DCNR Celebrates Rivers Month And Lackawanna River As Pennsylvania’s 2020 River Of The Year

On June 22, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined the Lackawanna River Conservation Association and other local officials in marking June Rivers Month and honoring the Lackawanna River as Pennsylvania’s 2020 River of the Year.

A vibrant, cold-water “Class A” fishery in its middle and upper reaches, and a waterway that attracts more paddlers every year, the Lackawanna River flows 60 miles through Susquehanna, Wayne, Lackawanna and Luzerne counties before joining the Susquehanna River.

“It is this River of the Year designation that draws deserved attention to not only waterways like this, but also the legions of folks like you who support it,” Dunn told attendees gathered on the banks of the Lackawanna. “And what better time to note this honor than during Rivers Month when Pennsylvanians are asked to recognize and appreciate this state’s wealth of waterways?”

In support, Gov. Tom Wolf has proclaimed June as Rivers Month in Pennsylvania, Dunn noted. Normally, a dozen sojourns would be underway or planned on waterways across the state to highlight their recreational and economic value, but the pandemic has forced cancellations and rescheduling.

“During these trying times we have seen a tremendous spike in newcomers trying kayaking, canoeing and other pursuits,” Dunn said, “and I commend the Lackawanna River Conservation Association and all it has done to encourage safety and social distancing among those now enjoying the Lackawanna.”

“The COVID-19 emergency caused us to cancel many of the in-person activities we had planned to celebrate the designation of the Lackawanna as the Pennsylvania River of the Year,” said LRCA Executive Director Bernard McGurl. “We are learning new ways to celebrate and enjoy our river. We are conducting a ‘Virtual Kayak Paddle Challenge,’ a competition based on the honor system. Folks can get out and paddle the river and report their time and flow data to us online all the while maintaining a good social distance.

“We suggest people check the USGS Archbald Gage on the watershed page of www.lrca.org.  When it is running between 2.4 feet and 3.6 feet, plan to get out and run one of the two courses described on our website. We also have a lot of individual and small group volunteer activities that can provide opportunities for people to help take better care of our river and its watershed.”

Pennsylvania has 86,000 miles of waterways -- among the highest in the country. Beyond noting Rivers Month stresses the importance of conserving and restoring waterways, Dunn said DCNR’s message has been broadened to advocate COVID-19 precautions as well as the safety of newcomers to boating.

She noted the Fish and Boat Commission and others offer boating courses and safety certificates online, and a DCNR and commission video offers the basics of safe boating tips.

Voting online, the public was asked to choose from among five waterways nominated across the state. Results were announced early this year by DCNR and the PA Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR).

DCNR and POWR is working with the Lackawanna River Conservation Association to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Lackawanna River as the 2020 PA River of the Year.

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund a slate of year-long 2020 River of the Year activities.

“POWR would like to commend everyone across the state for their support and enthusiasm for the River of the Year program,” said POWR Director Janet Sweeney. “We recorded the highest turnout of votes this year with the honor going to a well-deserving Lackawanna River. The River of the Year program is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the ongoing conservation and stewardship efforts as well as the recreational opportunities of our valuable waterways."

The Lackawanna had been adversely impacted by the anthracite coal mining industry and railroad, industrial, and urban development over the past 200 years. With the abandonment of the anthracite mines in the 1960s and the development of modern sanitary sewage treatment works, the river has staged a strong recovery.

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) was created by local citizens in 1987 to promote restoration and conservation of the Lackawanna River and its watershed resources in northeast Pennsylvania.

LRCA is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization promoting the river through education, public involvement, consensus building, partnerships and hands-on opportunities for all ages.

Since 1987, LRCA has worked with other community groups and public agencies to plan and promote projects addressing water pollution, recreation, community development, land and water conservation, public involvement, and public policy decision-making that affects the river and its watershed.

POWR administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, the 2019 River of the Year designation was awarded to the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania.

More information about the River of the Year and past winners can be found at the Pennsylvania River of the Year website.

For more information on conservation of Pennsylvania’s waterways, visit DCNR’S Rivers Conservation webpage.

Related Articles:

Lackawanna River Named PA 2020 River Of The Year

DCNR Good Natured Blog: June Is Rivers Month!

Op-Ed: 50th Earth Day: Time To Consider Wiser Course - We Are All Of This Earth And Dependent On It - Bernie McGurl

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[Posted: June 22, 2020]


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