2013 River Town Outreach Corps in the Field

As programs and projects continue to evolve and grow, staff and members come and go, and as we all know, sometimes small details slip through the cracks.  Such is the case with these corps blog pages.  We’ve made big structural changes to both of our rural Pennsylvania sustainability corps programs, the Trail Town Outreach Corps (TTOC) and River Town Outreach Corps (RTOC), and those corps have been successfully serving since February of this year.  I’ll offer this post as an update of the work done so far this year, and then we’ll get back on schedule with monthly updates!                

After many winter planning sessions with our partner in this program, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, we decided to move the corps office from Connellsville, PA (where they had been based in the same space as our Trail Town corps) to Brownsville, one of the communities along the Monongahela River that our members work in.  Our members now have their own office space in the same building as the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation, one of our community partners.                 

A major project that carried over from the 2012 season was that the Monongahela River was named the 2013 Pennsylvania River of the Year.  Our 2012 corps members helped with the nomination process, and we received the good news that the Mon had received the honor in December.  With the distinction of being named River of the Year, local organizations get technical assistance from state agencies on river related projects, and also receive funding to be used in marketing and promotional materials.                

Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) launched a series of guided canoe/kayak paddling trips to celebrate the river.  Our corps members assisted in the planning and organization of these trips, and served as the boating crews during the events.  Needless to say, several days of kayaking as part of an internship is a highlight for many of our members!  PEC hosted a total of four paddling trips, each one varied slightly in length and connected two of the communities that we work in.  More than one hundred people participated in the series of trips, including many first time paddlers.  Each trip was also accompanied by an educational speaker who covered historic or environmental topics.                

The other major component of the River of the Year project was the marketing and promotion of the region.  The Mon river is a hidden gem of outdoor recreational opportunities, including paddling, fishing, hiking, biking, and visiting the unique historical towns along its banks.  Our corps members worked on a variety of projects that helped market the Mon Valley as a destination for outdoor recreation, especially to nearby metro areas such as Pittsburgh.  These projects include producing newsletters, working on social media, designing banners of communities and events, and a “passport” program that encouraged visitors to attend outdoor events.  A healthy dose of tabling events was also thrown in throughout the year.  Of course, outdoor recreation is directly tied to a healthy environment, so there is always a strong conservation background to the project we’re working on.                

Our SCA crew also spends it fair share of time getting their hands dirty to implement conservation projects throughout the region.  The biggest of the year was a community wide Earth Day clean-up event that our members organized with student volunteers from California University of Pennsylvania, located in California, PA.  Volunteers cleaned up city parks, streets, and a stretch of river bank, removing several truckloads of litter and large debris.  Our corps has also worked to clean up city parks in Point Marion, Pennsylvania, where a rail-trail connecting to Morgantown, WV will soon be under construction.  Other projects have included removing invasive species, planting native species, trash removal from small tributaries of the Mon, and organizing public art projects to beautify public spaces and abandoned buildings.  The work the corps has accomplished this year has been great, and we look forward to several more months of work before they move on from SCA in December.  Stay tuned!