Rivers and trails get plenty of coverage, for different reasons

We live in such a beautiful place.

A place with a host of recreation opportunities.

Here’s a few of the stories we followed in 2017 on recreation in the county:

January 10: River of Year — Allegheny River gets the official nod on Monday

As a result of online voting through the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), the Allegheny River is Pennsylvania’s River of the Year 2017.

Executive Director Wes Ramsey of Penn Soil RC&D Council, the organization that submitted the application for the river, said “It’s definitely great news for the whole region,” Ramsey said. “It’ll put a lot more people on the water and bring it to people’s attention. It’s a chance for us to stress public education on water quality issues to benefit the resource in the long run.”

The other finalists were the Brandywine, Loyalhanna and Perkiomen creeks.

“It’s great that there’s so much support out there for the Allegheny — a lot of people loving the things that it does for them,” Ramsey said. “It’s great to see that support.”

DCNR awards a $10,000 leadership grant to help fund the River of the Year celebration and requires that there be a number of activities held throughout the year.

May 25: The River Landing at Warren is a go

The project, spearheaded by the 2014 Leadership Warren County cohort, will place a system of floating pontoon docks at the eddy beneath the Hickory Street bridge.

The projected cost of the project is $446,000, for which fundraising is getting set to begin, according to project chair William “Buzzy” Bussoletti. Four major components make up that total cost, including an approximate preliminary cost of $298,000 for site improvements, $101,000 for the dock itself, $10,000 for engineering and architecture, and $37,000 for miscellaneous accouterments such as furniture, kiosks, signage, permitting fees, construction bonds, testing fees, and builders risk insurance.

Fundraising began in earnest in November.

“Over the last two years the River Landing at Warren Committee has held four public forum meetings to share the details of the proposed project and to invite public input,” Bussoletti said. “The project plan is designed to build a floating dock on the Allegheny River behind the Music in the Park location with the goal of attracting those many people who travel down the river each year to dock in downtown Warren at no cost to them and come into town and spend time and money in our beautiful city.”

August 1: Tracy Ridge decision released

Allegheny National Forest officials have decided to take the next step in an effort that would open up a portion of the trails at Tracy Ridge to mountain bikes.

A draft decision notice from Forest Supervisor Sherry Tune was released in August.

The decision would open up 12.5 miles of the 34 mile trail system to mountain bikers.

The notice outlines four purposes for the project – address maintenance needs, better utilize the trail system, stimulate new volunteer partners for the trail system and provide additional high-quality mountain bike opportunities on the forest.

Federal officials argue that might allow a backlog of maintenance issues to be resolved.

“For the Allegheny National Forest, mountain bikers are an untapped resources to address this backlog,” the document explains. “Mountain bike groups have an outstanding reputation across the country as strong trail stewards that volunteer their time assisting with trail maintenance…. Simply put, continuing to manage Tracy Ridge as a single-user trail system is an unsustainable course.”

“I understand that my decision is unpopular for some,” Tune wrote in the decision. “It is, however, consistent with the Forest Service policy and relevant laws and regulations, consistent with relevant research and is a sensible compromise that allows the Forest Service to continue offering a robust range of recreational offerings.

“A recurring theme in some comments was that allowing bikes on Tracy Ridge trails will close the door on future consideration of the area for wilderness. I disagree. It is important to note that wilderness is an essential component of the Forest Service’s multiple use mandate. Allowing bikes on Tracy Ridge trails, however, does not jeopardize the area’s potential for wilderness designation…. No evidence has been provided that shows mountain bike use inhibits wilderness designation.”

Ten objections were submitted for the project which had not been resolved by years’ end.

Hundreds of comments were submitted on the project throughout the process.

An objection meeting – requested by Friends of Allegheny Wilderness held in December – provided information that the regional forester in Milwaukee will use to information recommendations to be made to Tune prior to a final decision.

September 6: Drawdown begins — Chapman Dam set for some work

The lake at Chapman State Park is getting shallower.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) began the process of drawing down the lake Tuesday morning.

The project includes construction on the spillway and control tower, as well as dredging of the lake bottom. There is also a fish habitat improvement project that is part of the work.

Winterfest will essentially take a one-year hiatus as a result of the work.