more to man's life than falconry
The Derrick, By Brian Ferry
A special thank you goes out to The Derrick for allowing this story to be posted
DICK KREAR, AMONG OTHER THINGS, IS A GUIDE ON HIS BELOVED ALLEGHENY RIVER AND HAS TAUGHT AN OUTDOOR SURVIVAL COURSE.
Dick Krear is a falconer.
But although that part of his life takes up much of his time, he thinks of himself first in other ways.
He is a river guide. An educator. A master gardener. A forester.
He used to be a deputy fish warden. He taught an outdoor survival course at Slippery Rock University.
"I've always had this passion since I was a little kid," he said.
Krear prefers not to set limits by putting himself in one category. So he refers to himself as a general naturalist.
His domain is the Allegheny River.
"I've probably put more miles on the Allegheny than anyone alive," Krear said. He estimates he boated some 800 miles on the river last year.
He has a large, flat-bottom boat - "the biggest John-Boat on the Allegheny" - he uses to take groups on educational tours of the Allegheny River and French Creek.
"On the Allegheny, I point out history, a little geology, wildlife, whatever I see," Krear said. "I know where there was a gun emplacement from the French and Indian War. I can name nearly every plant."
Once when the river was very low, he noticed a rock carving dated 1847. He found wreckage from a large raft or barge at that location and guesses that the stranded people made the carving to pass the time and mark their presence.
"There's a lot of history in that old river," he said.
Red Tail Eco Tours is the name of Krear's educational river-tour business. He takes school groups, scout groups, family groups, anyone who wants to take a river tour.
His boat, a 24-footer that seats up to 18, is the center of that business.
"It's nothing fancy, just sturdy," he said. "I'm tickled pink with it."
The boat was made specially for Krear and went though an inspection in Pittsburgh. It is long and wide with a flat bottom. It can go through shallows where many other boats would bottom out.
The motor is special too. Instead of the traditional propeller, it has a jet system. Water goes in through an inlet and is pushed out by a powerful, but quiet, internal propeller. Without a large propeller hanging down, the motor sits at about the same depth as the rear of the boat.
Krear is licensed as a commercial captain.
With the boat and the license, he can use his knowledge and experience to run Red Tail Eco Tours and teach people about the river.
"The idea of this boat is pretty much a floating river classroom," he said. "To provide an experience for people. To show people the beauty of the Allegheny River."
"I like putting in at Franklin and going to Emlenton or Foxburg," he said.
He recently bought 12 pairs of binoculars and 12 copies of "Birds of Pennsylvania Field Guide" so people who take a trip on his boat will be properly prepared.
On his first outing last year, Krear pointed out 28 species of birds to the group.
As a falconer, he is particularly attuned to birds of prey. He frequently sees bald eagles among the wildlife.
"It's incredible how many eagles I've been seeing," he said. "That's what people want. They don't want noise, they want to see eagles."
"If you want to get a kid interested in the outdoors, you show him something in his back yard," Krear said. "The idea is to educate and let the kids know that it is their river. It empowers them."
"It's the kids' environment," he said. "It's up to you to take care of that river."
Showing people the beauty of the river serves Krear's purposes well. "The more you educate people, the better it'll be protected," he said.
And the river helps Krear.
Red Tail is a business - Krear has bills to pay. "That's $25,000 worth of boat," he said.
Krear charges $175 for a five-hour trip for four people. "Each person over four is $25."
But he keeps the price down as much as he can. "I broke even last year," he said.
He might be able to charge more in another area, but he doesn't want to.
"My quality of life is wonderful around here," he said. "Sure it's economically depressed, but there are advantages to that."
He hopes to see the river run ever cleaner. "It's amazing how the river has recovered since I was a kid," he said. The oil industry was not kind to the river, he said.
He gives back to it as he can. "There's so much going on in this area conservation-wise and tourism-wise," he said. Krear has participated in the last two river cleanups in the Franklin area and will join the one this year near Emlenton.
Krear can be reached via email at rkrear@@csonline.net or by phone at (814) 498-2100.
"I've lived kind of an odd life, but I've enjoyed it," he said. "It's nice doing something you like."