The Schuylkill River is known for its history as the heart of the Industrial Revolution as it helped many towns grow into major manufacturing centers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It was the lifeblood of places like Conshohocken, Norristown, and Phoenixville. When many of the factories that were powered by the river disappeared in the late 20th century, the corridor went through a period of economic decline. Today, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council is working with community members in these towns to revive the river, not as a tool for industry, but as a vehicle for recreation.
Through the Schuylkill River Town program, community Action Teams help program the river so more residents develop a connection to this amazing resource.
This summer, kayak trips out of the public access boat launch in Norristown have brought people from all parts of the corridor down to the river. Participants paddle up to Valley Forge National Historic Park to learn about the role the river played in the American, Industrial, and Environmental Revolutions. These programs are ongoing and will continue into September.
A “Biyak” event on Aug. 15 will allow participants to bike up the Schuylkill River Trail, then get in boats and kayak back to the starting point. In Phoenixville, a teen paddle on Aug. 25 will help a whole new generation of stewards discover the recreational potential of the river in their back yards. People who participate in the programs frequently say they did not know they could paddle on the Schuylkill, and that they will definitely do it again.
As the weather gets colder, Schuylkill River Town programs start heading inside. A bicycle education series in Conshohocken starting Sept. 10 will focus on alternative ways to cycle, including bike commuting and biking with kids. Business workshops will teach local businesses how to market to trail users in order to build a stronger connection between the river and trail and the towns they pass through. Halloween inspires its own batch of events with a costumed cleanup and a night time 5K run in development.
PEC believes that inviting residents to discover the river and the trail through the Schuylkill River Town programs will create lifelong stewards who care after the natural resources they use for recreation. In turn, recreational use of the river draws people into these towns and spurs economic development. Through these programs, the Schuylkill River once again becomes the lifeblood of Conshohocken, Norristown, and Phoenixville.