IT’S A YEAR for city elections in Manchester. Inevitably, a big-spending politician will say the city needs a Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk idea has been around for years. Basically, it’s an expensive, over-engineered terrace jutting over the Merrimack River in the Millyard. A place for the Chablis and escargot crowd to gather, dine and get close — but not too close — to the river.

What would really benefit Manchester is not a Riverwalk, but a Riverrun.

A Riverrun, as in floating, flowing, splashing down one of the country’s most historic rivers in an inexpensive watercraft — a kayak, an inner tube — that anyone can buy at Walmart.

I did that earlier this week with my double-diamond, tree-skiing, sore-the-next-day ski buddy Tom Cleary of Manchester. He supplied two inner tubes, we suited up with life jackets and bicycle helmets and put in at the base of the Amoskeag Falls fish ladder.

Mark Hayward's City Matters

We exited four miles downriver at Moore’s Crossing just below the Manchester Wastewater Treatment Plant.

It took three hours. We bounced through five sets of rapids. (Didn’t spill once.) The riverscape started with brick mill buildings and ended at an old rail trestle. Along the way we passed bridges, waterfowl, still forests and dwellings that ranged from high-priced condos to inexpensive tents.

Sadly, most people who live in Manchester have never so much as dipped a toe into the Merrimack.

That’s understandable.

Generally, rivers are hard to get to. With their rocks and muddy bottoms they can be intimidating. And this river has a history of pollution and stench.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services ranks the stretch of the Merrimack that we plied as likely good for boating. But the river’s report card has a blazing red mark in the swimming category.

We survived. The river smelled fine and the water looked clear. I could write more. Or I could sing about it.

So with admiration and apologies to John Fogerty and his classic “Proud Mary,” I sing:

Proud Marky

Got this good job in the city

Writin’ fancy things both old and new

But I never saw the wet side of this town

Till I took a ride on an inner tube

Current keeps a movin’

Tom and I are groovin’

Flowin’, flowin’, flowin’ down the river

Time creeps by on the Merr’mack

Until you hear the distant rapid roar

Water’s a gushin’, over rocks ‘n rushin’

Hang on, Tom; we ain’t goin’ overboard

My inner tube’s a bumpin’

Proud Marky gets his lumps in

Turnin’, turnin’, turnin’ down the river.

If you go down by the river

You’ll beat the heat just floatin’ down

Sun seers my frontside, water cools the backside

Actin’ like a duck just paddlin’ round

Proud Marky don’t work to-day

All his troubles gone a-way

Slowin, slowin, slowin on the river.

City Matters appears Friday in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Contact him at