Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Oh No! The Sojourn Weekend Days are full? Try a Mid-Week Day.

It happens every year, and 2018 is no exception. Only hours after registration opened up for the 20th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn the weekend days (Saturday and Sunday) of the seven-day trip (June 2-8) sold out. Sure, everybody wants to paddle on the weekend. But, to keep things safe we allow only about 100-110 boats per day. Often, we wind up turning people away on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while Tuesday through Friday fill up more slowly--or sometimes not at all.

Keep this in mind: there are some clear advantages to paddling on Tuesday through Friday. Those days tend to be less crowded, and therefore better for beginners or Sojourn newbies. Wait times at portages and rest stops and shorter. And, there's plenty of good paddling, great food, and fun camaraderie.
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 "Celebrating 20 Years," with presentations focusing on a 20-year perspective on the river, sojourn and trails.
Riverfront Park
 Tuesday June 5 (13.9 miles: Gibraltar to Pottstown)
New to the sojourn? Tuesday is a great day to try it out!  It's an easy, scenic paddle along a stretch of river frequented by eagles. The lunch stop is at Historic Morlatton Village, where you can dine on the lawn beside Berks County's oldest home. The lunch presentation will feature Schuylkill River Greenways Trail Projects Manager Bob Folwell who will give a 20-year perspective of the Schuylkill River Trail. And best of all, Tuesday night will feature a special 20-year anniversary celebration with dinner by Bause Catered Events and music by the river by the band Chestnut Grove.
Lock 60
Wednesday June 6. (17.8 miles: Pottstown to Mont Clare Lock 60) 
Wednesday features one of the Sojourn's most unique highlights: 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 presentation will focus on Royersford's revitalized riverfront.  In the evening, paddlers camp out near the canal, eat spaghetti dinner at nearby St. Micheal's Pavilion, and hear a presentation on the health of the river over 20 years.
Thursday June 7 (14 miles: Mont Clare to West Conshohocken)
 Paddlers begin the day in the canal and make their way into the river, stopping for lunch at Valley Forge National Historic Park where they will learn about the past and future of Schuylkill Banks in Philadelphia. 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). 
The final day of the sojourn is also one of the best. Sojourners love having the opportunity to paddle into the Philadelphia skyline. If you need another reason to kayak on Friday, lunch is at the historic Philadelphia Canoe Club (above), where you eat surrounded by some amazing antique boats. The final takeout is Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row, a really perfect place to end your journey.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

AmeriCorps Week!

Hello! My name is Le’Santha Naicker I serve at the Schuylkill River Greenways as their AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. If you are wondering what AmeriCorps is and what VISTA means I’m here to give you a background on the program, what a VISTA does, and how you can get involved!
AmeriCorps VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America it is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for volunteering, service, and civic engagement. The agency engages millions of Americans in citizen service through its AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs and leads the nation's volunteering and service efforts.   The VISTA program started in 1965 under Linden B Johnson with the mission to strengthen organizations that alleviate poverty through volunteering and the mobilization of resources. There are currently 7,000 VISTA’s serving across the United States in various capacities within state/ local governments and nonprofits.
This year I am serving as the second year VISTA with the SRG and am helping to build capacity with several programs. First, I am continuing the Heritage Conservation Corps which is a youth employment program that focuses on building and expanding the Schuylkill River Trail. Second, I am working with community organizations to help build community gardens in Schuylkill County. Third, I am assisting with Project Schuylkill Outdoor Learning Odyssey our environmental mentoring program to high school students. Lastly, I am working on a pollinator garden that will be planted right here in Pottstown’s Riverfront Park (look out for news about volunteering with us for the garden!). I am grateful to work with the SRG and AmeriCorps during this year and to help the surrounding communities.
AmeriCorps VISTA has had such a great impact on different communities throughout the US and it is one of the many AmeriCorps programs that are offered by Corporation for National Community Service. I have had the pleasure to serve with AmeriCorps for two years now (last year I served in NCCC FEMA Corps) and it is a fulfilling way to give back to your community.
Go to https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps  to find out more ways you can serve! #GetThingsDone

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Heritage & Hops Brew Tour

On Feb. 24, we introduced our Heritage & Hops Brew Tour, a new event that proved to be incredibly popular. With 45 participants, we took a bus to four local breweries from Phoenixville to Reading. At each brewery, we were given two tastings and a presentation about the history of the brewery and/or the importance of clean water for brewing beer.

The beginning

We met up at the Phoenixville Foundry, where we checked in participants and boarded a bus. Each person received a schedule, event bracelet and a silicon pint glass to take home.

First Stop: Oakbrook Brewing Co. in Reading

We began our adventure with a 40-minute bus ride from Phoenixville to West Reading, where we disembarked at the charming Oakbrook Brewing Co, a former fire house in the Oakbrook neighborhood of Reading. The owner gave us two tastings and a terrific presentation on the building's history. He included some interesting Schuylkill River lore as well, providing information about a barge that once offered river excursions in Reading.

2nd Stop: Sly Fox Brewery in Pottstown

Sly Fox Brewing Co. has been a great partner of ours, brewing for the past four years SRT Ale, a summer ale whose proceeds support the Schuylkill River Trail. So, as we toured the facility, we were especially thrilled to see the cans of SRT Ale among the many beers stacked up along the perimeter of the brewery. Also thrilling was the delicious lunch provided and, of course, the two tastings of beer.

3rd Stop: Hidden River Brewing Co.

It's hard to say what was most fun about Hidden River Brewing Co, in Douglassville: the tasty beer, the quirky decor, or the fascinating 300 year-old history of the building which once served as an exclusive gentleman's club. This was a really fun stop, but it was also the location of the only problem on the tour. That is, the bus drive had trouble getting the bus started. As it turned out, that wasn't much of a problem. Everyone went back inside for another beer, and the bus started soon after.

Root Down in Phoenixville

Our final stop was Root Down Brewing Co. in Phoenixville, a brewery that was conveniently located directly across from the Phoenixville Foundry, where we'd all parked our cars.  This was such an intriguing spot to end our tour. A former root beer factory, the building retains its industrial, warehouse feel with wide open spaces that allow for games, a movie, graffiti art, and ample seating for the crowds who were enjoying the food and beer before our tour arrived. In addition to the beer tastings, we were treated to a presentation on Phoenixville's history by local historian Ryan Conroy.
Overall, this was a terrific event that got rave reviews from attendees. We hope to host another Heritage & Hops tour in the future.

Click here for more photos

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How We Spent 2017

2017 was a new beginning for us. We changed our name, adopted a new logo, hired a new executive director and, most importantly, we renewed our commitment to completing the Schuylkill River Trail and connecting people to the Schuylkill River. Here's a month by month look back on some of our highlights for the year.

 January & February

 Last January, we once again partnered with Valley Forge National Historical Park to exhibit 16 pieces of art from our 2016 Scenes of the Schuylkill art show in the park's visitors center. The artwork provided visitors with an introduction to the talented artists who are inspired by the beauty of the Schuylkill River region.  The art represented a selection from our 13th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill Art Show. The show is held yearly at Montgomery County Community College's west campus gallery.
March: 2nd Annual Evening for the Schuylkill River
Over 100 of our members, partners and supporters attended our 2nd An Evening for the Schuylkill River at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading The evening featured delicious food, fun raffle items and great music in a historic setting. During the event we recognized three of our key supporters: (pictured above l to r) Sly Fox Brewery owner John Giannopoulos, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, and Schuylkill River Water Trail Guide designer Brian Swisher.
April: SRT Ale Returns with the SRT SPREE
The seasonal SRT Ale returned for its third summer with the SRT Spree on Earth Day. As part of our Spree celebration, we organized three trail cleanups in Pottstown, Douglassville and  Mont Clare. A total of 90 volunteers spent a combined total of 63 hours sprucing up the trail for spring by picking up litter, pruning overgrowth, raking, weeding and cutting back invasive plants. The trail was better all season thanks to them!

May: Our New Executive Director and...

On May 15, we welcomed Elaine Paul Schaefer as our new Executive Director. Elaine is an attorney who served on the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners since 2010. In 2016 she ran for state representative for the 165th district. Prior to taking the Radnor Township post, Elaine co-founded the Radnor Conservancy, where she held several titles including president of the board of directors and executive director.
...Our 6th season of Pedal & Paddles
Our Pedal & Paddle events continue to be popular. For 2017, we held five events from May through September. Those include two that focused on water quality monitoring, two that featured tours of historic Morlatton Village and one that took place at Lock 60 of the Schuylkill Canal. Each event offers a mix of education and recreation that aims to foster a sense of stewardship for the river and the trail.
  June: 19th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn and...

During the 19th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn we took 221 paddlers from 12 states down the river, with 70 making the full trip from rural Schuylkill Haven to Philadelphia's Boathouse Row.  Our program theme titled "I Protect the Schuylkill River,"  focused on river conservation. Sojourn Steward Sarah Chudnovsky was brought on by the Schuylkill Action Network to test water quality at each stopping point. Her tests revealed positive indications of river health.

A Summer Fellow
In June, we hired Samantha Walters as our Summer Fellow. She was one of 23 fellows hired by the 23 different centers that make up the Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) of the Delaware River. Samantha was tasked with increasing our engagement with river and trail users, and she did a terrific job. Over 12 weeks she established the Schuylkill Climateers, a group aimed at young people interested in learning about and improving the local environment. She hosted several riverside and trail cleanups and finished with a paddling trip that engaged participants in water quality testing. Next summer, we expect to have two summer fellows who can continue the work Samantha started.

 July: Schuylkill Explorers and...

Education coordinator Sarah Crothers continued to build up the Schuylkill Explorers program. The program was offered to area summer camps and student groups over the course of the summer, helping over 360 students foster an appreciation for nature. She also partnered with the STRIVE Initiative, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Centro Cultural Latinos Unidos in Pottstown to create the awesome Stay Active video (above). STRIVE created the video using lyrics contributed by the children.
 ...Heritage Conservation Corps
Our AmeriCorps VISTA member Tiara Campbell (pictured far left) organized a 5-member Heritage Conservation Corps composed of four youths aged 16-20, with one adult supervisor. They worked for five weeks in June and July on a Schuylkill River Trail project in Schuylkill County. Utilizing an old rail line with an existing stone surface, the Corps cut back shrubbery and installed fencing to create a new 1.4 mile section of trail. They also worked on an community garden project in Mahonoy City. 

August: Water Trail Guide Wins International Acclaim and...
"A Paddler's Guide to the Schuylkill River Water Trail," which we published last December, earned two commendations from the British Cartographic Society. The guide's designer, Brian Swisher, traveled to England to accept the awards, which recognize excellence in thematic and printed mapping! Judges described the guide as "A thorough, usable guide for planning and executing a trip along the river."
 ...Restoration Fund Grant Awards

We distributed Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grant awards totaling $364,000 in grants to 11 projects that improve water quality in the river and its tributaries. Since being established in 2006, the fund has distributed over $3.3 million--and leveraged another $5 million--for 95 projects that protect and restore the Schuylkill River.

September: Ride for the River and...

On September 30 we held our 2nd Annual Ride for the River, a bike ride that both benefits and takes place along the Schuylkill River Trail. Over 300 cyclists rode a 16- or 40-mile route between Pottstown and Reading. 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 the seasonal SRT Ale, bringing to $12,000 the funds raised over three years from the "Ale for the Trail." Those funds, as well as proceeds from Ride for the River, support trail projects, including our Safe Crossings program, which  improved signage and markings at road crossings.

...A Statewide Trail Summit

Along with Berks Nature, we co-hosted the 2017 PA Greenways and Trails Summit from September 24-26 at Reading's DoubleTree by Hilton. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive from this event, which was attended by 250--a record number--trail enthusiasts, professionals and advocates. Deputy Director Tim Fenchel helped lead the organizing committee, which put together three key-note presentations, 32 breakout sessions and 8 off-site workshops.

October: A New Trail Coordinator and...

We welcomed Julia Farrell Hurle as our new Trail Program Coordinator, a two-year William Penn Grant funded position. She is working in concert with our Trail Manager Bob Folwell. Her duties are two-fold: helping to get new sections of trail built, and connecting more people to the trail.

1.4 Miles of New Trail!

We cut the ribbon on a new 1.4-mile segment of the Schuylkill River Trail in Schuylkill County. About 30 people attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, including state, county and local officials. The new trail section is located between Tumbling Run Rd and Seven Stars Rd. near Mt. Carbon. The segment was built in part by the Heritage Conservation Corps, organized this summer by former Sustainability Coordinator, Tiara Campbell, who cut the ribbon. Learn more.

November: A New Name & Logo and...

Following a lengthy rebranding effort we unveiled our new organizational identity at our Scenes of the Schuylkill art show reception on Nov. 15.  Our new name Schuylkill River Greenways NHA and our new logo have both been well received, and both reflect our mission to connect people and communities to the river and the river corridor. Learn more.
...14th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill

Our Scenes of the Schuylkill Art Show entered its 14th year featuring 98 original pieces of regional art inspired by the Schuylkill River corridor. The artwork was on exhibit at the Montgomery County Community College West Campus art gallery from Nov. 2-Dec. 17, and over 160 attended the reception. After the show closed, a selection of 15 pieces was moved to the Walk In Art Center in Schuylkill Haven, where they will be on display through January 31, 2018.

December: Our newest AmeriCorps VISTA and...

AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Le’Santha Naicker joined our staff to serve as our Trail Sustainability Coordinator for one year. She will be continuing several projects initiated by our former VISTA members. Those include: organizing a Heritage Conservation Corps for trail building projects in Schuylkill County and continuing a Community Garden Initiative in Mahanoy City. She will also manage Project SOLO (Student Outdoor Leadership Odyssey), an environmental educational initiative aimed at middle and high school students. Learn more.

 ...a $500,000 Grant Award for the Schuylkill River Trail!

This one definitely falls into the last but not least category. We recently were awarded a PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources grant totaling $516,501 for the construction of a Schuylkill River Trail pedestrian bridge over Route 724. The bridge will be located in Union Township near Monocacy Station. The total project cost has been estimated at about $1 million. An additional $325,636 has been secured from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and Schuylkill River Greenways will be applying to additional private and grant funding sources to make up the approximate $150,000 shortfall. We hope to begin construction in 2019. The bridge is expected to take one year to build.

What else we did
  • Continued our Bike Pottstown Free Bike Share Program
  • Operated our River of Revolutions Interpretive Center.
  • Installed warning signs and improved road markings at two intersections where the Schuylkill River Trail crosses Rte. 724
  • Organized volunteer opportunities that improve and maintain the Schuylkill River Trail with a total of 59 Trail Ambassadors volunteering 2,000 hours.
  • Laid the groundwork for a new Recreational Hub system along the Schuylkill River Corridor, seeking a private outfitter who can offer kayak and bike rentals and shuttle service.