The River Town Outreach Corps is proud to welcome its newest member, Catherine Salvatore. She will be joining our team on August 6th, and will serve until the spring of 2013. Catherine will be working in the town of Greensboro, PA, as well as some of our regional initiatives. Here is the great background that Catherine comes to us with:
Catherine Salvatore is from Waterbury, Connecticut. She recieved her Bachelor's of Fine Art from the University of Hartford. After completing her undergraduate degree she moved to the village of New Paltz, in the heart of the Hudson River Valley, NY. Her experiences living in such a well preserved and cared for rural area lead her to seek an opportunity with the SCA. She is very excited to join the RTOC and begin giving back to another river community. She likes to spend her free time reading, hiking, biking, travelling, and seeing live music.
Early in the month I attended the PA Spring Into Savings Energy Seminar, which included a series of presentations and vendor exhibits from companies involved in incentive programs to help people think more wisely about their energy use. Even though I was clearly the youngest one there, and pretty much the only female, the event proved to be beneficial for our upcoming Sustainable Business Network project that I am helping to coordinate. I was given some good resources and information to compile for businesses in our River Towns to start thinking more about how they consume energy and the appeal that a “green” business may have on tourists in the area.
The Mon River Sojourn was a huge success this month. We had over 50 people in attendance and out paddling on the Monongahela River. All of the RTOC members were ‘safety’ boaters; we were helping to make sure everyone was together and accounted for. People on shore were curious as to why there were so many kayaks and canoes on the water. This was a site not seen often if at all. It was nice to know that we helped to put the sojourn together that made everyone’s heads turn that we passed by. There was a lot of positive feedback from the group that came along for the trip that day. A picture of me was even put in the local paper afterwards (shown below).
The Oyster Race took place in Pittsburgh this year, benefiting the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, so obviously we went to participate. After designing our matching “RTOC 4 Lyfe!” t-shirts, we headed to Pittsburgh with our bikes to race around the city completing tasks that really put your endurance to the test. Before the first course was complete, we had unfortunately already lost two bikes (Jeff’s chain and Jenna’s gears decided to bail on us). It was a lot of fun and a great team-building event. The bonus was that we got to help out our partners while they cheered us on every time we came back to base to reload.
In continuation of planning for River Fest in California, all of the Corps members went to Wyatt Park for a day in order to help open up view corridors to the river. Wyatt Park is situated right on the river, but it is hard to tell due to invasive trees and other plant life growing all over the fencing and hillside separating the two. We went in with gloves, hedge trimmers and handsaws to take them down. There was quite a bit of trash buried in with the mix as well. Some community members came by to see what we were up to and the borough came to help in cleaning up with a truck and a wood chipper; it was very helpful and nice to see the community supporting the work we were doing. There is still quite a bit more work to do in the park, but it is well on its way to being a nice place for people to sit and enjoy the river during River Fest later this summer.
In my free time I have been vigorously tending to my garden in our backyard. My squash is basically taking over the whole thing, as well as the tomato plants; I feel bad for my lettuce and onions. We had two new people move into the house this month as part of the Trail Town crew. The girls are great roommates and it’s been fun getting to know them. Sam, Ryan and myself took a mini trip to Presque Isle. It rained quite a bit but our camping spot was situated nicely under some trees so it was still a lot of fun. We got to swim for a bit in Lake Erie and bike around the island, which was pretty neat! My month concluded with Ryan and I going to see Modest Mouse in Pittsburgh at an outdoor venue. More fun times to come soon!
It's been hot this June, but we were still able to get out have some fun this month. I organized a clean-up in Brownsville at Central Park and the Brownsville Riverside Wharf Park. The River Town crew all helped out to trim hedges and trees, cut grass, pull weeds, and pick up trash. We also all went to California for a work day this month. We removed invasive species and cleared the view of the river. You can now see the river from the library in California, where before the river was completely hidden behind a wall of trees.
I finally, for the first time in my life, became certified in CPR and First Aid earlier this month. These certifications prepared me to be the lead safety coordinator for the Mon River Sojourn. The sojourn was an 8.5 mile canoe/ kayak trip down the Mon from Rices Landing to Fredericktown. We also made a little side trip up Ten Mile Creek. All our River Town corps members volunteered to be safety boaters for the paddle, and everything went great. We had very positive feedback from our over fifty river enthusiasts who joined us on the trip. After the paddle, we enjoyed some delicious food at the Ribfest in Fredericktown.
Marah and I attended both the Izaak Walton League of America and the Warrior Trail Association meetings this month. At the Izaak Walton League meeting, Ken Dufalla gave a heartfelt presentation on the state of water in the area. Citizen watershed monitors test local streams for pollutants, and they have found some alarming results that are very similar to the readings after the Dunkard Creek disaster. Ken is working to spread the word as much as possible on the current state of water quality in the creeks that eventually empty into the Monongahela River. The Warrior Trail meeting was a fantastic time. We had the pleasure to see Ernie Hawkins perform the guitar finger picking style of Gary Davis, which was an absolute honor. I also picked up some paint from the association so we can re-mark the old, faded trail blazes when we do our work hike on the Warrior Trail soon.
In my free time this month, I joined our crew in the Oyster Race. We had a blast biking around thirty miles, running four miles, and kayaking one mile throughout the city of Pittsburgh. I went camping a couple times this weekend too. Presque Isle State Park in Erie had a nice bike trail and a really cool environmental center with plenty of displays to interact with. I also camped next to the Allegheny River and caught a couple smallmouth bass off our canoe. Finally, I went to the Modest Mouse concert in Pittsburgh and enjoyed some great live music at the sold out show.
This month has been very busy for me, but not just because of work. We had our second Regional Action Town Meeting at the beginning of the month. We spent the beginning of that day cleaning up Central Park in Brownsville. We picked up trash, mowed the grass, cut back overgrowth, and removed invasive species and Poison Ivy. There was only a short amount of time between that work and our meeting, which focused on recapping town projects and providing resources for small businesses.
Later that week we had the Mon River Sojourn, an eight mile paddling trip from Rice’s Landing, up Ten Mile Creek, that ended in Fredericktown. I was sweep for the trip, so I got to stay in the back and take it slow, making sure no one got left behind or lost. It was a great sunny day to be on the water.
The following day I went to the Carnegie Library Summer Reading Extravaganza in Pittsburgh to promote the SCA and the River Town Outreach Corps. It was a fun day in the shade, talking to people about our program and promoting our towns, and outdoor recreation. I got to meet and talk to a lot of people about what we do, that I would have never met without the event.
RTOC as a whole did the Oyster Race in Pittsburgh. A long hot day for running and biking, we didn’t do too bad. We had 2 out of 5 bikes break, which left all of the biking legs to Sam, Marah, and Ryan. But they were champs, and at the end of the day we all celebrated the fun we had.
We did a clean-up in California, where we removed a lot of overgrowth and invasives to clear a view corridor to the river from the park and the road. It was impressive how much we were able to clear in one a few hours time. When we were done you were actually able to see that there was a river there.
I had family and friends visit at the end of this month. I got to spend a week being tour guide. We spent a lot of time at Ohiopyle swimming and eating. My Aunt and Uncle went fly fishing in Confluence, we floated down the Youghiogheny River, attended the Lavender Festival, visited the Flight 93 Memorial, and even played trivia and sang karaoke at a local bar. It was a long and exciting week that made me appreciate all that is available to do in this part of Pennsylvania.
As the summer gets hotter I find myself wanting to spend more and more time on and in the water. Taking advantage of biking the trail and finding places to go down and get in the Yough is essential, just like trips to Ohiopyle, and Ligonier Beach. Though I can’t deny that I’m excited for a trip back home to NJ in July and a visit to the beach and my own hometown river waters.
May has brought a lot of work and fun adventures. During the first weekend of the month all of RTOC and TTOC came down to Point Marion Park with me and we did a big clean up to help the town prepare for their Albert Gallatin Regatta that is held at the end of the month. We scraped mud off the dock ramp and boat launch, picked up trash and moved recycling containers to a more user friendly area, weeded around the basketball courts, cleaned up the wooded area, chipped tree stumps, laid gravel, etc. It was a long and rewarding day.
During the following week, RTOC headed down to Fredericktown to plant flowers in their community garden, as well as clean it up a bit. Then, the next day we headed to Greensboro to hike the beginning of the Warrior Trail, to familiarize ourselves and give the Warrior Trail Association a write up of things they can do to make it more user friendly. Soon we will be going out for a work day on the trail.
This month has not just been a lot of outdoor, out of the office work though. I had a lot of work to do working on the Point Marion Albert Gallatin Regatta Memorial Day Parade. I spent a lot of time contacting and confirming people, organizations, churches, bands, etc. to be there on the day of the parade to march through Point Marion. In addition, I helped with promoting the parade with flyers and press releases. All the hard work was worth it though, on the day of the parade we had around 40 units to line up and send out. It went smoothly and Sam, Ryan, and I had a lot of fun directing people into position.
Marah and I worked with Cara from TTOC on the Fayette County Children’s Water Festival, where we had a table and tried to teach children about different aspects of water. This was a fun event to prepare for, as we got to make seed pods to give out to the kids after they answered trivia questions about what we were trying to teach them. We built a terrarium to simulate how the water cycle works, and we built planters to show how plants filter water as it runs through their roots.
After all of our hard work this month a group of us went camping in Ohiopyle and took advantage of the recreational opportunities there. We biked down from Connellsville just in time to get caught in a crazy lightning storm, but we survived and had a fun night camping followed by a day in the river.
Now as we move into June everyone is working hard to prepare for our second Regional Action Town Meeting, as well as other regional projects that we have for the year.
At the very start of the month was the Pike Run Community Night in California. Geology students from California University had been conducting stream studies throughout the semester and presented on their findings on the quality of the water in comparison to the surrounding landscape. When school begins again, we will be coordinating a stream clean up of Pike Run (a tributary of the Monogahela) with the Geology club to maintain the quality of the stream.
We took a hike on the Warrior Trail for work one day to familiarize ourselves with this great amenity to the region. In hopes to further promote the trail and see what trail work we could do in the near future, we were able to complete 3 miles of the historic route. Unfortunately for us, we came to a barbed wire fence that prevented us from traveling further. Apparently landowners are having concerns of hikers on their farms and the trail has been rerouted. After providing feedback to the Warrior Trail Association, they were grateful for our suggestions and are looking forward to the corps helping on trail improvements soon.
The Fayette County Children’s Water Day Festival has been an event that the Corps members here in Connellsville have been doing for several years now. In an effort to educate middle school aged children on water filtration and the water cycle, we created a display and poster to make the kids excited about water quality. Needless to say, the task was a lot more difficult than I thought. There were several other organizations there; most had live animals such as owls and hawks, snakes, and other waterfowl. If I were a kid, I’d go for the animals too. We managed to reach over 100 kids at our table though and it was a lot of fun!
The California Action Team has determined that they would like to have a big community fundraiser in the form of River Fest this summer. All proceeds will go to park improvements and constructing a trail in their town to make it more attractive to visitors as well as residents. I will be helping to secure live music, street vendors, fireworks, and a whole mess of other fun activities. So far I have made connections with so many people in the town that are excited about the event and are very supportive of the River Town Program, I am really looking forward to helping out the community and helping to plan River Fest.
This May was full of events and activities that kept me working hard throughout the month. I wrote a report that synthesized the results for the Brownsville town assessment that was conducted in late April. Community members seemed to agree on many aspects of the borough that need to be added or changed. Some key topics included keeping the streets clean of garbage and adding more trash cans and recycling opportunities, installing public restroom facilities and water fountains, designing an informational sign to be placed at Riverside Wharf Park and window clings to be placed on storefronts, and eventually attracting a canoe/kayak rental shop and a B&B or hotel to start their business in Brownsville.
I attended a National Road Heritage Corridor presentation and a Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau meeting that were in Brownsville this month. Both stressed the importance that the historical buildings and landmarks have regarding tourism here in Brownsville. Dunlap's Creek Bridge, the Nemacolin Castle, and the Flatiron Building, just to name a few, are all very important historical structures that have the potential to attract more and more tourists if they are adequately promoted.
The Market Street Arts Festival also took place this month in Brownsville. It featured artists, artisans, food vendors, competitions in writing, musical composition, and visual arts, a range of musical performances from opera to classic rock, art exhibits, historic site tours, hands-on art activities, and an archeological dig. Marah and I set up a table to promote the River Town Program while enjoying some great live music and delicious local food.
Helping out at clean-ups and plantings throughout the region was a great way to help our towns while enjoying the beautiful weather we have been having. The Point Marion park clean-up went very well, and the entire park was ready for the busy Regatta parade that I also attended at the end of the month with Jenna and Sam. I helped plant flowers and trees, remove weeds, spread mulch, and water plants at the park in Fredericktown. Brownsville also had a flower planting at the community garden, which Sam and I attended and had a great time helping local residents beautify their town. After planting flowers, Sam and I went to the first concert in Rices Landing for the concert series she is organizing this year.
Going on a familiarity hike that I planned on the Warrior Trail for our RTOC crew was one of my favorite events this month. We hiked three miles in and unfortunately had to turn around due to us having an outdated map. The trip was fun for us regardless, and we will be picking up a new map soon and helping to clean up and better mark the trail later this summer.
Finally, on my free time, I was able to go see a couple concerts including The Avett Brothers and Portugal. The Man. I also biked the 18 miles from Connellsville to Ohiopyle State Park, where I camped for two nights and enjoyed swimming in the waters of the Youghiogheny River.
Now that our corps site is up a running, its time for a recap of all of the great work RTOC has done so far this year:
The last few months have been incredibly busy. In mid February the River Town Outreach Corps for 2012 moved to Connellsville to start working. We began with weeks of training in Pittsburgh with Green Cities and the Trail Town Outreach Corps. Everything ranging from basic orientation to volunteer management, publicity and graphic design, to sustainable redevelopment, neighborhood redevelopment, orientation with our partners, to visiting all of the towns we will be working in. We also had the opportunity to volunteer and participate in Greensboro’s Chili Cook-off which raised money for the town while supplying a variety of different delicious chilis.
At the beginning of March we attended the first Regional Action Town Meeting and were able to hear people from all of our towns talk about things that they had done and wanted to accomplish. After this meeting our towns and regional projects were assigned and work began. We attended a few of the Point Marion Public Art workshops as a group. We started attending meetings in all of our towns. The Sustainability Fair was promoted and executed. The fair was open to anyone who wanted to learn more about sustainable energy and practices to save money in their home or business. We started and in some cases finished researching and creating flyers, guides, and other materials. We even had more training in Pittsburgh and at our office in Connellsville.
April has been the busiest month by far. Jenna and Jeff attended the WVU Landscape Architecture presentation of entrance way improvements for Point Marion. Samantha and Jenna attended a Fight Blight Workshop in Pittsburgh that focused on the legal process of fighting blighted property owners and actions a town’s leaders can take. Samantha, Marah, and Ryan volunteered to host a table at H2O Know, an Izaak Walton League event where they also had the opportunity to listen to some of the presenters and learn more about what is going on in local tributaries to the Monongahela River. Everyone attended the Brownsville street clean up and we had a good time that day seeing who could find the most interesting pieces of trash while we worked. Samantha, Marah, and Ryan attended the first paddling trip from Brownsville to California. Everyone spent a day in Fredericktown working to plant trees in their park and do other park improvements. Earth Day was particularly successful because we had events in almost all of our towns, so we split the day up and everyone went somewhere different. Samantha went to Rice’s Landing’s Hammer In event where she volunteered to help with the event and also set up a table to distribute information about our program. Ryan went to Fredericktown and worked with the local Boy Scout Troop to clean-up the town. Marah went to California to volunteer and set up a table during their Fishing Festival. Jenna went to Greensboro for their street clean-up and also spent some time cleaning up the river banks that are accessible to the public. After Earth Day events Jenna left with Jeff for Asheville, NC where they attended the River Management Symposium and were scheduled to give a presentation on the work the River Town Program has been doing over the last year and plan to do over the next year. They also attended other presentations given by people from RiverLink, a local non-profit, the American Canoe Association, American Rivers, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other local, state, and federal agencies. During that same week Marah helped California plan for their Charette Day, which her and Ryan participated in. They also participated in the Brownsville Town Assessment. Brownsville is a new town added to our program this year, so Ryan and Marah were able to go out with a group of local residents, members of the River Town Program, and Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation (BARC). They walked around taking notes on how the town might be viewed by a visitor and looked for things that someone who is visiting might need.
Now as we look on to May we continue to work on planning for the Point Marion Memorial Day Parade, Paddling trips in all of our towns, more clean-up events throughout the summer, the concert series in Rice’s Landing, the Children’s Water Fair, as well as many other projects.
We are proud to introduce the second year of River Town Outreach Corps (RTOC) members! Here are the great new faces of RTOC:
Jeff Malik, Project Leader, is originally from Cleveland, Tennessee. After serving in the program last year, he is now Project Leader. Jeff attended the University of Tennessee, graduating with a degree in Geography. He has previously served with the SCA in Wyoming and Pennsylvania, and as an Alumni Ambassador in Tennessee. Jeff also has previous career experience with the National Park Service, before returning to the SCA. His hobbies include hiking, building bicycles, and dabbling in most other outdoor activities.
Samantha Lichtenwald is from Midland, Michigan. She recently earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Natural Resources from Central Michigan University (CMU). Samantha has previously worked in the Department of Biology at CMU as the coordinator for the Biology Undergraduate Mentoring Program and as the Executive Secretary Assistant. Samantha also previously assisted as a field technician in various projects, including the Michigan Marsh Bird Survey and the Deer Check Station with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Samantha enjoys photography and outdoor activities such as canoeing, camping, biking, and hunting.
Jenna Gatto is from Mays Landing, New Jersey. She graduated from Rutgers University School of Environment and Biological Sciences with a B.S in Environmental Planning and Design focus on Landscape Architecture, which is an accredited Landscape Architecture program. She has previously worked for the Rutgers Landscape Architecture Extension Department on site design and research projects. She has also been an avid volunteer for the Barnegat Bay Partnership, where she successfully helped to organize volunteers to clean up property along the Toms River.
Marah Vecenie is a Pittsburgh native who recently graduated from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography, Environmental Studies track. While earning her degree she was the president of Gamma Theta Upsilon and the secretary of the Geography, Geology, and Environment club. Previous to her position with the River Town Program, Marah worked with an endangered bird species in Texas at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge. She was also worked with the Allegheny Land Trust for a short period of time as their field photography intern. In her free time she enjoys reading, yoga, and hiking.
Ryan Fielden is from the village of Waynesville, Ohio. He graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S in Environmental Science concentrating in the study of water. Last summer he worked in Denver, Colorado as a Field Biologist Crew Leader for OtterTail Environmental, Inc. It is the love for the wilderness that inclined him to assist in ecosystem conservation, both for the species that live there and for human enjoyment simultaneously. Ryan is involved with many outdoor activities such as fishing, backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking.