Water a mere few weeks after Mike’s passing and while on stage we announced that starting next year we’d do something to recognize Mike’s legacy of work on Spokane River issues. Since then, we have honored Russ Nobbs, Steve Faust, and Twa-le Abrahamson.
Andy's tireless work for the river comes from a vision to connect the Spokane River with the city and people of Spokane. As he puts it, he wants the river to be part of our DNA. As the river becomes a driving force in our economy, he realizes the importance of connecting people to the river. He does this through convening people and groups to discuss river issues and creating individual opportunities to make a difference.
Andy's love of the river started with an opportunity to create the Spokane River Forum. His work heading the Spokane River Forum led him to understand that experiences on the river them lead people to love it. The Spokane River Forum acts as an information clearinghouse, distributing important technical documents, river news, and most importantly, the Spokane Water Trail. Essentially a "one stop shop" for all things Spokane River, the Spokane Water Trail is an online resource that provides recreationalists information on boat launches and facilities along the Spokane River. Andy doesn't just sit behind a computer. Since 2008 he has paddled the entire Spokane River and connected over 700 people to the River through river floats. He realizes he cannot do it all though and has worked behind the scenes to provide more access to the river, such as under the Division Street Bridge (see photo above).
Among his other accomplishments, Andy lists the increased communication between river advocacy groups and industry. "I wanted to make it safe to be in a room to talk about river issues" said Andy , alluding to the dialogue that he changed through the Spokane River Forum. "Mike Chappell taught me a culture of convening diverse groups, not to argue, but to communicate". Andy offers individuals a way to give back to the river now too. The Spokane River Forum coordinates volunteer opportunities for litter clean up, tree planting, and restoration days for individuals or groups.
The Spokane Riverkeeper would like to sincerely thank Andy Dunau for all he has done for our river.