OSMRE/VISTA Fosters Environmental Connection and Economic Recovery

July 29, 2015

OSMRE/VISTA Katie Flahive, who serves with Schuylkill River Heritage Area in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, has been assisting in the coordination of events connecting community members and area visitors to the natural environment, including the 17th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn and Schuylkill River Pedal & Paddle Trips. Katie, who began her term in April, participated in the 112-mile Sojourn in June, offering day to day support and facilitation for the multiple day kayaking trip. Katie has assisted with two Schuylkill River Pedal and Paddle events, which feature four trips from June-September, and will take on increased responsibility in planning for the two upcoming trips. In addition she will assist with a Hike and Paddle trip which follows a similar format. Each of the five dates have sold out, with a maximum of 15 participants in each. The goal of the events is to promote healthy activity, encourage the recreational use of the Schuylkill River and Trail, and educate participants on some of the area’s cultural history.

The headwaters of the Schuylkill River has been impacted by Acid Mine Drainage, with silt and coal dust from coal mining and other upstream industries in the early 20thcentury contributing to environmental impacts throughout the river system. Clean up efforts, including the 1945 Desilting Act, have improved the river’s condition allowing for increased local use and tourism initiatives which positively impact the economy.

Each Pedal and Paddle event begins with a four and a half mile bike ride from Pottstown’s Riverfront Park to Historic Morlatton Village in Douglassville, PA, using yellow cruisers from the Bike Pottstown bike-share program. Participants take a guided tour of Morlatton Village's four 18th century buildings, including the oldest home in Berks County, owned by the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County. From there, the participants take a short bike ride to Douglassville’s Ganshahawny Park where they eat a picnic lunch and receive a brief introduction to kayaking from outfitter Doug Chapman of Take it Outdoors Adventure Group. Then, they paddle back to Pottstown via the Schuylkill River.

Katie reports, “[…]we had people who had never kayaked before, paddling 15 miles a day.” These events allow individuals to experience new outdoor activities, and also gives them a reason to return to the Heritage Area in the future, contributing to the area’s economic growth.