In the nine months since taking over as the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper, many people have asked why I stepped away from a nearly 20-year career in community journalism and successful run as the features editor for The Daily Item newspaper to take over running a nonprofit focused on environmental issues along our river and its tributaries.
One of my first blog posts, published in early March (Bald eagle experience provides clarity and a catalyst for change) does a great job of explaining the final tipping point in my decision process -- an eagle nest my daughter spotted near our Snyder County home and how it helped inspired me to ultimately take the plunge.
I grew up in a family that savored the outdoors. My brother and I grew up hunting, fishing, camping and exploring. We both worked our way up the Scouting ranks to Eagle, and the process of being outdoors offered numerous therapeutic escapes for me in dealing with a variety of the aches and pains of growing up, making mistakes and needing a place to reset, re-energize and come back out ready to move forward, full-speed ahead.
My wife and I worked as counselors for troubled teens at an adolescent group home, and many of the most impactful moments for both the kids and us were those spent outdoors. We did fishing trips, a camping experience and a therapeutic horseback opportunity that really helped create lasting change in each person involved.
I've always yearned of a way to take these experiences and impact others. The riverkeeper position allows me to achieve that aspiration, through the new HERYN (Helping Engage our River's Youth with Nature) Program and via our #GivingTuesday 2020 campaign goals of adding the kayaks and equipment necessary to help young people have meaningful moments in the outdoors that may shape their futures like they have mine.
I have learned so much in the past nine months. We, as an association, have confronted a number of pollution issues, raised awareness and educated the public and I have been blessed with a supportive board of directors and a new group of friends who are committed to helping make a real difference for our river-based resources.
However, at the core of it all, for me, is family. Some of the most memorable moments of 2020 are kayak trips with each of my three kids ... trips tied to work I have been doing as Riverkeeper. I am excited about additional projects we can tackle together as a family -- and for the new extended family of people who share our passion for the river and its resources.
To that end, I ask you to consider donating to our 2020 #GivingTuesday campaign and helping us engage young people and families in activities that can help them navigate the chaos and uncertainty of current events while developing a vested life-long interest in our outdoor resources moving forward.
Use this form to donate now ...
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John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.