I’m not entirely sure how much of an honor it is for a river to be named “Pennsylvania River of the Year,” but for what its worth: Our westerly waterway is up for the honor, as one of five statewide nominees in the running for the 2014 title. The others are Brodhead Creek and Watershed in the Poconos, West Branch of the Susquenhanna River in north-central PA, the Kiskiminetas-Conemaugh Rivers in southwest PA, and the Ohio River (blasphemy!) in the far western part of the state. The winner is determined by online voting.
The Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, a nonprofit organization HQ’d in Harrisburg, runs the award process in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. They’ve been doling out River of the Year awards since 1983, an honor the Schuylkill has won only one time in 1999 (the nerve!). Last year, our fair Schuylkill lost to Southwestern PA’s Monongahela River by just 146 votes. Seriously, guys, we’re due for a home-turf win.
Here’s what the River of the Year people have to say about the Schuylkill:
The Schuylkill River
The Schuylkill measures 128 miles from its headwaters in Schuylkill County to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia. It is a river with a tremendous history and an inspiring environmental story. The Schuylkill was on the brink of becoming a wasteland until, in 1945, the state of Pennsylvania agreed to undertake the Schuylkill River Project. It was the first major government-funded environmental cleanup, and it dredged millions of tons of coal culm from the river. In roughly half a century, the Schuylkill has gone from being one of the nation’s most polluted bodies of water to becoming a popular recreational destination for paddlers, trail users and anglers. The Schuylkill is a source of drinking water for 1.5 million people, and waterfront communities all along the river corridor are now using those waterfronts to bolster community revitalization efforts.
See? We’ve got like, a total rags-to-riches story here. I mean, Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up. I would add to this that for countless runners, cyclists, rollerbladers and recreational walkers, the Schuylkill serves as an absolutely, jaw-droppingly gorgeous backdrop for many a fitness endeavor. Ever run the Schuylkill Trail in the fall? Beautiful. How about the spring? Gorgeous. And the ever-expanding Schuylkill Banks park is arguably one of the city’s best assets.
As of this writing, the Schuylkill is in the lead with 45 percent of the vote—good, but we can do better. Head over here to cast your vote for the Schuylkill; you can also vote on the organization’s Facebook page. The winning river plays host to events throughout the year—look at all the events they organized for the 2013 winner!—and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers makes a free commemorative poster celebrating the River of the Year. Voting ends on December 27th.