Heritage Region Hosts Unveiling Event for PA River of the Year

Numerous entities were represented at Vosburg Neck State Park on June 6 as the Endless Mountains Heritage Region (EMHR) paired a celebration of the organization’s 25th anniversary with the unveiling of the 2023 PA River of the Year poster. Representatives from DCNR and the state park system and local elected officials joined other supporters of the EMHR, as well as a group of paddlers participating in a week-long, 120-mile Anniversary Sojourn from Sayre to Shickshinny.

EMHR executive director Cain Chamberlin welcomed those in attendance and thanked site residents Doug and Ali Wilson for setting up and decorating the interior of the big red barn for the event. The festivities were originally planned to be outdoors but were moved inside due to excessive smoke from the Canadian wildfires. Chamberlin cited the perseverance of the sojourners, referring to their time on the river that day as the “Smoke on the Water Tour.”

Key speaker for the event was DCNR secretary Cindy Adams Dunn (shown above with a TV crew at the river), who congratulated Chamberlin and the EMHR for successfully nominating the North Branch Susquehanna River for the River of the Year contest a record six times. The online competition is conducted by POWR (Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds & Rivers). The EMHR shares the honor and the prize money with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP), which was represented at the event by director Corey Ellison.

According to Dunn, the North Branch first won the River of the Year contest in 1990, and she participated in a commemorative sojourn as an employee of the PA Department of Environmental Resources (DER), which later evolved into the DCNR. Former Wyoming County commissioner Rich Fitzsimmons was among the paddlers that year and told Dunn when they reached Vosburg Neck, which Dunn was seeing for the first time, that it should be a state park.

There’s no more peaceful place than this paddle from Mehoopany to Tunkhannock,” Dunn maintained, citing the sheer cliffs along one side of the river and abundant wildlife on the shorelines and in the skies above. “And the River of the Year designation has served as a great tool to bring residents and elected officials together at the river and introduce people to this wonderful asset.”

Since, 1990, Dunn added, the sojourn concept has grown steadily, attracting more people to the waterway every year. Referencing the perspective that paddlers have of the land from the river, she remarked, “Nothing says ‘You’re welcome here’ better than a state park.”

Also speaking at the event was Janet Sweeney, vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. She joked that she isn’t supposed to have a favorite waterway but she was “very happy that the North Branch Susquehanna River is again the River of the Year.” She also credited Dunn, Sen. Lisa Baker, and Gov. Josh Shapiro for their collaboration in making Vosburg Neck one of three new state parks this year.

DCNR press secretary Wesley Robinson read the official proclamation from Gov. Shapiro acknowledging the North Branch Susquehanna River as the 2023 PA River of the year, and a framed copy of the River of the Year poster, designed by Diane Turrell, was unveiled to the delight of the audience and Sec. Dunn, who had not yet seen it.

Chamberlin noted that, in light of the EMHR’s 25th anniversary, the poster highlights 25 stops along the North Branch for paddlers to explore. “We couldn’t be more proud of winning the PA River of the Year for the North Branch Susquehanna River as we also celebrate this milestone anniversary for the EMHR,” Chamberlin stated, noting that it would not have been possible without the help and dedication of everybody in attendance and others with shared interests.

To see a complete list of events and activities on this year’s schedule, interested readers can log on to EMHeritage.org. To obtain a copy of the poster, readers can contact the EMHR at contact@emheritage.org or 570-265-1528.

Celebrating the unveiling of the 2023 PA River of the year poster are (from left) DCNR secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, Julie Williams from Rep. Tina Pickett’s office, EMHR board member and Sullivan County commissioner Donna Iannone, EMHR executive director Cain Chamberlin, Wyoming County commissioners Tom Henry and Ernie King, and Mark Grochocki from Sen. Lisa Baker’s office.

Anniversary sojourners were among the participants in the River of the Year celebration and poster unveiling at Vosburg Neck State Park near Tunkhannock on June 6.

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