Sunday lunch Blue Rock Geology talk at Swatara Springs Farm. (photo by Gail Smith)
Swatara Sojourn – May 3 & 4, 2003
As I sat in the Swatara Watershed office this morning, peering outside through the SCWA half-moon logo, my eyes rested on a mountain shaped pile of tires on the back of my old trailer--and there was another load from Sunday's clean-up back at Union Canal Canoe Rentals--62 tires all totaled on Sunday. Keep in mind that additional tires were removed from the Swattie and hauled away by Swatara State Park rangers on Saturday. We had to have removed close to 100 tires from the Swatara this weekend. In past years, the number of tires removed from the Swattie was on the decline. With the West Nile Virus and other recycling programs, what is the origin of all of these tires? The mud and muck was testimony to the length of time the tires sat in the Swattie--somewhere.
As a boy, Jack worked with his dad in a garage. Jack's Stouffer's knowledge of tires was amazing. He identified one of the tires as pre WWII. We began to theorize where all of these tires were hiding. First, because they "float" to the surface, we know landfills don't accept tires. This past winter was harsh, but last summer there was a drought. Was it simply freezing and thawing? While accepting the collected tires, Brian Kettering suggested the low water allowed air to get into buried tires. Now, with the high water table, perhaps they popped to the surface. Wherever they came from, the Swatara Sojourners worked hard and deserve our sincere thanks. They not only cleaned up our water supply, they helped to remove potential nesting areas for nasty mosquitoes.
101 people were registered for Saturday's trek down the Swatara. That means there were over 40 canoes and kayaks on the water Saturday. Another 45 people joined us on Sunday. Canoeists navigated fallen trees and submerged rocks--well they tried. Saturday, at least a dozen different canoes upset when hitting formerly exposed obstacles. You see, the water table is higher this year. Mike Pavelek and Larry Taylor even removed a series of potential "strainers" by taking a chain saw out on the River Friday. Sunday's trip was much calmer.
Each day, we needed experienced people as lead and sweep canoes. Chuck and Jean Henry lead the pack on Saturday, and Bob Arnold, Mike Pavelek, and Larry Taylor tag-teamed on Sunday. But both days, Andy and Liz Ramsey skillfully brought up the rear.
Safety personnel including Craig Skeath and Ron Boyer from the Bassmasters Club joined us for the first time this year. Two of their guys also helped with shore support. So did Sunset Lions Mike Morrisey and Cindy Church. Rugh Henderson and George and Betty Conner made sure everyone was accounted for at registration and the end of each day. Tom Embich drove the 15 passenger shuttle at the end of each day. We also need to acknowledge the help provided by Frank Cetera, POWR (Pennsylvania Organizations of Watersheds and Rivers).
Food is always a popular topic when you've worked hard. Elmer King and other members from the Izaak Walton League were very popular as they served up bean soup and sandwiches at Saturday lunch on the Appalachian Trail Bridge, a pedestrian walkway that is part of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. At this stop, canoeists also had the opportunity to explore a Union Canal lock, part of a transportation system that once connected the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays via the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers. Sunday evening, Susan Parry baked some pretty fabulous lasagna. Not to be outdone, Bob and Mary Arnold hosted a deli-style lunch on Sunday. In short, we ate real good.
Saturday night we heard from Bill Simone who updated us on the Swatara State Park project. An executive summary of the Master Plan was distributed. Paul Zeph explained the Kittatiny Ridge project where eagles, hawks, and other birds have a major flyway that crosses the Swatara. Tom Embich explained the migratory fish program. "Vision Swatara" was this year's Sojourn theme, and these programs were perfect examples of how public participation helps to create a vision for the Swatara's future. Sunday, during lunch at Swatara Springs Farm, William Kochanov, a PA geologist, used a carpet to show how Africa pushed and folded rocks on our continent. His visuals also included items like a sea shell and piece of limestone upon which he placed a drop of acid. It bubbled. He explained that this is a way geologists identify limestone in the field. At any rate, the next outstanding feature we would encounter on the Swatara was Blue Rock. We learned that Blue Rock was a piece of pushed rock that flipped on end and slightly past center. William questioned its stability, and recommends not climbing this rock.
Some pranksters thought it would be fun to place one of our portable toilets in the Swattie. Unfortunately we had to wait seven miles until the next down-stream stop to use a facility. However, every cloud has a silver lining. Dave Ravegum was on shore support, and he called two fellows who left fire-fighting training to assist. George Motter brought his tow truck, and Lynn Johnson waded out into the stream to wrap the cable around the unit. Slowly, they winched the upright toilet back to road level. That's right, all of the chemicals were still in tact. We do have a great community of volunteers. It truly takes a TEAM effort to make positive things happen in our community. Many thanks to all--both the Sojourners and our sponsors:American Water Company, Bayer, Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority, Hershey Foods, Izaak Walton League, Simon Kettering, Lebanon County Bassmasters, Lebanon County Conservation District, Lebanon Valley Conservancy, Lebanon Water Authority, Leslie’s Ice Cream, Lickdale Camp Grounds, MetEd, POWR-PA Organization of Watersheds & Rivers, Ron's Beer Depot, Sunset Lions, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Swatara Creek Watershed Association, Swatara Springs Farm, Swatara State Park/DCNR, Trinity United Methodist Church, Lickdale, Union Canal Canoe Rentals, Weidle Sanitation, Wenger Feeds, and Wengert’s Dairy.
Special Recognition to our local media who consistently help us to promote the Swatara Sojourn: Lebanon Daily News, Patriot News, andWLBR/WQIC Radio