Friday, April 7, 2017

Sojourn Weekend Days Fill Up Fast! Sign Up for an Amazing Mid-Week Day

It's happened again. Only hours after we opened up registration for individual days on the annual Schuylkill River Sojourn the first three days of the seven-day guided canoe/kayak tour (June 3-9) are sold out. Sure, everybody wants to paddle on the weekend. But, to keep things safe we allow only about 100-110 boats per day. That means we wind up turning people away on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while Tuesday through Friday fill up more slowly--or sometimes don't fill up at all.

If you are one of those who hesitated a bit too long to get on the sojourn's weekend days, don't despair! Here's a day-by-day guide to the sojourn's mid-week days. All have openings so you can sign up for one or all four! As always the sojourn will begin in Schuylkill Haven and end at Philadelphia's Boathouse Row with participants paddling 14-18 miles per day. This year's sojourn theme is "I Protect the Schuylkill River," with all presentations focusing on river conservation.
Tuesday launch
 Tuesday June 6 (13.9 miles: Gibraltar to Pottstown)
This is a great day for Sojourn newcomers!  It's an easy, scenic paddle where past sojourners have spotted interesting wildlife (including eagles!). The lunch stop is at Historic Morlatton Village, one of our region's best kept historic secrets. There, we'll have a presentation about everyday sustainability efforts that everyone can make to protect our watersheds. And the evening stop, at Riverfront Park in Pottstown, includes arguably the best dinner on the trip, catered by Bause Catering. We're teaming up with Pottstown Borough again this year for an entertaining evening featuring the band de Tierra Caliente.

Coming through Lock 60
Wednesday June 7. (17.8 miles: Pottstown to Mont Clare Lock 60) 
One of the highlights of the week-long sojourn happens on this day. Sojourners end the day by "locking through" the restored Lock 60 on the former Schuylkill Canal (see photo above). But, there's also some pretty scenery and an enjoyable lunch setting  at Victory Park, in Royersford, where the Borough officials welcome sojourners with a delicious cake.  In the evening, paddlers can camp out near the canal, eat spaghetti dinner at nearby St. Micheal's Pavilion, and meet some live birds during a presentation about bird species found along the river by John James Audubon at Mill Grove educator.

Thursday June 8 (14 miles: Mont Clare to West Conshohocken)
The dam portage in Norristown
 Paddlers begin the day in the canal and make their way into the river and through some wooded areas. The sojourn lunch will be at Valley Forge National Historic Park where a Philadelphia Water Dept. representative will discuss initiatives that improve water quality in the river.  This stop always features an entertaining free raffle by Stony Creek Anglers. Later in the day sojourners encounter some interesting bridges and urban settings. At dinner, in West Conshohocken, they'll eat an amazing barbecue dinner served up by the Rib House.

Friday June 9 (16 miles: West Conshohocken to Philadelphia).
Passing through Manayunk
This may be the final day, but it's also one of the best days of the sojourn! Sojourners love having the opportunity to paddle with the Philadelphia skyline as their backdrop and alongside the iconic Boathouse Row. If you need another reason to paddle on Friday, lunch is at the historic Philadelphia Canoe Club, where you eat surrounded by some amazing antique boats. The final takeout is Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row.

Monday, March 20, 2017

An Evening for the Schuylkill River

Whew! We are still reeling from all the excitement of our 2nd Annual Evening for the Schuylkill River, which was held on Saturday March 18. We couldn't have asked for a better evening to celebrate the river and to acknowledge the work of some of our key supporters with Schuylkill River Legacy Awards. Our award winners, pictured above, (l to r) were John Giannopoulos, managing partner for Sly Fox Brewing Co.; Leslie Richards, Secretary of PennDOT, and Brian Swisher, author/designer of "A Paddler's Guide to the Schuylkill River Water Trail."

Here are a few things that made the event so much fun:

1. We had terrific raffle and silent auction items. Included among the over 30 donations were pieces of original art, baskets of local beer and wines, tickets to area attractions, restaurant gift cards and more. Possibly the most coveted item of all was a beautiful Fusion kayak:

2. The venue was amazing! The historic Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading is a hidden treasure in downtown Reading, with a striking ballroom that lent an air of history and elegance to the evening.

3. The food was delicious. From the veggie and fruit trays to the hearty dinner and the plentiful desserts, it was a pleasing and enjoyable meal.

4. Cocktails were on the house! We and our guests were grateful to JP Mascaro and Sons, who sponsored the cocktail hour, and to Sly Fox Brewing Co., who provided us with two beer selections at a discounted price. What's more, the cocktails were poured behind the Abraham Lincoln Hotel's impressively beautiful bar.

 5. We brought back the Rob Haffley Band. Last year, during our first Evening for the Schuylkill River, we were pleased to feature Rob Haffley and his jazz trio. This year, he came as a duo with his keyboard player. They are both incredibly talented musicians whose music added to the evening's overall pleasant atmosphere.

6. It gave us a chance to honor friends of the Schuylkill River. What makes any event special? It is always the people who you spend it with. At the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, the annual dinner is an opportunity for us to spend time with our members, partners and others who share our love of the river. While the event serves to raise money for our projects and programs, it also allows us to celebrate the work we do with the people who care about it most. We are grateful to everyone who attended or otherwise contributed to make our event special.

Reading the article about our award winners in The Reading Eagle

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How We Spent 2016: By The Numbers

• 312 cyclists rode 16 or 40 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail during Ride for the River.

• 66 volunteers removed over 60 bags of trash from the Schuylkill River Trail during the Earth Day SPREEkend
• 160 children learned about the Schuylkill River in our new Schuylkill Explorers program

$4,711 raised for the trail through the sale of Sly Fox Brewery's SRT Ale from April
through September, bringing to almost $9,000 the total raised over two years.

• 119 attendees at our first Evening for the Schuylkill River annual dinner

• 98 original works exhibited in the 13th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill Art Show 

• 1,000+ people who viewed the NPS traveling art quilt exhibit, "Piecing Together a Changing Planet," when we hosted it in October.

• 95 Pedal and Paddlers who joined one of our six events

• 1-mile interpretive loop trail created in Riverfront Park by the new Pottstown RiverWalk

• $278,832 awarded in Schuylkill River Restoration Fund Grants to 8 Projects that improve river water quality.
• 20 cultural interpretive signs installed along the Schuylkill River Trail in Manayunk and Berks County

• 60 underserved teens from Philadelphia and Schuylkill Counties engaged in our Student Outdoor Leadership Odyssey
• 205 Paddlers from 8 states and New Zealand in the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn including a record 79 who made the full 112-mile paddle

• 25 Girl Scouts from 3 troops who earned our Schuylkill River Heritage Area patch

 • 18 water trail section maps in "A Paddler's Guide to the Schuylkill River," released in December.

• 10 LED lights installed along the trail in Reading, improving safety

• 51 partners and supporters provided feedback on our new Management Action Plan draft at 3 public meetings

• 2 Adopt-a-Trail participants added in Berks County: Children's Home of Reading and Target Stores.
And Finally:

• $589.9 million in annual Economic Impact to the region, according to a new study that also found that the Heritage Area supports 6,134 jobs and generates $37.7 million in state and local tax revenue, primarily as a result of tourism related activities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Look Back on How We Spent 2016

2016 was a year to remember: we saw our events grow in popularity and introduced new events. Here's a month by month look back on some of our highlights for the year.

 January & February

 Last January and February, we were pleased to bring a selection of 16 pieces of art from our 2015 Scenes of the Schuylkill art show to Valley Forge National Historical Park. The exhibit met with such a positive response that we recently installed it for a second time with art from our 2016 Scenes of the Schuylkill. That show will be up through Jan. 27, 2017.
March: An Evening for the Schuylkill River
Embarking on what we hope will become a yearly tradition, we hosted a dinner that was at once a fundraiser and a celebration of the Schuylkill River. Over 100 of our members, partners and supporters attended An Evening for the Schuylkill River at Sunnybrook Ballroom, enjoying delicious food, fun raffle items and great music. We recognized two of our key partners, PA DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn and the management of Exelon Generation. We plan to carry on this successful event, moving to the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading this March.
April: SRT Ale Returns with the SPREEkend and...
We partnered with Sly Fox Brewery to celebrate the return of SRT Ale with a full-slate of activities over Earth Day weekend dubbed the SPREEkend. A series of trail cleanups, a group kayak paddle, a popular 50K Schuylkill River Trail Relay Race, and an incredibly fun Spreekend Festival were among the highlights. Most notably, a total of 66 volunteers assisted in three trail widening and cleanup activities, removing over 60 bags of trash and working a combined 132 hours. And two other Spreekend cleanups were held in Phoenixville and Norristown in which another 80 volunteers participated.

...A New Trail Head

On a rainy April day we gathered with Schuylkill County officials to cut the ribbon on the new Auburn Trailhead, which features benches, signs, and parking for 15 cars. It is an access point for a 0.8 mile section f the Schuylkill River Trail and a new water trail landing.

May: Pottstown RiverWalk and...

We cut the ribbon on our long-awaited Pottstown RiverWalk, a new recreational and educational amenity at Riverfront Park that creates a one-mile loop through a wooded area and along the river. It is highlighted by a series of interpretive signs focusing on the region's natural environment.

... a New Economic Impact Study
We also released the results of a new Economic Impact Study that found the historic and natural features of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area annually generate $589.9 million in economic impact for the Schuylkill River Region. The findings came from analysis by Tripp Umbach, a nationally recognized consulting firm, which also found that the Heritage Area supports 6,134 jobs and generates $37.7 million in state and local tax revenue, primarily as a result of tourism related activities.
  June: 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

During the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn we took 205 paddlers down the river, with a record breaking 79 making the full trip from rural Schuylkill Haven to Philadelphia's Boathouse Row. Sojourners came from nine states and New Zealand. Our program theme celebrated the Centennial of the National Park Service. We also had our first Sojourn Steward on board. Bradley Maule was brought on by the Schuylkill Action Network to photo document his trip and litter problem areas.

 July: Schuylkill Explorers and...

We hired a new education coordinator, Sarah Crothers, who developed the Schuylkill Explorers program to engage children in hands-on learning about the river and the importance of watershed conservation. The program was offered to area summer camps and student groups over the course of the summer, helping over 160 students foster an appreciation for nature.

 ...A New Strategic Plan
Throughout the year, we worked with consultants Schultz & Williams to develop a new Strategic Plan that will lead our organization over the next decade. In July, we sought input from the public at three meetings in Schuylkill Haven, Reading and Manayunk that were well attended and produced valuable feedback. The new plan is expected to be approved next year, and will guide us as we refocus our efforts on connecting people to the Schuylkill River.

August: Pedal & Paddles and...

Over the course of the summer we held a total of six Pedal & Paddles that took 95 people on bike rides along the Schuylkill River Trail and kayak trips on the river and a tour of a historic site. This year, in addition to touring Historic Morlatton Village, we also took one group to Lock 60 of the Schuylkill Canal. Another group participated in a water quality event that included water testing and a discussion on river health.

 ...Schuylkill County Initiatives

We welcomed our newest VISTA worker, Tiara Campbell. Tiara will be serving for one year as our Trail Sustainability Coordinator. Her tasks include starting a Heritage Corps trail sustainability and job training program and establishing a community garden initiative in Schuylkill County. Learn more about Tiara's initiatives
September: Ride for the River and...

On September 24 we debuted Ride for the River, a bike ride along the Pottstown-to-Reading section of the Schuylkill River Trail that attracted over 300 cyclists who rode a 16- or 40-mile route. The ride began and ended at the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival, where Sly Fox Brewing Company presented us with a check for $4,711 to benefit the Schuylkill River Trail. The money was culled from the sale of SRT Ale, bringing to almost $9,000 the funds raised over two years from the "Ale for the Trail."

...Restoration Fund Grant Awards

We distributed Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grant awards totaling $278,832 to eight projects that will improve water quality in the river and its tributaries. Since being established in 2006, the fund has distributed over $2.7 million--and leveraged another $4.7 million--for 82 projects that protect and restore the Schuylkill River.
October: A Quilt Exhibit

We were pleased to host "Piecing Together a Changing Planet," a National Park Service traveling exhibition of art quilts themed around climate change. Over 1,000 people viewed these unique works of art while the show was on display at Montgomery County Community College west campus gallery. This exceptional exhibit has been traveling to 10 different National Parks and partner sites since 2014.

November: A Book Signing and...

We regretfully bid farewell to our Executive Director Silas Chamberlin who stepped down in October to accept another position. However, he returned in November for a lecture and book signing for his new book, "On the Trail: A History of American Hiking." About 40 people came out to learn about the fascinating history of trails and hiking.

...13th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill

Our Scenes of the Schuylkill Art Show entered its 13th year in November, with a record number of artworks--98 original pieces of regional art inspired by the Schuylkill River region. This year, we were pleased to have as our juror Carrie Robbins, Curator/Academic Liaison for Art & Artifacts, Special Collections and lecturer, Department of History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. Robbins selected the winning entries from 127 submissions.

December: New Trail Lights

Work crews installed a series of LED lights along the Thun Section of the trail between Old Wyomissing Road and the Reading Area Community College pedestrian bridge. The 10 lights replace existing solar lights that were no longer functioning properly. The new LED lights improve visibility and safety for the many people who use that section of trail after dark to commute to and from Reading.

What else we did

Friday, December 2, 2016

Our New Water Trail Guide is Now Available!

Several years in the making, the brand new A Paddler's Guide to the Schuylkill River is now available for purchase exclusively through the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. This comprehensive Guide, printed on waterproof, highly-durable synthetic stock, was written and designed to help the first-time visitor or the seasoned Schuylkill veteran discover, explore, and enjoy this remarkable river and its riverside communities and attractions. Get your copy today! All this for only $40.00 (includes PA sales tax)! 10% discount for SRHA members*.

Fold-out table on inside front cover gives at-a-glance info on landings

The Guide Booklet:
• 7” wide x 12.25” high (when closed)   
• Fold-out table on inside front cover: “Landings: River Access, Amenities & Services” provides details about all of the water trail’s 38 official landings ... all in one place.
• Tabbed chapters: “Welcome/Schuylkill Today” (2 pages) is a brief look at both the history of the Schuylkill River and its current value to and impact on its residents and visitors; “Trip Planner” (12 pages) is a section-by-section narrative and photographic overview that describes the “personality” of each section of the water trail; “Have a Safe Trip” (4 pages) is a thorough primer on the safety issues and hazards of paddling the Schuylkill River and others like it; and “Field Guide” (2-1/3 pages) celebrates the rebirth of this nearly-dead river with photos and illustrations of the biodiversity that once-again thrives here. 
• Glued, dimensional pocket on inside-back cover holds the 18 maps.
• Velcro-tab closures “lock” maps in place when not in use.  
Pocket on inside back cover holds the 18 maps
The 18 Tri-Fold Maps:
• 20.125” wide x 12” high (fully-opened); 6.75” x 12” high (when folded into 3 panels)
Tri-fold maps include points of interest, section maps and waypoints
• “Smell the Roses” pages (left panel): Text, photos, illustrations, and contact/visitor information are provided for select points-of-interest in each section. “Sidebars” tell the stories that have shaped the Schuylkill River watershed and beyond.  
• Section Maps (center panel): Features include Landings; Rapids; Route Guidance; River Miles; Cautions; Portages; Tributaries; Bridges; Dams/Dam Remnants; Compass/Flow Arrows; Highways/Roads/Streets; “Shuttle Roads;” USGS Gauges; Hospitals/Urgent Care; Hiking/Multi-Purpose Trails; Points-of-Interest; Parking; Restrooms; Drinking Water; Picnic facilities; Food/Grocery/Restaurant services; Lodging; ATMs; Canoe/Kayak Rental; 3D shaded-relief base layer; and much more).    
• Waypoints pages (right panel): These pages include “Section Specs” (River Miles, Travel Time, Skills Rating, “Minimum” and “Good” Water Levels, and relevant USGS Gauges); all the landmarks along the route (Landings, Bridges, Tributaries, etc.); enlarged “action maps” and text guidance through the more difficult river features; and photos, quotes, and illustrations that add to the story of that section of river).
Special Map Features:
• “Paddler-View” Orientation: All maps read from the bottom of the page to the top, regardless of the compass direction of the river’s flow. “North” icons show the map’s compass rotation. “Flow” icons remind the viewer of the upward flow of the river on the maps.
• Scale: 2 inches = 1 mile. Large scale for more river details
• Landing Amenities and Services Boxes: Each Landing has its own box of icons showing the amenities and services within 0.5 mile of landing and/or notes that point out the nearest amenities and services between 0.5 and 5.0 miles away. Also, additional notes share other important landing-related information. 
*Discount is for current Schuylkill River Heritage Area members. Please use discount code srhamember at checkout. Not sure if your membership is up to date? Call us at 484-945-0200.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Highlights from Ride for the River

On September 24, we teamed up with Sly Fox Brewing Company to host Ride for the River, a bike ride that took place on the Schuylkill River Trail while also benefiting the Schuylkill River Trail and gets people out on the trail. We had an amazing turnout, with over 300 cyclists participating in either a 16 or 40 mile ride. In addition to riding along a beautiful section of the trail, participants ended the day at  the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival with free live music, great food and, of course, Sly Fox beer! Here are some of the highlights.

We had great volunteers:
We assembled an incredible team of volunteers who kept the ride running smoothly all day long. They managed to keep check-in lines moving quickly, assisted with parking, helped cyclists through road crossings and refilled snacks at rest stops. We also had cyclists from the Bike Sport/Sly Fox racing team providing ride support throughout the day, and we were fortunate to have Tri County Bicycles offering free bike safety checks before the rides.

A rainy start but a pleasant ride:
Not sure if you can see the rain drops in the photo below, but I hope you can see the smiles. Just as participants lined up for the first ride (the 40-mile round trip ride to Reading and back) they were caught up in a sudden cloud burst. Fortunately, the rain stopped fairly quickly, but not before many riders were drenched. No matter, people maintained their good spirits and enjoyed the ride.  

A beautiful trail:
Many of the participants told us how much they enjoyed riding on the Pottstown-to-Reading section of the the Schuylkill River Trail. We were pleased to hear that. This is a section of the Schuylkill River Trail that our organization--the Schuylkill River Heritage Area--owns and maintains. We know it is among the most scenic sections of the trail, and we were happy to be able to introduce more people to it through Ride for the River.

It supported the Schuylkill River Trail:
In 2015 the SRT was named the Best Urban Trail in America by USA Today.  The proceeds from Ride for the River will enable us to make the trail even better.

The fun continued at the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival: All participants received a voucher for free Sly Fox beer and food at the Can Jam Festival. Many stayed to listen to the terrific live bands that played throughout the day.

We accepted a check from Sly Fox Brewery: A portion of the proceeds from Sly Fox's seasonal SRT Ale goes to support the Schuylkill River Trail. At the Can Jam Festival, Brew Master Brian O'Reilly presented our Executive Director Silas Chamberlin with a check for $4,711. We are grateful to Sly Fox for this very generous donation and we extend our thanks to everyone who drank SRT Ale this summer! This marks the second year in a row that Sly Fox Brewery has presented us with over $4,000 for the trail. That money goes toward our Safe Crossing program to make road crossings along the trail safer for trail users.

We raffled off a kayak!
Our goal in organizing Ride for the River is to help connect people to the Schuylkill River. A bike ride along the river is a great way to experience the beauty of this region. And so is kayaking! We raffled off a bright-red Emotion kayak throughout the Can Jam Festival. Congratulations to Rose Walters, whose name was chosen randomly from hundreds of raffle tickets at the festival. We wish her many happy hours paddling on the river!

We can't wait to do it again next year.
We surveyed ride participants and asked them if they would be likely to participate in Ride for the River next year. The vast majority, 95 percent, answered affirmatively. Many of them also gave us tips on what they'd like to see us add in coming years. We intend to take that advice to heart, and make this an even better ride next year!

Visit our website to learn more.