Someone made off with the Tuolumne River Trust’s van just when it’s needed most — to shuttle participants in the annual Paddle to the Sea.
The van was stolen Wednesday or early today in Oakland, said Eric Wesselman, executive director of the preservation group.
It was about to be driven to Groveland for Saturday’s kickoff of Paddle to the Sea, a month-long event where canoes and other craft ply segments of the Tuolumne and downstream waters.
The van also is used in other educational and recreational programs in Modesto and elsewhere.
“We’ve used that van to get literally thousands of people on the river over the last five years,” Wesselmann said by e-mail. “... Definitely a morale buster around here!”
The vehicle is a white 2004 Ford E350 passenger van with the group’s name and logo on both sides and a gear rack on top.
The trust is asking supporters if they have a van they could lend or donate immediately. It already was raising money to buy a second van to expand the programs, Wesselman said.
Anyone who spots the stolen van can call the trust’s Modesto office, (209) 236-0330. Details on Paddle to the Sea are at (888) 994-3344 or www.paddletothesea.org.