GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Greg Trainor remembers his first river trip during the mid-1960s, on the Arkansas River. He and a buddy didn't know what they were getting into.
"We did everything wrong," Trainor said.
They tied themselves to the boat because they didn't want to lose it, and 100 yards out they flipped the inflatable raft. Luckily, the teenagers were able to avert disaster by untangling themselves from the rope. They hung onto their raft, but lost all their gear.
That first experience on the river didn't deter Trainor's interest in water, however, and fortunately his job as Grand Junction's public works director and utilities manager has allowed him other opportunities on the water as he watches over the community's precious resource.
"I've always had a fascination and affinity for water," Trainor said. "My work with the city allows me to feed that.
"The city has water rights on both the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. It's critical habitat for endangered species. Everything (the city does) relative to the river is tied to the vision of the Clean Water Act adopted in 1972, to ensure the rivers are fishable and swimmable."
Trainor was awarded "River Manager of the Year" by the River Management Society at a workshop held at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction March 12.
The national nonprofit organization's mission is to support professionals who study, protect and manage North America's rivers. Its membership includes federal, state and local employees, educators, researchers, consultants, organizations and citizens.
The River Management Society honors those who show leadership in protecting natural, cultural and recreational resources, and who work cooperatively with various user groups and establish long-term partnerships to protect and manage river corridors.
"The award is very special, as it is truly peer recognition," from throughout the nation, said River Management Society president Dennis Willis of Price, Utah.
Trainor, 64, has been a member of the River Management Society for the past 15 years, and currently serves as its secretary. He was editor this past winter of the RMS Journal, for which he has written articles as well as poetry relating to water and the natural world.
River Management Society Southwest chapter vice-president Jason Carey, who owns River Restoration in Glenwood Springs, nominated Trainor for the River Manager of the Year award.
"Greg's love for the outdoors, and his interest in boating, has led him to having a broader vision of the river and being an effective leader in balancing natural and recreation values with the need for the city to develop around a river," Carey said.
In an email to the Free Press, Carey added: "Greg's 35 years of observing western Colorado water has given him an informed perspective on drought, water storage, conservation, climate change, energy development, and protecting watersheds for drinking water supply. As an avid riverman, Greg spends much of his free time boating the rivers of the West. Greg has combined his informed perspective with his love for rivers to show great leadership in promoting and protecting natural and recreational water resources."
His five children and 15 grandchildren (except the infants) have become boaters, Trainor said.
Trainor is a general member of Grand Canyon River Guides, so he can keep up with what's going on environmentally and politically in the canyons of the Colorado River.
He plans to float the San Juan River with River Management Society members in May. And in September, he will volunteer for the Bureau of Land Management running river patrols on the Green River in Desolation Canyon.
A part of Trainor's job with the city is ensuring that the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges meet stringent standards. Trainor is also in charge of catching stormwater and removing trash and other debris from flowing back into the river.
Additionally, Trainor works with the U.S. Forest Service, establishing water protection standards as it relates to oil and gas development in the city's watershed.
His office lends its support to the city's parks department as well, working to move forward development of Las Colonias along the Colorado River, east of the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.
Trainor serves on the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, representing municipalities where he helped produce a water and energy report that looked at projected water use of potential oil and gas, uranium, coal and oil shale development through 2050.
"As a community we're connected to the Gunnison and Colorado rivers not only from a utility/public works standpoint, but also more and more from a recreation-related standpoint," Trainor said. "Those uses are as valid as traditional uses."
Trainor additionally supports restoration activities along the river, including Tamarisk Coalition efforts to remove the water-hungry invasive species that has crowded out the native cottonwoods in some areas.
"I spend time to ensure the Colorado River remains healthy, similar to the goals of the River Management Society," Trainor said.
"In order to have clean water you can't have piles of junk cars (on the shore) and expect a healthy water resource. When Jim Robb and Bill Ela created the Riverfront Commission 30 years ago, they had a vision for the river. At that time the river was choked with junk cars. They had a vision of what the river corridor ought to look like."
"We need to make sure all city staff, developers, planners, etc., are careful about what happens off the river so the river remains a great place to be," Trainor said.