Save the Date! Schuylkill River Sojourn June 2-8!

Save the Date!

14th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

June 2-8, 2012  

2011 Sojourners
The 2012 Sojourn Theme is  Recreation in the Schuylkill River Heritage Area 

The Schuylkill River Sojourn is a 7-day, 112-mile guided paddle from Schuylkill Haven to Boathouse Row in Philadelphia that is organized annually by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area.  Participants can register for one day or the entire week. The first three days fill up quickly, so it is important to register early  once registration opens in April.

Photo: 2011 Courtesy Dan Creighton

PDIDA holding meeting tonight for downtown merchants – please attend, if you can!

AGENDA for Merchant Meeting

January 24, 2012

6 pm

Borough Hall

INTRODUCTION – Sheila Dugan PDIDA Chairman

Board Members – Steve Bamford – Council Members – Jason Bobst – Each Merchant – Visitors

Sheila Dugan – Recap 2011

  • Board Reorganization
  • Super Sundays – Small successes – change of day was suggested
  • Hometown Holidays – Small but profitable – Ads – Stores staying OPEN – Flash Mob Shoppers
  • Goals for 2012 – Bigger Events / Not necessarily More Events That will bring people downtown

*Meeting with Jason , Parks N Rec, PACA, Carousel to join in this mission

  • Cleaner Downtown
  • Targeting New Businesses for the Downtown
  • More Marketing of the Downtown as well as Events

*All of this requires help – Please join in the efforts!

Susan Storb – Financials

  • We have reduced administrative costs by more than 50%
  • More Assessment revenues for Events and Marketing
  • Timely Payments are important – there are still a couple of outstanding invoices for the coloring book

Andrew Monastra – Façade Loans and Assessment Payments

Cindy Brower – Events / Committees Formed

Motorcycles – Gospel Riders – April 28th looking for Rain date on 29th – A Sunday

Creating a yearly calendar of events – We need your ideas

Car Shows

Holidays

John Armato  – Communications

Monthly PDIDA Corner – both in the Mercury and On Line

Ben Moscia – Clean Up – Our Responsability

County Community Service People

Snow Removal

Littering Laws

 Merchant Discussion

What are your issues and concerns?

What are your suggestions going forward?

How would you like to get involved?

Schuylkill River Festival now underway – don’t miss it!

Schuylkill River Festival

Saturday, October 8, 2011
11 AM to 4 PM

Come to the Park for a day filled with music, art, food, and educational experiences.

Join us for Free, Family Experience
5th Annual Schuylkill River Festival
Riverfront Park and College Drive
Montgomery County Community College
Pottstown, PA 19464

Open House

Visit the College Exhibit and learn about programs and opportunities at the Montgomery County Community College.

Children’s Activities

Moon bounce, crafts, horse and carriage rides, wildlife exhibits and more!

Music Festival

Live Music on the Downey Amphitheatre stage from 11 AM to 4 PM. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy the show!

Arts and Crafts

  • View and purchase wares from great local and regional artists
  • View the “Scenes of the Schuylkill” Art show in the gallery at MCCC North Hall
  • Vendor applications still being accepted.—Application

Recreational Opportunities in the Park

  • Bike
  • Fish
  • Kayak or Canoe
  • Geocache

Community Information

Learn about opportunities and services offered right in your community!

Educational Opportunities

  • Native American Dancing and Displays
  • Cultural Exhibits from Various Groups
  • Environmental Conservation and Preservation Displays and Information

Food, Food, and More Food!!!

A great variety of sandwiches, desserts and more!

Platinum Level Sponsors

  • The Borough of Pottstown
  • Exelon Energy
  • Montgomery County Community College
  • Pottstown Mercury

Schuylkill River Festival happens once a year… this Saturday!

Schuylkill River Festival

Saturday, October 8, 2011
11 AM to 4 PM

Come to the Park for a day filled with music, art, food, and educational experiences.

Join us for Free, Family Experience
5th Annual Schuylkill River Festival
Riverfront Park and College Drive
Montgomery County Community College
Pottstown, PA 19464

Open House

Visit the College Exhibit and learn about programs and opportunities at the Montgomery County Community College.

Children’s Activities

Moon bounce, crafts, horse and carriage rides, wildlife exhibits and more!

Music Festival

Live Music on the Downey Amphitheatre stage from 11 AM to 4 PM. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy the show!

Arts and Crafts

  • View and purchase wares from great local and regional artists
  • View the “Scenes of the Schuylkill” Art show in the gallery at MCCC North Hall
  • Vendor applications still being accepted.—Application

Recreational Opportunities in the Park

  • Bike
  • Fish
  • Kayak or Canoe
  • Geocache

Community Information

Learn about opportunities and services offered right in your community!
Vendor applications still being accepted.—Application

Educational Opportunities

  • Native American Dancing and Displays
  • Cultural Exhibits from Various Groups
  • Environmental Conservation and Preservation Displays and Information

Food, Food, and More Food!!!

A great variety of sandwiches, desserts and more!
Food Vendor applications still being accepted.—Application

Platinum Level Sponsors

  • The Borough of Pottstown
  • Exelon Energy
  • Montgomery County Community College
  • Pottstown Mercury

Many Exciting Sponsorship Opportunities Available! Contact 610-718-1847 for details.

Heritage Action Plan discussed by Council

At last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Borough Council heard a summary of the Draft Heritage Action Plan. There was a lively discussion about various aspects of the HAP, the collaboration that’s already underway, and the four projects that could receive implementation funding from the Schuylkill River Greenway Association. Council will vote on whether to adopt the plan at Monday’s regular meeting.

Below is a copy of my statement to Council. I had typed it and timed it; otherwise I would not have kept to the time limit or gotten in the many points I wanted to make. Tom Carroll followed up with some wonderful maps and graphics showing the planned Trail connections and extension, as well as details for the four proposed projects that are eligible for the $25,000 in implementation funding that’s available now.

Pottstown’s history is tied to the river and the railroad, from the Colonial era through the Industrial Revolution, up until today. Marketing downtown Pottstown as a Trail Town and a heritage destination seems like a real solid story to tell because it is real. It is authentic. And that’s what heritage tourists are looking for.

My presentation to Council regarding the Draft Heritage Action Plan:

I’d like to thank Council for inviting us here tonight and the Borough for having Tom and me work on a Heritage Action Plan for Pottstown. I’m going to give an overview and set the stage for Tom to show you the nuts-and-bolts of the next steps and how some of the proposed projects could look, on the ground.

We’re here because the Borough received a $2,000 planning grant from the Schuylkill River Greenway Association to create a plan that identifies, assesses, protects, manages and helps promote Pottstown’s heritage resources, all with an eye toward economic development and revitalization downtown. The idea is to get bikers, hikers and paddlers out of Riverfront Park and up to High Street, where they can spend their recreation and entertainment dollars, and to extend the Schuylkill River Trail on the existing bike lanes, down High Street, to the Post Office, down Madison Street and over to Pollock Park, which would become the new terminus of the Trail, heading east toward Chester County and Philadelphia.

We’re asking Council to consider adopting this plan and the general principles within it so that Pottstown can seek additional funding on the way to becoming known as a Trail Town and a destination for heritage tourists.

When we use the term “heritage resources,” we’re talking about the River and the Schuylkill River Trail along with the many other recreational, historical, environmental, arts and cultural resources that make Pottstown unique. The Schuylkill River Trail will eventually extend 120 miles between Philadelphia and Pottsville. It is well-documented that trails of this length become travel destinations for bikers and hikers interested in multi-day trips. These kinds of travelers are looking for authentic towns that provide one-of-a-kind experiences – whether that is local history, art, music, bed-and-breakfasts, fine dining or diner fare. Pottstown is going to be right in the middle of the Trail,and it needs to establish itself as a must-see destination among Trail users.

Probably the most important concept we could all take away from this plan is that Heritage Tourism IS Economic Development. Heritage tourism is just about a perfect framework for Pottstown to position itself as a lively downtown with arts, cultural and educational anchors that understand the historic link to the River and are proud of that and united in promoting it.

As to the plan and the process: we brought together representatives from the major organizations in town for a couple meetings and communicated with them via email and blogs. We got input on a vision, an inventory and assessment of Pottstown’s resources, and a ranking of projects that would be desirable to do if/when funding becomes available. Anyone who participated is known as a “Partner.” They are listed beginning in the plan. It is expected that the list of Partners will continue to evolve and that organizations and individuals will continue to collaborate and the Borough will tap them when appropriate to solicit in-kind services or financial support to do various projects.

There is some urgency in the Borough adopting this plan. Upon adoption, there is $25,000 available now from the Greenway and the William Penn Foundation for Pottstown to improve trail connections, improve way-finding and improve marketing of the Trail. Those funds would need to be spent by May of 2012.

I’d like to draw your attention to the ranked list of 42 potential heritage related projects on pp. 29-30. Ideally, the Borough and various partners would steadily chip away at this list on the way to making downtown Pottstown a clean, welcoming place that is attractive to residents and heritage tourists alike. Many of these are not eligible for the $25,000 currently available. Four projects, however, do meet the criteria. They are:

 #6 Creating trail connections between Riverfront Park & High Street and from High Street to Pollock Park

 #28 Creating and installing 3 informational kiosks in Riverfront Park, Pollock Park and downtown

 #18 Creating a comprehensive brochure of Pottstown’s heritage resources to be included in the kiosks as well as in local businesses and at the Chamber & PDIDA offices

 #36 Creating a trail friendly decal for display by local businesses who offer rest rooms, water or discounts to trail users.

These were chosen because they fit the funding criteria, would make a visible impact, and could be completed by the May 2012 deadline. Before I turn it over to Tom to give you some more details on those, I’d like to close by emphasizing that the heritage action planning process itself has already gotten various Partners collaborating.  Plans are in the works to get the marketing folks from the major arts & cultural organizations together in September to collaborate on events and the calendar for 2012 so that, as much as possible, everyone is promoting everything, with one voice.

We also realized that offering historic walking tours to the public during major events like July 4th, Carousel of Flavor, and Open Doors would be a way to draw attention to Pottstown’s history and possibly raise funds for the Historical Society. We’re in the investigation stage, with Mike Snyder of the Historical Society taking the lead, in figuring out if/how that could happen with trained tour guides. This is what we mean when we call the Heritage Action Plan a “living document.” It can continue to evolve as the community sees fit. And it can be used to support future grant applications. This is all really exciting to see unfold. Thank you again and now I’ll turn it over to Tom.

Draft Heritage Action Plan to be discussed by Council tomorrow night

 On Wednesday, August 3rd, Borough Council will be discussing the Draft Heritage Action Plan (HAP) at the Committee of the Whole Meeting at 7 pm at Borough Hall.

Tom Carroll and I will give a brief presentation – 10 minutes – about the Draft (HAP). The Borough undertook the creation of a HAP this past spring with a grant from the Schuylkill River Greenway Association & the William Penn Foundation. The process sought input from a wide range of history, arts, culture, business and educational partners and citizens. We also got advice from Peter Johnston & Associates, planning consultants out of Easton, Maryland, who created a Schuylkill River Heritage Towns & Tours Toolkit for grant recipients to use.

The ideas behind Pottstown creating a Heritage Action Plan are to:

(1)  identify existing heritage & Schuylkill River Trail-related resources, such as historic walking tours, Pottsgrove Manor, the bike shop, arts organizations and restaurants;

(2)  let Trail users, residents and other visitors know what resources there are and where they’re located through good signs and trail markers;

(3)  get Schuylkill River Trail users from Riverfront Park and into the downtown, where the Trail can be extended down High Street through the use of the existing bike lanes, and further extend the Trail to a new terminus at Pollock Park;

(4)  help generate more foot/bike traffic for downtown merchants; 

(5)  get the Borough, business owners, and arts, historical, recreational, educational and wellness organizations working together around marketing Pottstown as a heritage destination.

One of the key words above is “Action.” There’s $25,000 available now from the Greenway/William Penn Foundation to implement some of the prioritized projects in Pottstown’s Draft HAP. Click on COMPONENT RANKING RESULTS to see the complete list of projects. These are some tangible activities that could help get people into town and give the downtown & PDIDA a leg up in marketing Pottstown as a Heritage Town.

Four projects were identified as appropriate for the next round of implementation funding from the Greenway (the $25K mentioned above.) They are:

#6 – Trail Connection: Riverfront Park to High Street & High Street to Pollock Park
#18 – Pottstown Comprehensive Brochure (to go into kiosks, Chamber of Commerce, businesses)
#28 – 3 Informational Kiosks at Riverfront Park, Pollock Park, Downtown
#36 – Trail Friendly Decal for participating businesses who offer water, rest rooms or discounts to Trail users

 These projects were chosen from the list of 42 projects based on:
• making a visible impact;
• being able to be completed within the scope of the available funds ($25K);
• being able to be completed by May 2012;
• and being compatible with the Heritage Towns & Tours major initiatives:
– destination creation and marketing;
– creating a Trail Town identity and a sense of place;
– and improving or creating on-ground connections between trails and communities.

The HAP can be used as a supporting document to go after more grant money to implement other projects listed in the plan. In a time of dwindling resources, there is still money in PA for conservation, trail connections and the like.

Residents and downtown business and property owners are encouraged to come out tomorrow night to hear more about the HAP and see what’s proposed for implementation.

MCCC Begins Phase II on Riverfront Center

I recently received the following press release from Montgomery County Community College and added the photo so readers would know what building is being renovated.

140 College Drive

 

June 15, 2011, Pottstown, Pa.—As residents of Pottstown and its surrounding communities head to theSchuylkill River and its trails for recreation this summer, they will see a flurry of activity at 140 College Drive – the future home of the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center.

Montgomery County Community College is currently in phase II of the renovation that will transform the facility, commonly referred to as “the old PECO building,” into a state-of-the-art educational center. Phase II work includes improvements to the building’s infrastructure and exterior envelope, including the installation of sustainable features that will support LEED certification.

Specifically, phase II will include replacement of the building’s aged, leaking roof with an eco-friendly green roof, along with the installation of energy efficient windows. A new entrance and handicap-accessible ramp will also be created. Phase II work is slated for completion in September.

When funding becomes available, phase III work will focus on the building’s interior, including the development of classrooms, offices and student spaces. A variety of sponsorship and funding opportunities are available to help bring the proposed Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center to fruition. To learn more, visit www.mc3.edu/giving or call the College’s Foundation at 215-641-6535.

The completed Center will provide space for four college classrooms equipped with SMART technology, a state-of-the-art laboratory that will support the College’s Environmental Science degree program, and an interpretive center that will provide educational, historic and tourist information about the Schuylkill River Heritage Area (SRHA).

In May 2010, the College completed phase I of the project by renovating the site’s parking lot. Renovations included removing contaminated soil, installing underground drainage facilities, adding clean fill, installing a blacktop cap to protect the groundwater table, and constructing three bio-retention basins to capture stormwater runoff. Installation of LED lighting and the placement of more than 130 trees, shrubs and bushes make the lot more sustainable.

The building at 140 College Drive served the Pottstown community as an electrical generating station starting in 1911.  After sitting vacant for a number of years, the building and three-acre site were purchased by the Borough of Pottstown. The College secured ownership of the site in April 2009, and enjoys a unique partnership with the SRHA, which leases office space in the building.

Schuylkill River Sojourn: A Day on the “Hidden River”

Tuesday night, June 14… This time last week I was collapsing in a recliner in my parents’ living room, recovering from a 13.7 mile paddle down the Schuylkill River from Gibralter to Pottstown’s Riverfront Park. And I was happy as a clam. (What makes clams so happy, anyway?)

I’d gotten up at the ungodly hour of 4:30am and was on the road by 5am from New Jersey to the launch in Birdsboro. I’d only ever done some recreational paddling a few times when visiting friends in Canada the past few summers, and just figured I’d tough it out for one day. How bad could it be?

After fortifying myself with a few pancakes provided by the Cumru Township Lions Club, catching up with Tom Carroll, my consulting partner on Pottstown’s Heritage Action Plan, and his brother Mike, and meeting Carol DeWolf, Director of the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Intitiative, and Dennis DeMara from PA’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, it was time to get into a kayak and literally test the waters.

I immediately drifted out into a part of the river where the current was pulling me downstream. I saw all the other paddlers patiently waiting for everyone to get into their boats, while I spun in circles and paddled furiously to keep from getting too far from the group. After 10 minutes, I was ready to call it quits for the day.

But, as would happen throughout the morning, until I got a little more instinctive with my paddle and kayak, someone knowledgeable would float over to me and offer me pointers and they had an immediate impact. By mid-morning, I was moving steadily down river with Mike from Spring City, and later joined by his brother-in-law, Mark. They were doing the entire Sojourn; it was their first time. Turns out Mike just started paddling last fall, and he’s hooked. He talked about living near the river all his life and really just discovering it recently. He’s gone so far as to buy his own camping gear, kayak and paddle – I rented mine from HRO Outfitters – and he’s been known to put in at the Spring City boat launch on the spur of the moment for a cruise on the river.

It was like this all day long – meeting friendly people, many of whom were also first-timers like me. The “experts” who floated past always had a new piece of advice for ne, and I appreciated all of it. There are plenty of paddling and certified safety professionals on the Sojourn, so you’re always in very safe company. Next year I definitely want to add at least a few days. The Schuylkill River Sojourn runs for 7 days and 6 nights; participants can do one day or the whole week. They can camp by the river or find other accommodations. The food is outstanding. We had an amazing candlelit lunch of fried chicken, pasta salad, freshly cut apples and Rita’s water ice at Morlatton Village, along with a short talk about planting native species in your Pennsylvania garden. And dinner by Bause-Landry Catering in Riverfront Park was out of this world: cornbread, fresh salads, Portabella mushroom chili (as well as the meat variety), and a massive chocolate chip cookie. I think I also wolfed down a few other things that are escaping me now…

My first time in the Schuylkill River, ever, was this past January 1st for Pottstown’s Parks & Rec Polar Bear Plunge. Now that I’ve had this kayak experience – where my whole perspective on what the river has meant to this region, since way, way back has been totally awakened – I’m looking forward to getting out there more often. It is peaceful and other-worldly and right in your own backyard. But boy was I glad to come around the bend, arms acquiver,see the Hanover Street Bridge and know that I was home.

Tom Carroll and I meet up in Riverfront Park

For $1/minute, I had a brief massage under the pavilion by Angela Wagner of the Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks, located at 141 High Street in Pottstown. That definitely set the right tone for my recovery over the next couple of days.

If you want to experience the Schuylkill River Trail and River in a “peddle and paddle” event, check out the program that’s taking place on June 25th, sponsored by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. It’s filling up fast, so sign up today!

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