The Monongahela River, flowing through Green, Fayette, Washington, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, has been named Pennsylvania’s 2013 River of the Year following public, online voting across the state.
For the third year in a row, public voting determined the selection from among six candidates for River of the Year honors. Among 25,450 ballots cast, the Monongahela River received 8,156 votes.
“Like so many of our great state rivers once sullied by mine drainage and other pollution, the Monongahela is surging back as a vital link to unlimited recreational potential and rich natural and historical resources,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan said. “From the West Virginia border to the heart of Pittsburgh, visitors are rediscovering our newest River of the Year and the scores of historic town and villages it showcases.”
“The Monongahela is surging back as a vital link to unlimited recreational potential and rich natural and historical resources.”
Noting strong public participation in the 2013 voting process, Allan said, “This online format continues to generate local enthusiasm for conservation and recognition of the importance of our waterways.”
“Once again the River of the Year designation raises awareness of our rivers and their conservation needs.”
The five other finalists and total votes received were: Schuylkill River (8,010); Lackawanna River (5,286); Kiskiminetas River (2,310); Swatara Creek (1,213); and Juniata River (475).
“All of these contenders were nominated because they are special and important in their own way,” Allan said. “To the local groups who nominated these waterways and rallied support for them – not only for this vote, but through all of their continued activities and advocacy – we offer our heartiest congratulations.”
POWR also helps organize and support local watershed associations, as well as the groups who lead a dozen sojourns on rivers around the state each year.
“The number of votes cast this year in the River of the Year selection process is staggering,” said POWR Executive Director Janie French . “We congratulate the supporters of the Monongahela River, and thank the thousands of Pennsylvanians who voted. We are excited about this opportunity to showcase the successes and challenges facing the Monongahela and all of Pennsylvania’s waterways.”
There are a number of other organizations working in partnership to support conservation and recreation activities along Monongahela River. Among them is the Brownsville Area Redevelopment Corporation, a community development corporation seeking economic development through outdoor recreation, community stewardship and historical preservation. The corporation nominated the Monongahela for this year’s honor and will serve as local organizer for River of the Year activities.
“We are all so excited to receive this honor and are blessed by the support of our friends far and near who recall many happy memories along the Monongahela River,” said Brownsville Area Redevelopment Corporation Treasurer Norma Ryan . “We are looking forward to many celebrations along the river as our communities join together to show our appreciation.”
Before joining the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, the Monongahela River flows north 130 miles across the Allegheny Plateau in southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. With an extensive lock and dam system still in use today, the river serves as an example of how industrial and recreational uses can coexist side by side.
Having rebounded from the deadly effects of abandoned mine drainage and unchecked pollution, the Monongahela River carves out a 7,340 square-mile watershed containing woodlands, rolling farmland, active and reclaimed coal mines, and towns rich in the history of the Industrial Revolution. Its often shallow, swift currents gave rise to a redesigned steamboat that revolutionized navigation and opened the nation’s heartland to commerce.
The Monongahela River is the western boundary of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative. Led by DCNR, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and others, the initiative seeks to protect the unique character of the Laurel Highlands and recognize its communities as world-class heritage/recreation destinations as well as desirable places to work and live.
Six communities along the Monongahela River are participating in the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s River Town Program. This program assists distressed communities bordering a navigable river to develop an alternative economic engine, outdoor recreation, to aid in community revitalization.
Several events throughout the year will celebrate the Monongahela River’s designation, including a sojourn offering canoeists, kayakers and other paddlers a chance to experience life on the river and encourage greater understanding of its challenges and potential.
The Monongahela River also will be celebrated with an annual Rivers Month poster issued in June.
Pennsylvania’s River of the Year honors have been presented annually since 1983.
To learn more about DCNR’s Rivers Program, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us/brc/conservation/rivers/index.htm.