Environmental Education Expo draws more than 1,000 people to Montour Preserve as partnership gears up for busy slate of programs
Riverkeeper's Note: This is one of two overview stories from the Feb. 10 Environmental Education Expo. You can check out the other one with additional voices and perspectives here.
While Rodney Stahl, of Mifflinburg, his wife and two kids – ages nine and five – had never been to the Montour Preserve before the Environmental Education Expo held on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, he admits they will definitely be back.
“My family didn’t realize the facilities and outdoor options the Montour Preserve offers until we came for the expo, and we are excited to get back soon and check out more, including the hiking trails,” he said. “When you consider how many of our small towns have had to close things like their bowling alleys and town pools, it’s very important to have constructive activities. If they’re entertaining while also educational, that’s a win-win.”
That was the goal behind the Environmental Education Expo, hosted by the Vernal School Environmental Education Partnership – a coalition of local associations, agencies and groups committed to revitalizing programs and resources at the Montour Preserve to better support the efforts of the Montour Area Recreation Commission, which has managed the 640-acre nature preserve since 2015.
In an effort to better represent the issues of a large, diverse watershed, the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is looking to hire a part-time Regional Director to help oversee the upper North Branch section of the river basin.
"We cover an 11,000 square-mile watershed and that can be daunting, and we want to do a better job of representing the diverse number of issues and topics across the region," said Riverkeeper John Zaktansky.
"We are looking for someone who is well plugged into the local communities, someone who is a good listener and networking bridge-builder, who is able to help connect us to the best resources so we can represent the region well and best achieve our mission to protect and promote the river, its tributaries, the aquatic ecosystems and the clean-water resources we all need for survival."
Andrew Bechdel hired as Regional Director by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association in West Branch
Andrew Bechdel has been hired by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association as a part-time Regional Director for the West Branch region of the watershed.
“We cover an 11,000-square-mile watershed and to better represent communities in different regions of that area, we are excited to be able to hire people like Andrew to help us expand our efforts and to amplify the voice of the people and the needs of the river basin,” said Riverkeeper John Zaktansky.
“Andrew has a passion for the outdoors, an enthusiasm to educate and engage people and we are excited about him helping both us and the local communities raise an awareness and truly make a difference in both protecting and promoting our clean-water resources.”
Emily Shosh hired as Regional Director for Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association in Northern Tier
Emily Shosh, of Coudersport, was recently hired by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association as a new part-time Regional Director for the Northern Tier area of the watershed.
“The role was developed as a way to create better connection with the region as we intentionally look to represent the specific needs of these vital headwaters areas that feed the Susquehanna’s river basin,” said Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper John Zaktansky.
“Emily’s track record in the region is impressive and she is truly dedicated to protecting and promoting our natural resources. She is driven and independent and going to be a real asset for our association, but more importantly, the people of the Northern Tier area as we work together to make a difference in this corner of the watershed.”
People encouraged to use their talents and passions to give a "Voice to the Vulnerable" across watershed
Riverkeeper's note: As a unique way to showcase a special theme for 2024, our Riverkeeper is using the following poem to encourage people to use their various talents and abilities to give a voice to the vulnerable across the greater watershed. It could be via poetry or artwork, anywhere from the classroom to the courtroom, the workplace to the home, everyone has a chance to make a difference in their own social circles. If you would like to get more involved, take our 2024 Susquehanna Survey, consider volunteering as a volunteer Sentinel or reach out directly to Riverkeeper John Zaktansky at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who speaks for the hellbender on the bed of the creek?
Unassuming, nocturnal, alone and unique
Lurking beneath boulders, a crayfish regulator.
And where present in our streams, a clean-water indicator.
And yet ...
Emert family wins annual Kathleen Snavely award for volunteer effort throughout 2023 in various areas
The Emert family of Winfield was honored with the Kathleen Snavely Susquehanna River Environmental Advocate Award in December for their numerous contributions throughout 2023 as volunteers in various capacities for the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association and in educating others about conservation and nature.
"The Emerts have been involved in numerous programs of ours over the past year. Their oldest daughter, Fallon, was one of our first EELS (Environmental Education Leadership for Students) graduates and has helped run a Floating Classroom on the Hiawatha and an aquatic mammal station at our Scout Day. The girls volunteered as instructors at our HERYN program, too," said Riverkeeper John Zaktansky. "They all walked with us, with their mom, Tammy, in the Selinsgrove Halloween Parade and their dad even helped out when our kayak trailer axle broke unexpectedly. Plus, they do all sorts of programming as a family on their own in the local community which is really cool."
The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association voted unanimously to elect renowned nature photographer and videographer Michael Kinney as its new Board President and Williamsport-area business owner Katie Caputo was elected to the Board of Directors.
"Michael's dedication to our association's work is unmatched. He cherishes every moment spent in our aquatic ecosystem and loves sharing those moments with people through his photos and videos, hoping to inspire them to get involved and make a difference," said Riverkeeper John Zaktansky. "He dedicates countless hours to our association and leads by example, listens to others and is passionate about expanding our reach and impact across the 11,000-square-mile watershed we serve."
The fourth annual Songs of the Susquehanna project is in full swing, as original songs by musicians within the Susquehanna watershed are being accepted now through Jan. 31, 2024, for consideration in Volume 4 of the popular project under the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association.
"This project started during COVID as a way to engage people about river topics when in-person events were impossible and as a way to showcase some of the great musical talent our region is blessed with," said Riverkeeper John Zaktansky. "It continues to grow and we've had original music from all sorts of people representing genres from folk to rock to country to rap and everything in between. We've had songs that make you laugh, that make you tear up and some that make you want to take action and clean things up. I continue to be blown away by the creativity and the wide range of ages, skillsets and sounds represented in this project."
People encouraged to get involved via feedback, resouces as we gear up for a full slate scheduled in 2024
A year ago, I shared a column about water testing in which I shared a story about a young boy drinking a glass of water from a tap moments before I collected a residential well sample.
Shortly after, the results showed the treatment system in the family's basement wasn't working, that a variety of contaminants were streaming through the water in the home.
While we were able to fix the problem, the column suggested that among our goals for 2023 would be an emphasis on water sampling. While that has been the case -- in fact, I am working on some concerning numbers from the lab right now involving samples taken a few weeks ago -- I'd love to see a much more sampling (residential, surface water and beyond) as we head into yet another new year soon.
The reality is that water sampling is expensive, especially when factoring in panels of some of the newer emerging contaminants (microplastics, PFAS, etc.). This is just one of many hurdles we face as we strive to protect and promote the health and vibrancy of the Susquehanna River, its tributaries and the aquatic ecosystem that depends on these resources across an 11,000 square-mile watershed.
Riverkeeper note: The following is a press release from the Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance. We will be following up with more info on this update soon, including ways people can get involved with the important work being done by the SCRA.
Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance (SCRA) has received notification of a grant selection by the Biden-Harris Administration through the US Environmental Protection Agency. These grants address environmental justice projects across Pennsylvania as part of the Investing in America Agenda. SCRA served as the grant applicant; partners are FAR Better Together and Shamokin Community Gardens and Pocket Parks. The maximum award of $500,000 was requested and granted. The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) program intentionally targeted small, non-profit organizations that historically struggle to receive federal funding.
The local award will establish a brick-and-mortar presence in the Shamokin Area and provide a full-time community coordinator position. Area non-profits will be invited to participate in the pooling of resources, volunteers, and services.
Citing the pre-pandemic town hall meeting held in February 2020, organizers recognized the need for grass roots revitalization efforts in the community. As a result, several groups were formed with the goal of improving life in the greater Shamokin area.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.