The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District commander saluted the efforts of Shenango River Watchers and other organizations during a recent trail dedication ceremony at the New Hamburg River Access Point at Shenango Lake.
Col. Bernard Lindstrom, district commander, commended the devotion of the river watchers and its partners who raised more than $140,000 to repair a deteriorated access road, improve parking, and enhance the loading and unloading area at the access point.
“This is a micro-example of public-private partnerships where federal, state, and local partners came together to provide a recreation benefit to a region that was previously unusable,” Lindstrom said. “None of us could have done this individually, but we got together and we got it done.”
The dedication represented the culmination of seven years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance on the part of the Shenango River Watchers. The project has become a prime example of a successful public-private partnership and demonstrates what can be achieved if people persevere.
Members of the river watchers raised the renovation money through grants and donations. They held public meetings, met with 80 landowners along the river, and obtained permits from state and federal agencies. As a result, the 22-mile section is now officially designated as the Upper Shenango River Water Trail, and meets the requirements as part of the Pennsylvania Water Trail System.
One of the requirements of the water trail system is to have launch sites at reasonable distances to one another, with safe, accessible put-in and take-out options.
In 2007, the Shenango River Watchers began the process of clearing the Shenango River of snags and blockages between Pymatuning State Park and the Big Bend Access Area of Shenango Lake. Then in 2012, they set their sights on developing an access point at New Hamburg, halfway between Shenango’s Kidds Mill Park and the Big Bend Access Area. After leasing the property from the district, through the use of in-kind services, river watchers raised $25,000 to complete the project. Improvements included repairs to a deteriorated gravel access road, improved parking and loading-unloading areas, and signage.
When asked about the process of completing the replacement and renovations of the access point, parking and other areas, Hugh Clark, a Shenango River Watchers board member, said it was in no way an easy process, but it was worth the effort.
“It is not a linear process,” Clark said. “You’ll circle back on yourself, run furiously in place at times, experience setbacks, and have the rules change while you’re playing the game. Take no notice of total elapsed time, just persevere. This is a game that goes to the steady, not to the swift.”
Although the partnership and task was not easy, it was successful.
“This type of partnership should be immolated throughout the country,” Lindstrom said. “Could you imagine what we could accomplish using this partnership as a model.”