The French Creek Valley Conservancy (FCVC) celebrated its 40th anniversary by hosting the 2022 Pennsylvania River of the Year Sojourn on June 11 in Meadville, where local paddlers turned out to celebrate French Creek with representatives from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the PA Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), PEC, and other partners.
French Creek won this year’s online vote for River of the Year in January, beating out the Monongahela River, Catawissa Creek, and Connequenessing Creek.
“There is tremendous regional pride, and appreciation, and love for French Creek,” said Brenda Costa, Executive Director of FCVC, which nominated the 78-mile water trail. “People are really proud […] and a lot of people have a personal connection to it.”
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn presented the award at a ceremony in Meadville’s Bicentennial Park.
“French Creek is home to many freshwater mussels, endangered species,” Dunn said. “It’s home to many bogs and fens — rare habitats in Pennsylvania. So French Creek’s really a special stream in Pennsylvania.”
DCNR sponsors the River of the Year program, which is administered by POWR. Nominating organizations receive a $10,000 leadership grant to support year-round River of the Year activities and events. Last year’s winner, the Shenango River, was represented by Brandi Baros of Shenango River Watchers, who said that receiving the 2021 award helped boost the river’s visibility and opened doors for new stream-access projects.
“It’s had a fantastic impact for us,” Baros said. “We are now talking with both the cities of Sharpsville and Sharon about putting additional kayak launches on the lower portion of the Shenango. We have a lot more interest in maintaining more of the river. And we’ve got a lot more paddlers out, which is fantastic!”
Photos courtesy of DCNR and POWR