(WKBN) – The Department of Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers announced Monday that the Shenango River was named PA 2021 River of the Year.
The public voted on which river should get the top spot. The Shenango River was up against Buffalo Creek, Lehigh River, Loyalhanna Creek and Tunkhannock Creek.
“This is the first time we’ve ever been up for Pennsylvania River of the Year,” said Dr. Brandi Baros, president of Shenango River Watchers. “We are thrilled and astonished and just really, really happy that Shenango is the river of the year.”
Shenango River Watchers is a non-profit that restores and protects the Shenango River Watershed and surrounding areas.
“We want this to be a destination. We want people to come to the Shenango Valley, kayak, fish, hike along the rivers, enjoy the scenery,” Baros said. “Come up here, have lunch, stay overnight, get to know the area, and we want people to get to know their watershed and take care of it. Our hope is that they will fall in love with it like we have.”
The award gives the area publicity, acknowledgment and $10,000 to continue cleaning and putting on events.
“We try to focus our attention on wherever there seems to be a mess that needs to be cleaned up,” Baros said. “I’m happy to say we are running out of those. It’s getting harder to find a place where it’s worth it to send 40 people for a few hours to clean up.”
Baros said that she thinks they won because of all the area has to offer and because Monica King, their executive administer to the board, pushed the contest hard on social media.
“I think the big thing is we really have cultivated a love of the river and a love of our watershed, and I want to continue the growth of that love for our watershed. Get people out on the river,” Baros said.
Baros said that she saw more people out on the river than in previous years, and she hopes that continues in the years to come.
“We really want to thank everybody who volunteers with us, everybody who sponsors our events, all of our members and donors,” Baros said. “Our biggest thing is we love this river. We love this watershed. We truly believe that if you haven’t already gotten out on a river somehow, and you don’t kayak, and you don’t swim and you don’t fish, this can be as simple as going somewhere like downtown Sharon and walking downtown along the river. Come out, see the river, get to love the river.”
She also encourages people to do this wherever they live, whether it’s near the Shenango River or some other waterway.
“The biggest message we can give everybody is our motto – We all live downstream. We have to care for that water because downstream of wherever you are, somebody is drinking that water, and the water that you drink was downstream for somebody else, and we have to take care of the water because water is life,” Baros said.