Friday, May 10, 2013

Trail Worker Wins National Award for his Work on the Schuylkill River Trail and other PA Trails

Steve Pohowsky (L) with SRHA Exec. Dir. Kurt Zwikl
A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) employee recently earned a 2013 National Trails Award from American Trails for his work improving trail user safety on several Pennsylvania trails, including the Schuylkill River Trail.

Stephen P. Pohowsky was recognized with a State Trail Worker Award after being nominated for the honor by Schuylkill River Heritage Area Trails Project Manager Robert Folwell. Pohowsky received the award at a recent PennDot meeting.

Pohowsky is a Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator and Safety Program Specialist for PennDOT District 5-0, which encompasses the counties of Berks, Schuylkill, Lehigh, Carbon, Northampton and Monroe. He received the award for "his extraordinary contribution to improving
trail user safety at state highway crossings within District 5-0."

His nomination form noted a number of accomplishments achieved since Pohowsky took his current position in 2006. "As the District Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator he has worked to address pedestrian and bicycle safety requests and concerns such as mid-block crosswalks, bicycles on freeways, and signage for the BicyclePA Route system. He also is responsible for all Shared Use Path Trail Crossing Agreements and trail crossing design reviews and has worked on the Saucon Rail Trail, Union Canal Trail, Schuylkill River Trail, D&L Trail, Palmer Township Trail, and several others. "

According to Folwell, Pohowksy is an avid trail user who uses "his trail riding experience as well as his extensive knowledge of PennDOT highway safety issues to effectively evaluate all trail crossing plans to determine what works best, and has developed model guidelines for District 5 that will save lives."

In accepting the award Pohowsky thanked the Schuylkill River Heritage Area and American Trails. He observed that he recognized a need for better communication between PennDOT and the trail building community, and had worked toward that improvement.

"We are fortunate to be located in an area of the State with a large expanse of both canal and rail trails thanks to the former anthracite coal industry.  These trails are not just a portal to our past, but also a pathway to our future.  As both the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator and an avid trail user I’ve had the privilege of working closely with numerous forward thinking trail organizations.  Together we’ve made tremendous progress in trail crossing safety and development.  I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to make our trails a source of pride, an asset to their communities, and a fine example of what we can accomplish together." 
In addition to his work on the trail, Pohowsky also took this video of the Schuylkill River Trail Thun Section. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

10 Reasons to Sign Up for the Schuylkill River Sojourn

For every person who takes part in the annual seven-day, 112-mile Schuylkill River Sojourn, I'd estimate there are at least two people who tell us they've always wanted to try it, but just never have. This blog post is for them.  The sojourn takes place from June 1-7 this year. Here are 10 reasons to stop putting it off, and finally get on the water.

1. You don't have to be an expert paddler: Sure, we recommend you have some paddling experience, but beginners have done the trip without a hitch. Safety guides are there to help you, and most sojourners will give you tips if they think you could use a hand. Trust me, I'm a beginner and I benefit from expert advice every year.

2. You can do it alone: Don't have a paddling pal who can accompany you? No worries. There are usually anywhere from 70-100 paddlers on the water each day, and they are all moving along beside you. After a day of paddling you will have made at least one new friend and possibly a whole river full.

3. You don't have to do the whole trip: Not sure if you'll like it? Just sign up for one or two days. Chances are, you'll be back for more next year.

4. We take care of everything: First time sojourners often comment on how well organized the event is. All you do is show up with your kayak and gear. We lead the way, provide water and Gatorade at rest stops, give you three meals a day, arrange for entertaining and educational programs at lunch and dinner stops, transport your gear, shuttle you back to your car and provide a place for you to camp. Seriously, you don't have to do a thing. (Well, you do have to paddle.)

5. You'll gain a new perspective: If you've never paddled on the river, you'll be amazed at how peaceful and beautiful it is. Even as it passes through urban areas, it often feels like a wilderness. Besides, the Schuylkill River is a source of drinking water for 1.5 million people, and it has great history. Most of us pass by it without a thought. Once you've paddled it, you'll feel like you've finally gotten to know this body of water that you cross on bridges every day.

6. It's the perfect opportunity to try something new: Even if you paddle on the river all the time, chances are you haven't paddled the whole thing. This is the perfect chance to try a piece of it you've never experienced before. My recommendation? Sign up for the Wednesday paddle from Pottstown to Mont Clare, so you can float through a remnant of the Schuylkill Canal, and through the restored Lock 60. Or how about Friday, the final day of the sojourn, which takes you into Boathouse Row?

Betsy Quant of Canoe Susquehanna
7. Our guides are great: Every year the sojourn is led by Allan and Betsy Quant of Canoe Susquehanna. They make the trip fun and safe, advising the group of any potential obstacles every morning, and leading everyone around them throughout the day.

8. The food is great: We don't just give you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and a hot dog for dinner. We partner up with other non-profits who provide hearty meals at each stop. Sojourners rave about the food.

9. You'll learn something: Each year, we have a program theme, with speakers and presentations at every stop. This year's theme is A Civil War Odyssey. We'll have re-enactors, Civil War music, a one-woman play and more to entertain and inform.

10. You'll have a wonderful time: If you only do one or two days of the sojourn, I recommend choosing a mid-week day. That way, you'll be out on the water, paddling under a blue sky, surrounded by beauty and enjoying the company of other paddlers. Meanwhile, your co-workers will be at work. This is a good feeling. Trust me, I've done it.

Register here.