A large group of paddlers near the finish line of Saturday's St. George River Race in Searsmont. Credit: John Holyoke

Despite a Wednesday social media post indicating that the first two canoe races on the Maine schedule had been cancelled, the longtime director of the St. George River Race and the Passagassawakeag River Race said paddlers should not be overly concerned.

“The races will go on,” said Dale Cross, the director of both races. “We’re exploring some things and working on options. I’m confident the races will go on, and we’ll have some news to announce soon.”

The Waldo County YMCA has organized the races for decades, and Cross, the YMCA’s former executive director, served as race director. Cross retired from the Y in September 2018, but remained race director last year, for the 39th edition of the season-opening St. George race, and the 46th edition of the Passagassawakeag race.

But in a Wednesday Facebook post, the Waldo County YMCA announced the “cancellation” of the races. The fine print, however, indicated that the Y was simply stepping away from its organizational role.

“The Y was able to successfully run these races focusing on safety, excellence and fun for race participants under race director Dale Cross with his expert knowledge of [the] St. George and Passagassawakeag rivers,” the post said. “We face the difficult challenge of no longer having a race director within our organization, therefore the Waldo County YMCA has made the decision to no longer run the races.”

The post concluded with a hopeful message.

“It is our greatest hope that another organization will pick up these river races,” the post said.

Jeff Owen, a longtime paddler and member of the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization, said he and MaCKRO members are working to make sure that the traditional season-opening races will be staged.

“The race community is scrambling and is quite confident that the races will be held in some shape or form on their traditional Saturdays,” Owen said.

Owen said MaCKRO won’t stage the races itself, but will support the races in any way it can. And Cross is busy working on an arrangement that would lead to the continuation of the two races.

“A group of us are meeting Saturday afternoon … to try to solidify a plan,” he said. “In the meantime, lots of emails and phone calls [are] zipping around. [It is a] bummer when an organization drops out.”

A representative from the Waldo County YMCA could not be reached for comment.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...