Monday, December 8, 2014

A Look Back on How We Spent 2014

We had such a busy year at the Schuylkill River Heritage Area that we can hardly believe 2014 is coming to an end! We held more events than ever before, using conservation, education, recreation, cultural and historic preservation and tourism as tools for community revitalization and economic development.  Here's a breakdown of our top 10 projects, programs and events for 2014.

1. Celebrated the Schuylkill as Pennsylvania's River of the Year

We were pretty pleased when the Schuylkill was voted in as River of the Year through an online public vote last December. And since our organization was designated as the lead agency to promote the  River of the Year honor, we celebrated all year long. We made River of the Year the theme of our annual Schuylkill River Sojourn and held five special events in various communities along the river.. Read more.

2 Pedaled through Our National Parks

In September we held the Pedaling through Our National Parks Ride , the second ride in our Schuylkill River Trail Bike Tour Series.   It was a terrific two-day event, that incorporated a ride on the Schuylkill River Trail and on-road with visits to three area national parks: Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Valley Forge National Historical Park and Independence National Historical Park. Nearly 100 cyclists participated on one or both days, pedaling about 30 miles per day.

3. Led our 16th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

The 16th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn was a fabulous adventure and the perfect way to celebrate the River of the Year. We had over 200 participants from 10 states and France, and a record number of people making the full 112-mile trip (64) from Schuylkill Haven to Philadelphia. And we got our first aerial photo of the sojourn (above)! How amazing to see a bird's eye view of the 100-plus kayaks gathered on the water.  Special thanks to our our photographer Ted Danforth. Read more.

4. Expanded the Schuylkill River Trail.

 We cut the ribbon in July on a new section of trail in Leesport that will eventually connect to the larger Schuylkill River Trail. The 1,843-foot long, 10-ft wide, gravel multi-use trail segment connects with a signed on-road section that leads to another 2,100-foot long off-road segment that was built last year. All together, the on and off-road trail will total 2.2 miles, following the future completion of another short section. It is one of the first pieces of trail to be constructed along the 20-mile Reading to Hamburg stretch of the Schuylkill River Trail. Other notable trail projects included continuing to grow our volunteer base, our Trail Ambassador program and our Sponsor-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Trail programs in Berks and Schuylkill Counties where we operate and maintain 30 miles of the trail.

5. Fostered Outdoor Recreation with Community Bike Shares. 

 Bike Pottstown and Bike Schuylkill are completely free bike share programs that we have made available in three communities: Pottstown, Phoenixville and Hamburg. This year, we shared the bikes more than 1,200 times to people who used them for recreation and transportation along the Schuylkill River Trail and around town.

6. Introduced a Unique Traveling Exhibit of Revolutionary War Illustrations

 Bringing the War of Independence to Life: 19th Century Illustrations of the American Revolution, is a unique traveling exhibit featuring 42 illustrations from the private collection of Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl. It was displayed in two National Parks: Valley Forge and Morristown in New Jersey. We are exploring the possibility of bringing the exhibit to additional sites in other National Heritage Areas next year. Learn more.

6. Distributed Grants to Improve River Water Quality. 

 In September,the Schuylkill River Heritage Area distributed over $337,000 in Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grants to  projects that will improve water quality in the Schuylkill River and its tributaries. The grant announcement was held at the Cook Wissahickon School in Roxborough where a restoration fund grant funded a meadow project (shown above) aimed at reducing stormwater run-off. Since the Restoration Fund was established in 2006 through a public/private partnership,  it has garnered more than $2 million and funded 62 projects that have reduced stormwater run-off, agricultural pollutants and abandoned mine drainage.

7. Pedaled and Paddled.

Our round-trip Pedal and Paddle biking/kayaking adventures continue to be among our most popular events. Since we introduced our first Pedal & Paddle in 2011, they have consistently sold out nearly as soon as we begin advertising them. In 2014, we held on Pedal & Paddle each month from May through September.  Over the course of the summer, we took 75 people on a 4.5 mile ride along the Schuylkill River Trail in Pottstown, a tour of Historic Morlatton Village and a return trip via kayak.

8. Held our 11th Annual Art Show. 

 The 11th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area art show once again served as a showcase for regional talent that highlighted the beauty of the river valley. The show featured 82 original works, including the Best of Show pastel shown above by artist Susan Williamson. The exhibit, at the Montgomery County Community College West Campus Gallery, ran from Sept. 16 to Oct. 17. Over 100 people attended the opening reception.

9. Expanded our Educational Program for At-Risk Students.  

Last year, our VISTA volunteer, Anesa Owen developed the Schuylkill Outdoor Leadership Odyssey, an  educational program that connects at-risk urban 9th & 10th graders to the outdoors and sparks their interest in environmental careers. This year, our new VISTA worker, Victoria Garrick, expanded the program to include three schools: the I-LEAD Charter School in Reading (where it was held last year), the Bethany Children's Home in Womelsdorf, and the Progressions School in Pottstown.  The 10 to12-week  program consisted of classes with guest speakers and several field trips. It was highlighted by a kayaking trip on the river. Victoria further impacted at-risk youth by partnering with the National Park Service to conduct a Canoemobile program at Blue Marsh Lake that taught 74 Reading area students about the environment through hands-on activities. 

10. Encouraged Tourism with Our Interpretive Center and Gateway Centers.

 Our River of Revolutions Interpretive Center,  which opened in 2012, has introduced hundreds of visitors to facts about the region's history, environment and recreational and visitor opportunities.  Located in our Pottstown headquarters, the River of Revolutions Interpretive Center serves as a visitors center for the entire Schuylkill River region. We also added two new Gateway Centers in Pottsville and Schuylkill Haven. Gateway Centers are information booths that feature information and a video about the Heritage Area, tourism brochures and a wall map pinpointing places to visit and things to do in the region.

A Peek at What We've Planned for 2015. We're looking ahead to another exciting year with more Pedal and Paddles, our 17th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn, and another bike ride! New for 2015 will be a hearth cooked colonial dinner at the 1762 White Horse Tavern in historic Morlatton Village in March.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Is the Schuylkill River Trail Plowed?

Winter's back! Some forecasters are predicting another snowy season this year. If that proves true, you might wonder whether or not you can walk or ride on the Schuylkill River Trail when snow is on the ground. People often ask us if the trail is plowed in winter. In fact, some sections are plowed after each snowfall , while others receive no winter maintenance. Below, we've provided a breakdown of which parts of the trail are plowed and which are not.
Trail along Keystone Blvd

  • Berks & Schuylkill Counties (Thun & Bartram Trail Sections): No winter maintenance. These sections of the Schuylkill River Trail are managed by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, which performs no winter maintenance. That means it is never plowed, so people use it for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when snow is on the ground. Also, no winter maintenance means there could be branches and even downed trees across the trail. Maintenance crews generally begin cleaning up this part of the trail in April.
  • Riverfront Park in Pottstown: Plowed. The small piece of trail that runs along the river in Pottstown's Riverfront Park is cleared after snow. However, heading west beyond the Keystone Boulevard Trailhead, the trail is not plowed. (see photo on left by Trail Ambassador Dick Whitaker taken last winter.)
  • Chester County: No winter maintenance. The 5.7 mile piece of the Schuylkill River Trail in Chester County stretches from Parkerford to the Cromby Trailhead, located just above Phoenixville. It is not plowed or cleared regularly of debris.
  • Montgomery County: No winter maintenance. The 18-mile stretch of the Schuylkill River Trail that traverses Montgomery County from Philadelphia's city line to Phoenixville is not plowed. That section of trail is owned by the county. For details and updates on winter trail conditions along that section, please visit the county's website at
  • Philadelphia: Conditions vary. In Philadelphia, some parts of the trail are plowed and some aren't. Here's the breakdown
    • Manayunk: Not plowed.
    • Kelly Drive: Always plowed
    • Schuylkill Banks (between  Fairmount Water Works and Locust St.): Always Plowed
    • Grays Ferry Crescent: Not plowed.
 Visit the Schuylkill River Trail website at for more trail information. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014 River of the Year: A Look Back

The Schuylkill River's days as Pennsylvania's reigning River of the Year are fast coming to an end. We enjoyed having the Schuylkill in the limelight. Ever since our favorite waterway was named the state's top river, following a public vote last December, we did all we could to promote and celebrate that honor. Here are a few of the ways we celebrated:

We gave out posters!! The River of the Year program is sponsored by the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the River of the Year designee gets 1,000 posters to hand out for free. The poster, shown above, features a photo taken during our annual Schuylkill River Sojourn. We like it because it depicts the fun side of the river!

We Celebrated During our16th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn. This year, all the programming for the Sojourn focused on the Schuylkill as River of the Year. At each lunch and evening stop paddlers heard presentations about the river's history, environment or recreational opportunities. We also had this cool graphic (labove) designed for us by graphic artist Laura Mikowychok Smith and we used it on our sojourn T-shirt.

Heritage Area Exec. Dir. Kurt Zwikl accepting an oak tree from the Governor
We Accepted Resolutions: The Schuylkill River was honored by numerous public officials. Berks, Schuylkill, Montgomery and Chester County Commissioners all presented us with resolutions recognizing the River of the Year. And Gov. Tom Corbett kayaked on the river and visited our offices, delivering four Governor's Oak seedlings from a tree at the Governor's mansion in Harrisburg. The seedlings were to be planted along the river. We presented them to four river communities: Manayunk, Pottstown, Reading and Schuylkill Haven.

We held special River of the Year programs: We started with a book signing by Chari Towne, in Schuylkill Haven. Her book, A River Again, tells about the Schuylkill River Project which dredged millions of tons of coal silt from the river in the 1940s. We held a really cool campfire presentation at Valley Forge National Park (above), about the river during the Revolutionary War. We sponsored two inspiring talks by Philadelphia author Beth Kephart, who wrote Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.  And we held a free community screening of the film DamNation, about the environmental impact of dams.

We offered a special Scenes of the Schuylkill art award: In our 11th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill art show, a Staff Choice award was given to a piece that best represented the river's beauty. The award went to photographer Mary Kosar for her photograph "Fog in Woods, Riverfront Park."

Our partners celebrated too! We shared our $10,000 River of the Year grant with Montgomery County and the Schuylkill River Development Corp. in Philadelphia so that they, too could highlight the River of the Year. But many of our other partners held programs that celebrated the Schuylkill as well. Overall, it was a wonderful year that brought lots of well-deserved recognition to the Schuylkill.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pedaling Through Our National Parks Ride

Ready to Ride at Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site

Well, we did it. Our two-day, Pedaling through Our National Parks Ride has come and gone and, in the words of our event organizer, Seth Gernot from Events Unlimited, it was awesome!  With almost100 cyclists participating, we visited three National Park Sites and pedaled nearly 60 miles along the Schuylkill River Trail and on-road on September 20 & 21. Our cyclists encountered some challenging hills, learned a thing or two about local history, and, best of all, spent a beautiful September weekend outside on their bikes.

Pedaling through our National Parks is the third ride in our Schuylkill River Trail Bike Tour Series. We designed the series to promote the fact that many visitor sites can be accessed directly from the trail. This year, we also got to promote three National Historical Parks: Hopewell Furnace, Valley Forge and Independence.

Day 1: Hopewell Furnace to Valley Forge

The event featured about 30 miles of cycling per day (a bit more on  the first day (Hopewell to Valley Forge) and a bit less on the second day (Valley Forge to Independence). The ride began on Saturday Sept. 21 at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, where participants had the opportunity to tour the park before hopping onto their bikes.
Morning tours at Hopewell Furnace

Riding into Riverfront Park in Pottstown
Following the tours, riders took off on a 10-mile pedal from Hopewell to Pottstown, where they had a catered lunch outside the Schuylkill River Heritage Area offices and toured our River of Revolutions Interpretive Center.

Then, they headed off for a 21-mile ride to Valley Forge, along some scenic back roads and through a wooded section of the Schuylkill River Trail.  The day was capped off by a program at Valley Forge by Park Ranger Marc Brier. Afterwards, cyclists and their bikes were shuttled back to their cars at Hopewell.

Program at Valley Forge
Musket Demonstration at Valley Forge

Day 2: Valley Forge to Independence

The second day began at Valley Forge, where cyclists immediately made their way onto the Schuylkill River Trail and followed it 22 miles to Philadelphia's beautiful Schuylkill Banks.We heard a brief but interesting presentation about the Washington Rochambeau National Historic Route from Superintendent Joe DiBello. Then we made our way to Independence National Historical Park, along some of Philadelphia's terrific bike lanes. We took a tour of Independence Hall, then the cyclists were shuttled back to Valley Forge.
Before the ride at Valley Forge
Arriving at Schuylkill Banks

Bikes lined up at Schuylkill Banks
Lunch along the trail in Philadelphia

View from Schuylkill Banks

Group shot at Independence National Historical Park

 Overall it was a fun weekend with a lot of great riding, and we heard plenty of enthusiastic comments from participants.

 We are grateful to our volunteers, our partners at Schuylkill Banks and the National Park Service, Events Unlimited who managed the ride, and our sponsors: Exelon Nuclear ~ Brentwood Industries ~ Cast-Rite Metal Company ~ Translogistics, Inc. ~ My Print Shop ~ Pottstown Memorial Medical Center ~ Barwis Construction, LLC ~ Campbell Thomas & Company ~ Traffic Planning & Design ~ 422 Commercial Realty ~ Montgomery County Community College ~

Thursday, September 11, 2014

11th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area

Lisa Tremper Hanover
For the past 11 years, we have celebrated the beauty of the Schuylkill River region through an art event that has evolved and grown into the annual Scenes of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area exhibit we hold each fall. So, it's always an exciting day for our staff when the art work arrives and the judge selects the winners.

On Sept. 2, a total of 112 pieces of art and photography were delivered to the Montgomery County Community College West Campus Gallery in Pottstown.  Dozens of talented artists came from all across the Schuylkill River Corridor to submit original pieces in a wide range of mediums and styles.

The following day, the show was juried by this year's judge Lisa Tremper Hanover, Director & CEO, of the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown. She selected 82 works to remain in the show, and chose three winning entries and two honorable mentions. A staff choice award was also determined by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area staff for a work that represented the Schuylkill River, in honor of the Schuylkill as PA's 2014 River of the Year. Visit our website to learn more about the art show.

2014 Scenes of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area winners:

Best of Show: Haying Day, Pastel, by Susan Williamson
2nd Place: Blue Barrow Against a White Barn, watercolor, Nancy Durkin Green

3rd Place: Allegheny Aqueduct, photograph by David Thomas

Honorable Mention: Dawn on Lauer's Run, oil, by Russell Slocum

Honorable Mention: Window Light at Hopewell Furnace, photograph, by Ginnie Lodge

Staff Choice: Fog in Woods, Riverfront Park, by Mary Kosar

Visit the 11th Annual Scenes of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area Art Show & Sale from September 16 through October 17 at the Montgomery County Community College West Campus Gallery, 16 W. High St., Pottstown. Gallery Hours: Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Governor's Visit to the Schuylkill River Heritage Area

Gov. Tom Corbett paddled on the Schuylkill River on Sunday August 17 and stopped in Pottstown for a visit that included a tour of our River of Revolutions Interpretive Center and a press conference at Riverfront Park, along the Schuylkill River Trail outside our office. Below are some photos from his visit.
The Governor spent the morning paddling on the Schuylkill. He kayaked about 10 miles, from Union Twp. in Berks Co. to North Coventry. in Chester Co.

After lunch at the Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown, he arrived at the Schuylkill River Heritage Area Headquarters and was greeted by our Executive Director Kurt Zwikl and DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti
Gov. Corbett and Sec. Ferretti were given a guided tour of our River of the Revolutions Interpretive Ctr. by Kurt Zwikl

Kurt showed Corbett & Ferretti a map of the Heritage Area
Gov. Corbett viewed our touch screen monitors about the Three Revolutions
Gov. Corbett took a peek through our binoculars for a hawk's eye view 

After the tour, the governor presented Kurt with four oak saplings from the Governor's Mansion to be planted along the Schuylkill River
During the press conference, Kurt presented the governor with a poster commemorating the Schuylkill as PA's 2014 River of the Year.

Friday, July 18, 2014

10 Reasons to Sign Up for our Pedaling through Our National Parks Bike Ride

This September we will host the third ride in our Schuylkill River Bike Tour Series. Like our two previous rides, it will incorporate a unique mix of cycling and history.

Pedaling through Our National Parks is a two-day event (Sat. Sept. 20 & Sun. Sept. 21) that takes cyclists along the Schuylkill River Trail to three area National Parks: Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Valley Forge National Historical Park, and Independence National Historical Park. Here are a few reasons you might want to sign up for it. But keep in mind: Thursday, Sept. 18 is the last day to register! Click here for details or to register.

1. It's unique: Sure, there are plenty of event rides in the area, but ours is different. You stand to learn a lot by participating. You'll ride about 30 miles a day, and you'll exercise your brain by taking ranger-led tours of three National Parks. We have some pretty fascinating local history. This is your opportunity to pedal right into it.

2. We take care of the details: We not only make the day educational and fun, we also make it easy! Well, as easy as 30 miles on a bike can be. We will serve breakfast and lunch, have snacks and drinks at rest stops, and we'll have a well-ma
rked route with ride support the entire way.  At the end of each day, we'll shuttle you and your bike back to your car. All you have to do is show up with a bike, helmet, and water bottle. And, oh yeah, don't forget your adventurous spirit!

3. We have lunch programs too: On day one we promise a delicious lunch at our Schuylkill River River of Revolutions Interpretive Center. On day two, there's another satisfying lunch along the trail, with a program about the Washington Rochambeau National Historic Trail.
Heritage Area headquarters, where you'll have a chance to tour our

4. You're in for a nice ride: The majority of the ride is along the Schuylkill River Trail (although there are a few on-road and urban sections). So, it's scenic, mostly flat (with a few hills), and often shade covered. Overall, it's a lovely ride.

5. You don't have to ride both days: Think 60 miles in two days is too much for you? You can choose to register for only one day. The only trouble with that may be choosing which day!

6. We guarantee discovery: Chances are you've never visited all three National Parks in our area. Or if you have, it's been a while. This is a great way to discover or re-discover those parks, and to find out how to travel to them via bike!

Hopewell Furnace
7. You'll visit Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site: Hopewell is definitely one of this region's hidden gems. We start out the first day of the ride with tours of this Iron Plantation. It is so well preserved you will feel like you are stepping back into the 19th Century.

Valley Forge
8. You'll experience Valley Forge: This park is renowned for it's recreation trails as well as it's history. You'll get a taste of both on day one when we pedal into Valley Forge and learn about it's history from a park ranger before hopping on a shuttle and heading back to Hopewell.

9. This may be the best way to see Independence: Here's your chance to get a tour of Independence Hall without having to wait on long lines or make reservations. We will have rangers ready to take us on a tour as the cyclists ride in.

10. It's enjoyable for all experience levels: Whether you are an avid rider or a novice, this is a ride that is doable and that offers a variety of experiences that will make it worthwhile.

Visit our website to learn more. Or Click Here to register.