More than 100 Scouts, leaders join in River Ecology Day with trash pickup, aquatic education with Riverkeeper
Ninety-eight registered Scouts and additional young people curious about Scouting attended the Scout River Ecology Day on Aug. 19, 2023, at the Shikellamy State Park near Sunbury.
The program, a collaboration between the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Susquehanna Council BSA and the Shikellamy State Park, ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and included a morning trash pickup service project followed by a rotation through eight stations about various elements of the aquatic ecosystem and how they interact with each other.
"The trash pick-up was a good service project," said Keith Fourspring, of Mount Carmel, whose sons, Beau and Landon (ages 10 and 9) participated. "It allowed the Scouts to realize how much garbage people actually leave behind."
Scouts, their leaders, parents and other volunteers canvassed along the Susquehanna River in the park, by the marina, along the Sunbury river wall, around the Sunbury boat launch and numerous other places around the region.
"The day was educational and interesting because we learned how pollution affects our environment along with the animals. Our group did trash pickup along the river wall and you’d be surprised what we found there," said 13-year-old Brayden Olshefski, of Coal Township. "The remainder of the day were stations that brought the day full-circle by learning how each affects our environment."
Stations included watersheds via an Enviroscape presentation by Stacey Hanrahan of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, aquatic mammals by Tammy and Fallon Emert of Mama T's Homestead, bird species of our waterways by Michael McGuire of the Lycoming Audubon Society and Travis Shellenberger, Fishing by Jerry Johnson, Macroinvertebrates by Peyton Johnson, Leave No Trace by Joe Judy and Don Rouse, hellbenders by Francesca Neville and Ramona Kroll and a riverwalk/pollution overview by Riverkeeper John Zaktansky.
"I personally liked being able to weave art into animal science. It was a great way for the kids that were getting a little burned out to just sit and chill and be artistic. It really got the kids talking and encouraging one another on their papers," said Tammy Emert, of Winfield. "I really liked interacting and presenting to the kids, it was nice having all age groups. The kids were well-mannered and fun!"
While the event was entertaining, it also provided an important reminder of some of Scouting's core values, noted Neville, of Montgomery.
"I think that it is important for everyone to learn about the ecosystem that we live in and share with other animals and plants. We need to understand how we affect our surroundings and how to respect nature and all living things," she said. "This event gives everyone a chance to learn more about how our actions matter, no matter how small they may seem."
The scope of the event was especially noteworthy to Tim Raymond, of Selinsgrove, who acted as a merit badge counselor for the day, signing off on requirements for several badges that were addressed in the programming.
"It was great to see so many scouts of all ages engaged in ecological and environmental topics particularly related to our local Susquehanna River watershed area," he said.
Early stages of planning for a similar event in August 2024 has begun. Continue to check MiddleSusquehannaRiverkeeper.org for more details.
Below are nearly 100 photos from the event.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.