By land and by sea, more than 250 people scoured the banks and waters of the Black River last May — on paddleboards and on foot, in kayaks and canoes, even aboard small motor boats — to remove more than 600 tons of trash, including 105 tires, in LoCo ‘Yaks’ first “Take Back the Black” clean-up effort.
Short for Lorain County Kayak and Paddle Sports Group, LoCo ‘Yaks is a buoyant bunch of water enthusiasts who joined paddles to make some waves and clean up their beloved local river. It’s the brainchild of avid kayakers and longtime friends Josh Notley, Stephanee Moore and Robb Koscho (the latter two got engaged last November).
The trio — all certified kayak instructors — created the nonprofit club in March 2013 to protect their local paddling area and to encourage more people to join them on the Black River, which they consider one of Lorain’s “little gems.”
“It’s our home base and our little baby,” says Moore of the waterway, which is the site of extensive federal restoration efforts. “It’s where we like to go, and there’s a lot of great scenery and nature like bald eagles, herons and fun stuff. If we’re going to be proud of it and take people out there, we have to love the river and take care of it.”
LoCo ‘Yaks expanded this year’s clean-up to two days — May 3 and 4 — and hopes to add food vendors to make it more of a festival-like community event, Moore says.

The organization has another side: LoCo ‘Yaks Shak, a for-profit venture that offers guided trips, special events and classes.
“This is definitely our passion, and it’s what I want to grow old doing,” says Moore, who works full-time at the Backpacker’s Shop in Sheffield Village. “Eventually, I want for us to quit our other jobs and have a rental place and retail place and our club supporting us, but we’ll see.”
Koscho is a cook at Wood & Wine in Avon. Notley recently moved to Hawaii. “We are working with the Small Business Development Center, and hopefully sometime this summer we will have our own fleet of rentals,” adds Moore. In the meantime, Moore and Koscho will continue to provide rentals through two local companies.
LoCo ‘Yaks Shak takes people out on the water from May to November. All you need is sunscreen, a bottle of water and a camera “because you’re going to see something fun,” says Moore. Think secluded coves, waterfalls and wildlife such as bald eagles.
Moore and Koscho are both Level 2 instructors. They teach several classes that includes a beginner’s course, which includes basic strokes and maneuvers, and a rescues class that practices exits and deep water re-entries.
“You don’t have to know how to swim. We supply all the safety equipment, and we put a life jacket on everyone,” says Moore.

Open-to-the-public paddle excursions during sunsets, full moons and the Fourth of July are other ways LoCo ‘Yaks Shak aims to get kayakers, experienced canoers and stand-up paddle board enthusiasts together in the water.
“You can pay $10 to come with us if you have your own kayak, or we can get a rental for an extra fee. We take different launch spots and go out and see the sights,” Moore says. “We also have a weekly event at the Jackalope that is kind of like a bike night for paddlers. If you paddle to the guest dock and go in to eat, you get a discount off something on the menu. Every Monday night we do that in the summer. It’s our paddle night.”