The Schuylkill River is one of five rivers in the running for the 2014 Pennsylvania River of the Year.

The public is invited to again vote online for the 2014 Pennsylvania River of the Year, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state.

Rivers nominated are: Schuylkill in eastern Pennsylvania; Kiskiminetas-Conemaugh rivers in the southwest; Ohio in the west; Brodhead Creek Watershed in the northeast; and West Branch of the Susquehanna in the north central section of the state.

Last year, the Schuylkill was a finalist for the 2013 River of the Year. Although the Monongahela ultimately won by a narrow margin, voters showed strong support for the Schuylkill, which earned 8,010 votes to the Mon’s 8,156 – a less than 1 percent difference of only 146 votes.

“We’d like to see the Schuylkill get the awareness and recognition it deserves,” said Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl. “We’re asking everyone who lives in or near a river community, or who has spent time along the river,  to vote for the Schuylkill.”

The Schuylkill runs 128-miles through a variety of settings, from its rural headwaters in Schuylkill County to its confluence with the Delaware in Philadelphia. It played an important role in American history, figuring into Gen. Washington’s strategy during the American Revolution’s 1777 Philadelphia Campaign. It later served as a transportation route during the Industrial Revolution, when coal was carried down the Schuylkill Canal to fuel factories and steel mills across the nation.

But the river’s most inspiring story is perhaps the environmental one. 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 silt 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 canoeists, kayakers, 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.

“We like to call the Schuylkill the River of Revolutions, in recognition of the role it played in the American, Industrial and Environmental Revolutions,” said Zwikl. “Now it’s experiencing a fourth revolution, as it sheds its industrial persona and has begun serving a valuable recreation and tourism need.”

Nominations were based on each waterway’s conservation needs and successes, as well as celebration plans should the nominee be voted 2014 River of the Year.In cooperation with DCNR, selection of public voting choices was overseen by the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

The public can vote for their favorite state waterway beginning today through 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27. Visit www.pariveroftheyear.org to vote and learn about the nominated waterways and the River of the Year program.

Voting will be managed through Woobox, an online contest application that restricts voting to one vote per email address.

POWR, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, this year’s designation was awarded to the Monongahela River in southwest Pennsylvania.

After a waterway is chosen for the annual honor, local groups implement a year-round slate of activities and events to celebrate the river, including a paddling trip, or sojourn. The organization nominating the winning river will receive a $10,000 leadership grant to help fund their River of the Year activities.

The River of the Year sojourn is just one of many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year.  An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers. For more information about the sojourns, visit www.pawatersheds.org.

POWR and DCNR also work with local organizations to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the River of the Year.

To learn more about DCNR’s Rivers Program, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us (click on “Conserve,” then “Waterways”).

To learn more about the River of the Year program, visit www.pariveroftheyear.org.

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