On Thursday, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the River Trail Gateway, a new trail that connects the Center to the Schuylkill River Trail. Read all about the new trail here.
On May 10, representatives from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and Department of Transportation (PennDOT) joined the Lackawanna Heritage Valley and local leaders for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Carbondale Riverwalk, a new 1.5-mile trail that closes a critical gap in the 70-mile Lackawanna River Heritage Trail (LRHT) system.
“Recreational assets like the Carbondale Riverwalk and Lackawanna River Heritage Trail can be economic engines for communities and drive small-business development, as visitors come to the community for the trail and patronize local shops and restaurants,” said DCED Executive Deputy Secretary Scott Dunkelberger. “Any time you can mix true economic development with exciting new recreational opportunities for the community, it’s a big win for the region. That’s why Governor Wolf is so committed to supporting community projects like this.”
The Carbondale Riverwalk runs parallel to the abandoned O&W Railroad, and on the opposite side of the Lackawanna River. The trail will link the LRHT to the D&H Rail-Trail at the Morse Avenue Trailhead in Simpson. Proceeding south, the trail travels along the industrial park in Carbondale, crossing the Lackawanna River on a rehabilitated railroad trestle, continuing to the John Street trailhead, and then connecting to the Main Street Carbondale business district. This section creates a vital connection between the on-street portions of the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail in Carbondale, to the D&H Rail-Trail extension in Simpson.
“We’re ecstatic to see the completion of this section of the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, which is part of the 70-mile Lackawanna Greenway,” said DCNR Deputy Secretary for Conservation and Technical Services Lauren Imgrund. “DCNR’s trail priority is a trail within 15 minutes of every Pennsylvanian and the completion of our major greenways serves as the foundation for achieving this goal. Close-to-home trails lead to more outdoor recreation and the related benefits of improved physical and mental health.”
The Lackawanna Heritage Valley is developing this trail not only for recreation and transportation, but also to highlight the historic and cultural significance of the region.
The project received $214,500 in funding through DCED’s Greenways, Trails and Recreation program; $467,500 through DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program; and $611,075 in federal Transportation Alternatives Program awards from PennDOT and the Lackawanna-Luzerne Transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“Lackawanna Heritage Valley is grateful for our continued partnership with DCED, DCNR, and PennDOT in constructing the Carbondale Riverwalk,” said Joseph J. Corcoran, executive director of Lackawanna Heritage Valley. “The project closes a significant 1.5 mile gap in the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, and the state provided the much-needed matching funds for building this wonderful community asset.”
On March 6, Pennsylvania senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has funded a TIGER grant for the completion of Schuylkill River Trail addition that will connect Christian Street to 34th Street in Bartram’s Garden. This $12 million federal grant will bridge the gap known as the Grays Ferry Crescent.
The Schuylkill River Trail has been recognized as one of the nation’s best urban trails by USA Today.
“Investing in the Schuylkill River Trail expansion isn’t just about enhancing another one of the City of Philadelphia’s many tourist attractions – this is an investment in the economy, health and growth of the city,” said Senator Casey. “Providing a safe and sustainable way for residents to commute and enjoy the city not only makes it attractive for newcomers but also for businesses.”
“Congratulations to the City of Philadelphia and all its partners on the awarding of this TIGER grant,” said Senator Toomey. “The Schuylkill River Trail is one of the country’s preeminent and scenic recreational areas serving as a destination for runners, family outings, and those looking to relax. And now, this grant will help improve the trail even more by connecting Center City to Southwest Philly. I was pleased to endorse the city’s application for this project and thank Secretary Chao and the Department of Transportation for their support.”
“This investment is critical to improving our already amazing Schuylkill River Trail system, will increase access among communities and help all residents of Philadelphia remain, healthy and active,” said Mayor Kenney.
“This is great news and will allow for the closing of this existing trail gap,” said Schuylkill River Development Corporation President and CEO Joseph Syrnick. “Congratulations to the city and thanks to Senators Casey and Toomey and the decision-makers at USDOT for their support of this grant and this project.”
The total project construction cost is estimated at $36 million. Other funding has been pledged by the commonwealth, the city, the William Penn Foundation, and others.
Kayakers at Downingtown’s Kerr Park now have an easier way to access the Brandywine Creek, thanks to a partnership between the Brandywine Conservancy, the Downingtown Park and Recreation Commission, and Lionville Boy Scout Troop 220. Working together, staff and volunteers installed a canoe and kayak storage rack and an information kiosk along the creek behind Borough Hall, making Downingtown the first municipality on the Brandywine with such public amenities.
The creek access improvements are part of the Conservancy’s Brandywine Creek Greenway initiative, and will be a valuable recreational asset for the community for years to come. Steven Egnaczyk, a 14-year-old Eagle Scout, completed the construction work for both projects. The canoe and kayak storage rack will allow boaters to safely secure their boats while they drop another vehicle downstream or spend time in Downingtown. The new information kiosk will contain maps of the creek, access points, and other recreation opportunities. Both additions were funded by generous grants from the William Penn Foundation and the Miller Fund, and highlight the Conservancy’s community efforts with its partners.
The Brandywine Creek Greenway is a regional planning initiative of the Brandywine Conservancy, along with 25 municipal partners, including the Borough of Downingtown, in Chester and Delaware counties. The greenway is a 30-mile long conservation and recreation corridor along both branches of the Brandywine, and stretches from the Delaware state line just south of Chadds Ford to the Pennsylvania Highlands Mega-Greenway at the northern border of Honey Brook Township. The Brandywine Creek and its network of parks and trails form the western limit of the Circuit, a regional trail network of the greater Philadelphia region. Goals of the Greenway defined by the Conservancy and its municipal partners include protecting scenic, historic, and natural resources; educating communities about the Brandywine and its resources; and promoting water related and other forms of outdoor recreation. To learn more, visit www.brandywinegreenway.org.
Along its 47-mile journey to the Allegheny River, Oil Creek winds through the heart of Pennsylvania’s historic Oil Region, birthplace of the commercial oil industry. Here, the world’s first large-scale petroleum production operations began shortly after the discovery of vast crude oil reserves along the Oil Creek Valley in the mid-19th century.
More than 160 years later, the area has a new claim to fame: as a premier destination for outdoor recreation. And this summer, thanks to Crawford County, Venango County, the Titusville Redevelopment Authority, and the Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership, Oil Creek becomes the state’s newest designated water trail. Nestled in the mountains of northwestern Pennsylvania, the Oil Creek Water Trail flows through lush wooded landscapes and vibrant small towns, connecting Titusville to Oil City by way of Oil Creek State Park. As an official water trail, Oil Creek offers paddlers a chance to explore the region’s historic legacy safely and conveniently, supporting small businesses and boosting local economies along the way.
“The Commissioners of Crawford County are very pleased to have Oil Creek designated as a Water Trail,” said Crawford County Commissioner Francis Weiderspahn. “Oil Creek is a treasure that we are thrilled to share with others and have them experience its’ natural beauty and surroundings. We are excited that with this designation it will bring tourists and outdoor enthusiasts to our county and region and with it an economic benefit to our businesses and residents.”
The water trail designation process began in 2015, when Titusville Redevelopment Authority, on behalf of the City of Titusville, completed a feasibility study establishing that the creek had enough water flow to make it viable for recreation nearly year-round. The research also identified public access points that paddlers could use to get on the water, and highlighted connections between the creek, its namesake state park, and the local communities that make visiting the water trail a uniquely attractive experience.
The next step toward designation as an official water trail was to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership.
“In moving this water trail project forward we are able to further stimulate local economies through additional opportunities to connect with people from near and far,” said Venango County Commissioner Chairman Timothy S. Brooks. “We welcome tourists to visit Venango County and the region to experience the unique character and charm of all the communities along the Oil Creek Water Trail.”
A key requirement for the official water trail designation is an organization or entity that can manage the water trail, which the feasibility study process was unable to identify. With the portion of Oil Creek that was studied covering more than 30 miles across multiple municipalities and two counties, there was no existing organization well-suited to the task.
Unwilling to give up on the project, Brooks challenged the feasibility study steering committee to find a solution. Three groups that worked on the steering committee for the feasibility study (Titusville Redevelopment Authority, Crawford County Planning Commission, and Venango County Planning Commission) proposed a partnership that would serve as the applicant for the water trail application, and as water trail manager. Officials at each of the three partner organizations approved the creation of the Oil Creek Water Trail Association in 2016, paving the way for applying to the Pennsylvania Water Trail Program in the spring of 2017.
“Working in unison, the Oil Creek Water Trail Association members have been and will continue to be key to the support of Oil Creek as a Pennsylvania Water Trail,” said Deborah Eckelberger, deputy director of Titusville Redevelopment Authority. “This newly formed partnership brings together multiple county organizations and community/economic development. Visitors to the region know no geographic boundaries; we are pleased that this association has put aside traditional boundaries and are working together for the betterment of the region as a whole.”
The Oil Creek Water Trail Association designed and developed a map of the water trail that includes public river access, hazardous dams, camp sites, land trail connections, and other information to help visitors plan their trips. Thanks to financial support from Venango County and Crawford County, these maps will now be available for free to anyone interested in using the newly designated water trail. Maps will be available online at www.oilcreekwatertrail.org and in print for the 2018 paddling season.
Experienced paddlers and novices are encouraged to join the Friends of Oil Creek Water Trail, a volunteer group that will work with the water trail manager to fulfill the Pennsylvania water trails principles. The group plans to hold organized group floats, cleanup days, and educational programs. For more information or to join the Friends’ group, contact Titusville Redevelopment Authority at 814-827-3368.
Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership began in 2008 as a project of the National Parks Service, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Pennsylvania Environmental Council. Its goal is to enhance recreation and stewardship on Pennsylvania waterways by supporting water trail managers with technical assistance, networking events, funding opportunities, and the development of a statewide system of recreational water trails. The addition of Oil Creek into this network of more than 2,000 miles of waterways makes the Pennsylvania Water Trail Program stronger and more representative of the wealth of recreational opportunities available across the state.
To find more information about the program, visit PEC’s Pennsylvania Water Trails Program webpage.
In celebration of his 75th birthday, Harold Webster decided to do something a little different this year. In addition to the traditional birthday party, Webster elected to take to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River for a 150-mile kayaking adventure. After his grand adventure this past May, Hank sat down with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s Lauren Bupp to tell us more about his motivation and give some tips for those interested in paddling this section of the river.
Lauren Bupp: Why paddle 150 miles, why not 75?
Harold Webster: Because 150 is twice as good as 75. I’ve wanted to do the wild part of the West Branch down to Lock Haven for quite a while. This was the year to do it; I’m probably not going to get more capable.
Bupp: What is your connection to the Susquehanna River?
Webster: I grew up along the North Branch of the Susquehanna, near Bradford County. I was also the director of a conservation district for 20 years and focused on improving steam access.
Bupp: How long did the total trip take you?
Webster: It took 7 days. I launched at 1:30 PM on May 19, 2017 at Cherry Tree in Cambria County and ended my trip on May 25, at Lock Haven in Clinton County. Each day ranged from five to ten hours of paddling, about 25 miles, but it all depended on where it was convenient to camp for the night.
Bupp: What did you enjoy most on your paddling trip?
Webster: The most satisfying aspects of the trip were going through the stretches of rapids without capsizing, the scenic stretches with water falls, and waking up with the birds chirping in solitude. It was all so refreshing.
Bupp: Did you have any challenges during the planning process?
Webster: The main challenges during the planning process were determining the length of each segment, identifying areas where it was okay to camp, and locating where to get water. I had previously paddled the middle sections of my route at least
twice and paddled most of the rest of the trip on the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s West Branch Sojourn. I had tackled Cherry Tree to McAfee and Keating to Lock Haven, and I relied heavily on the West Branch water trail map.
Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP) says:
during your planning process be sure to utilize your water trail map. A large portion of property along the Susquehanna is privately owned, however some state forests, state parks, and municipalities will allow you to primitively camp on their property if given notice. Another great source of information is your local outfitter.
Bupp: Were you able to locate maps and things needed for the trip easily?
Webster: I already had the maps purchased for this trip from previously partaking in the West Branch sojourn about 5 years ago as well as using it for Boy Scouts. But I relied on them heavily and they are easy to obtain.
SGP says: Waterproof water trail maps with access points of the West Branch can be purchased online at lumberheritage.org.
Bupp: Did you have any challenges during the paddle?
Webster: Towards the end of the paddle, I encountered some inclement weather near Shawville, PA. Thankfully there were no damns or obstacles in this stretch of river, so I was able to pick up speed and shave a day off my itinerary. I was doing about 30
miles for a few days. Additionally, the upper end of the Susquehanna had gotten heavy rains that weekend, so at one point the water levels went up about 8 feet over night.
Bupp: How was the overall weather?
Webster: It was a little cooler than average, and there were a couple of nights that it dropped down into the 40’s. For half of the trip is was lovely, mostly blue skies and it warmed up into the 70’s. It was good to have a sleeping bag at night, but you could be in short sleeves while paddling.
Bupp: Do you have any advice for someone that wants to do a similar paddling trip?
Webster: Don’t go alone; none of my friends were crazy enough to go along with me. Use your West Branch Water Trail map and make sure you have your Life jacket (PFD). Look ahead at the weather and track the USGS river gauges for the segments that you
plan to paddle. If you are paddling below Shawville, look at the Karthaus gauges. If the river level is below two feet, there will be some walking portions. Also, make sure you have the basics: water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and things like that. If you are a beginner, try practicing on flatwater and start by doing day-trips. The West Branch has a history of losing water when you get into June, so be wary of that and plan accordingly. If you are camping,
practice Leave No Trace principles; if you can carry it in, you can carry it out.
Bupp: Could you suggest any day trips based off your paddle?
Webster: Launch at Shawville, which is just below the power plant and paddle to Deer Creek. Or you can try doing Karthus to Keating. That is a 22-mile paddle without any river crossings. You would be going through the Pennsylvania Wilds territory.
The West Branch Water Trail runs 283 miles from Cambria County to the Confluence in Northumberland
County were it finally joins the main branch of the Susquehanna. “The West Branch has a lot to offer,” says Webster. If 150 was twice as good for Harold, what’s twice as good for you?
This piece was written by Lauren Bupp and reprinted with the permission of Susquehanna Greenway Partnership.