HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Steeped in historical and recreational value, the freeflowing Susquehanna River North Branch in northeastern Pennsylvania has been voted the 2016 Pennsylvania River of the Year following a five-week public voting period.
The general public was invited to vote online Nov. 13-Dec.14, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state. Results were announced jointly today by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pa. Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR).
Four other rivers were nominated finalists: the Kiski-Conemaugh River in the southwest; Lackawanna River, northeast; Lehigh; east; and Ohio, southwest.
"Shaping countless community lifestyles in the past while emerging as a recreational treasure of the future, the North Branch of the Susquehanna -- like all waterways nominated for 2016 -- highlights how Pennsylvania is blessed with a wealth of rivers and streams, and a core of dedicated folks who fight to protect them," said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. "Through planned River of the Year celebrations, public awareness of the river's value will be increased and major initiatives along this section of the river will be underscored. Economic revitalization of river-town communities will enhance access to the river; increase tourism; and provide additional land and water-based recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors alike."
DCNR and POWR will work with the Endless Mountains Heritage Region (EMHR) to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Susquehanna River North Branch as the 2016 Pennsylvania River of the Year. EMHR, the applicant nominating the waterway in close cooperation with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund year-long River of the Year activities.
"The Susquehanna River North Branch is a national treasure in our own back yard and we're grateful for this opportunity to raise awareness of the river's historical and recreational value and environmental significance," said EMHR Director Annette Schultz. "We're making plans to celebrate the Susquehanna River's newest designation throughout the year with educational kayaking sojourns, river festivals, educational forums, and River Town designations and support. This year will be a banner year for the river."
"The Susquehanna connects us to one another and the natural world. Its waters rejuvenate us and provide us with power, and its landscapes inspire us to be better stewards," said Susquehanna Greenway Partnership Director Trish Carothers. "This honor belongs to the river and the many people who care about this very special part of our heritage. We must conserve, connect and enjoy the Susquehanna to ensure a healthy future for our region."
In cooperation with DCNR, selection of public voting choices also was overseen by POWR, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.
"POWR would like to commend everyone across the commonwealth for their support for the nominated rivers," said POWR Vice President Janet Sweeney. "The River of the Year program is a wonderful opportunity to showcase all of the nominated rivers and the great work being done in Pennsylvania communities on these valuable resources."
A 15-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River North Branch flows from New York into Pennsylvania's Northern Tier, and continues south 166 miles to join the river's West Branch at Shikellamy State Park in Northumberland County. The Susquehanna River North Branch is a prominent regional feature, running through Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Colombia, Montour, and Northumberland counties. Once a major transportation corridor, the entire waterway still is navigable by kayaks and canoes, even during dry seasons.
POWR administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, the 2015 River of the Year designation was awarded to Conewango Creek in northwest Pennsylvania.
The River of the Year sojourn is just one of many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year. An independent endeavor, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program offers a dozen such trips on the state's rivers. The 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 sojourn program, visit www.pawatersheds.org.
To learn more about the River of the Year program, the nominated waterways, and past winners visit www.pariveroftheyear.org.
To learn more about DCNR's Rivers Program, visit http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ (click on "Rivers").
Terry Brady, DCNR, 717-772-9101
Janet Sweeney, POWR, 570-718-6507
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources