To date, the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Podcast has provided 30 weekly interviews with people who share a passion for our river-based resources.
Educators, business owners, biologists, camp directors, environmental nonprofit executives, politicians, technology and social media influences, a SCUBA instructor, a falconer, a water specialist, a veterinarian and even a musician. More than 8 hours of combined audio conversations about protecting and promoting our river from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets.
A common denominator among pretty much the entire group -- beyond their shared appreciation for our natural resources? Memories of exploring the outdoors as a child. Fishing, hiking, creek stomping, camping, hunting, boating and more.
I can relate.
My family used to travel with a large gooseneck horse trailer/camper combination to competitive field trials with our AKC registered Brittany bird dogs throughout the spring and fall seasons. We shared numerous adventures in fishing, hunting, camping and -- as my brother and I got older -- Scouting trips and merit badge classes.
Life was always simpler in the outdoors. It provided a therapeutic escape from the seemingly nonstop schedule of school, work and various extracurricular activities. The unsupervised moments of exploration within the natural elements helped foster independence, confidence and a healthy sense of competition at Scout family skeet shoots, trout fishing expeditions and hunting excursions.
The world has changed quite a bit since those days. Technology has carved its way into our lives. Schedules seem more packed, unstructured free time less available. Priorities have changed, and children seem to have lost touch with nature.
This is why we support movements such as the 1,000 Hours Outside program, and has been a huge influence in developing the HERYN (Helping Engage our River's Youth with Nature) program.
For six consecutive days this June -- Monday the 21st through Saturday the 26th -- the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is hosting HERYN program days at the Central Pennsylvania Wesleyan Campground near New Columbia.
Each day, 12 new young people ages 10-13 (some nine and 14-year-olds will be accepted as there is space) will receive hands-on instruction in fishing and kayaking skills. We have four instructors with a wealth of experience in both angling and paddling sports -- offering background in education, security and working directly with young people on a professional level.
We have a total of just 72 open slots available on a first-come, first-served basis -- and this experience is offered for free thanks to grant support from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and partnership with local donors toward the program.
Ultimately, our goal is to engage these young people -- literally to get their feet wet -- in fishing, kayaking and general environmental awareness. Ideally, the HERYN program will spark a lifelong passion in the outdoors that stays with them for the rest of their lives and inspires the next generation of river-based stewardship.
I look forward to hosting a podcast interview someday with an environmental influencer who can trace his/her passion for our natural resources back to a HERYN program day experience.
For more information about the 2021 slate of HERYN Program Days, including registration, visit www.middlesusquehannariverkeeper.org/heryn-program.html
If you'd like to donate to the program or help us find equipment still needed for our program days (like a kayak trailer and various gear), email Riverkeeper John Zaktansky at email@example.com
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.