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.