Monday, November 25, 2013

10 Reasons to Vote for the Schuylkill as PA's 2014 River of the Year

2012 Schuylkill River Sojourn; by Jeremy Quant
The Schuylkill River is a finalist for the 2014 Pennsylvania River of the Year! The winner will be selected by an online public voting process that begins now and runs through Dec. 27. We'd love to see the Schuylkill get the recognition it deserves. We hope you vote for the Schuylkill.

Click Here To Vote Now

Here are 10 reasons why we think you should:

1.It's inspiring: The Schuylkill was once one of the nation's most polluted rivers until, in the mid 20th century the state of PA undertook the Schuylkill River Project, the first government-funded, large scale environmental project of its kind. The project dredged millions of tons of coal silt from the river. Later, laws were enacted to prevent raw sewage and industrial waste from being dumped routinely into its waters. The result? Today the river is a beautiful place to recreate, and its waterfronts are inviting places where parks, eateries and shops flourish. You can learn more about the Schuylkill River Project by reading Chari Towne's book A River Again. Learn more.

2. The Schuylkill River Trail: The trail is a beautiful recreational amenity that is helping bolster the regional economy.  A 2009 Schuylkill River Trail user survey conducted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy found that the trail attracted over 800,000 visits and generated $7.3 million in direct economic impact in 2008. The economic impact is expected to grow as the trail grows. When complete, it will total 130 miles from Philadelphia to Schuylkill County. Currently, there are over 60 miles of finished trail.

3.Cleanup Efforts Continue: The river is a lot cleaner than it once was, but there is still work to be done, and there are many agencies throughout the watershed engaged in activities that improve water quality in the river. One example is the Schuylkill Action Network. Another is the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund, administered annually by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area as part of a public/private partnership.  Since being established in 2006, the fund has collected more than $2 million and funded 42 projects that reduce stormwater run-off, agricultural pollution and abandoned mine drainage.

4. Return of the Shad: In colonial times, American shad were so bountiful in the river that 8,500 were once caught in a single day at a fishery near Pickering Creek. After the Schuylkill Navigation System was built in 1820, shad could no longer spawn in the river because 10 dams blocked annual upstream migrations. Over the past decade, a concerted effort has been made to return shad to the Schuylkill.  Fish ladders have been installed at four dams (Fairmount, Flat Rock, Norristown and Black Rock dams). Three breached dams have been removed (Plymouth, Vincent and Felix Dams). The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has stocked more than 4.5 million juvenile shad since1999.

5. Wildlife: Do you know that bald eagles are regularly spotted along the Schuylkill now? Since the 1970s, bird species have been increasing along the river, a direct result of the river's gradually recovery. And it's not only birds that are coming back, wood turtles, mink, river otters and spring peepers are among the many species making a comeback.

6. History: The river played an important role in three revolutions that shaped our nation: the American, Industrial and Environmental. During the American Revolution, soldiers at Valley Forge encamped beside the river. It later served as a transportation route during the Industrial Revolution, when coal was carried down the Schuylkill Canal to fuel factories and steel mills across the nation. It's inspiring environmental story has been told above..

7. Recreation: The Schuylkill River is a National Canoe Association Recommended Water Trail, with signs at landings and water trail maps that make it more accessible to paddlers. And every year, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area hosts the popular Schuylkill River Sojourn, a 112-mile guided paddle that begins each year in rural Schuylkill County and ends a week later at Philadelphia's Boathouse Row.

8. Drinking water: The Schuylkill  is a source of drinking water for over 1.5 million people.

9. It's beautiful: The river is a scenic waterway, often hidden from view, that provides a peaceful oasis for people wishing to reconnect with nature a short distance from urban areas and suburban neighborhoods.

10. It almost won last year. The Schuylkill was a finalist for PA's 2013 River of the Year. Although the Monongahela ultimately won by a narrow margin, voters showed strong support for the Schuylkill, which earned 8,010 votes to the Mon's 8,156 - a less than 1 percent difference of only 146 votes. We know it can win for 2014!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Legendary Locals of Pottstown Lecture & Book Signing

Heritage Area Exec Dir. Kurt Zwikl speaks while authors Ed Berger & Sue Repko look on

It's safe to say that everyone in Pottstown knows about native Amanda Smith, who founded Mrs. Smith's Delicious Homemade Pies, a company that baked pies in Pottstown and distributed them to every state in the nation. But not many people know that Hildegard Peplau, who trained at Pottstown Hospital School of Nursing in 1931, is known as the "mother of psychiatric nursing" for having revolutionized care for people with behavioral and personality disorders. And fewer still have likely heard of Naomi Childers, a silent screen actress born in Pottstown in 1892. Those people, and many more, are the subjects of the new book  Legendary Locals of Pottstown, co-authored by Sue Repko and Ed Berger and released last month by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Legendary Locals series.

Sue Repko signs a book
Ed Berger

Repko and Berger delighted an audience at the Schuylkill River Heritage Area offices on Wednesday evening, Nov. 6, with tales of the "legends," both famous and  little known, who have left their mark on Pottstown. Repko talked about the process of writing and researching the book, and the fascinating people she discovered in the process. Berger, a jazz writer and photographer who took many of the contemporary photographs in the book, discussed his techniques for capturing his subjects in their homes and places of business.

As a bonus, the authors placed a selection of the book's enlarged photographs around  the room, providing an interesting focal point throughout the lecture.