Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Schuylkill Explorers Reaches a Diverse Audience

Our Schuylkill Explorers program is an educational initiative that seeks to engage student groups in learning about the Schuylkill River's history and environment, and to encourage youth's to develop an appreciation for the outdoors.

This fall, Schuylkill River Heritage Area Education Coordinator Sarah Crothers added a new dimension to the Explorers program, by partnering with Centro Cultural Latinos Unidos, Inc.(CCLU). CCLU is a Pottstown-based grassroots organization dedicated to addressing the needs of Latinos children, youth and parents.

Throughout October, Sarah led five weekly after-school sessions aimed at children and seniors that linked CCLU's cultural goals with the Schuylkill Explorer's environmental theme. The program, titled Fuentes y Puentes (Sources & Bridges) invited children and seniors of all backgrounds to join together for a series of  environmental and Hispanic cultural activities.

Session One:
The first three sessions, each lasting one hour, were held at Pottstown's beautiful Riverfront Park. During the first session, with the river as their backdrop, seniors helped children write letters about why they love the park.

Session Two: 
Former art teacher and current Trail Ambassador Jody Wentzel gave a lesson on nature art, and led the group in an exercise on drawing a cardinal. The results were amazing!
Session Three:

Our partners from John James Audubon at Mill Grove took the group on a birding walk, complete with binoculars, perfect for spotting goldfinches in the woods. The session was highlighted with a visit from a live owl.

Session Four: 
The final two sessions were held at CCLU's regular after school meeting place. Session four focused on Latin music and dance. Children made maracas our of paper cups and dried beans, then joined the seniors for some dancing.
Session Five:
Food was the theme for this week, so the children and seniors gathered one final time for Latino themed snacks. Then, they watched a video put together by STRIVE Initiative from summer CCLU activities before, sadly, saying goodbye.

Overall, the program was a great success that provided children and seniors an opportunity to interact through meaningful activities that fostered an appreciation for the environment and Latino culture. Below is a letter written by one of the children to Education Coordinator Sarah Crothers.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Highlights from our 2nd Ride for the River

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect fall day for our 2nd Annual Ride for the River on Sept. 30: a chill in the air, leaves crunching under our tires, and a mix of sun and clouds (but no rain!). This is only the second year we've held the ride, and we were pleased to welcome over 300 cyclists who pedaled 16 or 40 miles from Pottstown to Reading along the Schuylkill River Trail. Once again, we teamed up with Sly Fox Brewing Company, and participants ended the day at the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival, where they were treated to a hard earned free beer, a choice of festival food and eight hours of free live music. Here are some of the highlights.

We had great volunteers:
In addition to our staff and dedicated board members, an incredible team of over 50 volunteers and 10 fire police really made this ride a success. Volunteers preened the trail, marked the route, packed t-shirts, manned rest stops, posted signs, directed parking, and kept check in lines running smoothly. Perhaps most significantly, we placed volunteers or fire police at numerous road intersections to usher them across traffic safely safety--a feature that many cyclists noted was much appreciated. We also had members of the Bike Sport/Sly Fox racing team assist with minor repairs during the ride. And we were fortunate to have Bike Sport and Trek Bicycle of Pottstown on hand to check bikes and pump up tires. And, oh yeah, many of the photos in this blog were taken by volunteer photographer Walt Hug. See more photos here

A great day for a ride
Weather is something we can't control. So, we won't take credit for the fact that the rain held off and the breeze was cool, but not cold. But we will say, that the mild temperatures made it particularly pleasant to be cycling along the mostly leafy section of the Schuylkill River Trail from Pottstown to Reading.

A beautiful trail experience:
Many of the participants told us how much they enjoyed riding on the Pottstown-to-Reading section of the the Schuylkill River Trail. We were pleased to hear that. This is a section of the Schuylkill River Trail that our organization--the Schuylkill River Heritage Area--owns and maintains. We know it is among the most scenic sections of the trail, and we were happy to be able to introduce more people to it through Ride for the River.

It supported the Schuylkill River Trail:
Since we maintain over 30 miles of the trail in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, we are grateful for the money raised through Ride for the River. The proceeds from Ride for the River will enable us to improve the trail that is already built, and expand into areas that are not yet complete. When finished, the Schuylkill River Trail will run about 130 miles. Today, about 60 miles are complete, and we are committed to adding miles to it as land and funds allow.

The fun continued at the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival: All participants received a voucher for free Sly Fox beer and food at the Can Jam Festival. Many stayed to listen to the terrific live bands that played throughout the day.

We accepted a check from Sly Fox Brewery: A portion of the proceeds from Sly Fox's seasonal
SRT Ale goes to support the Schuylkill River Trail. At the Can Jam Festival, Brew Master Brian O'Reilly presented our Executive Director Elaine P. Schaefer with a check for $4,027. We are grateful to Sly Fox for this very generous donation and we extend our thanks to everyone who drank SRT Ale this summer! This marks the third year in a row that Sly Fox Brewery has presented us with over $4,000 for the trail. That money goes toward our Safe Crossing program to make road crossings along the trail safer for trail users. Last year, two road crossings were improved along Route 724, one in Union Township and the other in Cumru Township. We plan to continue this program, adding more signs and line markings at other crossings.

We raffled off a kayak!
Our goal in organizing Ride for the River is to help connect people to the Schuylkill River. A bike ride along the river is a great way to experience the beauty of this region. And so is kayaking! We raffled off a bright-red Emotion kayak throughout the Can Jam Festival. Congratulations to Rich Munyan, whose name was chosen randomly from hundreds of raffle tickets sold at the festival. We wish him many happy hours paddling on the river!

We can't wait to do it again next year.
We surveyed ride participants and asked them to rate their experience for Ride for the River and virtually all respondents rated it either excellent (77%) or good (26%). Many of them also gave us tips on what they'd like to see us add in coming years. We intend to take that advice to heart, and make this an even better ride next year!