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'Last Paddle Trip' hails Monongahela honor

| Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Rayanne Mentzer of Monongahela and Ursula Smith of Elizabeth stand next to a Captain Morgan statue on Smith's boat, the Ursula, at the Monongahela Aquatorium Rockin' on the Mon concert July 27 in Monongahela.

When the aptly named Last Paddle Trip is held next month, it will be the final opportunity for the river of the year to be showcased.

These paddling trips are part of a yearlong celebration of the Monongahela being designated as Pennsylvania's 2013 River of the Year, a designation voted on by the public and bestowed by the DCNR and Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, noted Davitt Woodwell, vice president for Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

The Last Paddle Trip will be held Sept. 7, spanning the river from Charleroi to Monongahela. The cost for the 9.5-mile trip is $20 for adults and $15 for children under the age of 15.

The cost includes water, Gatorade, snacks, a lunch, shuttle service, educational presentations, a commemorative T-shirt and insurance for the day.

Participants must provide their own boat or can rent one. Wilderness Voyageurs is renting boats and can be reached at 800-272-4141 or 724-329-1000.

The first sojourn on the Monongahela River was held in Point Marion. On Saturday, a guided paddling trip was held between Brownsville and California. The trip launched at Brownsville's Public Wharf and was taken out at California's public river access.

Each of the four sojourns accommodates about 25 participants and is led by members of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council people and staff from Wilderness Voyageurs. The river of the year designation was formerly chosen by a committee. But in recent years, it has been selected by voting from across the state. Pennsylvania's Organization for Watersheds and Rivers oversees the voting.

“Getting river of the year shows a lot of people in the community care about the river,” Woodwell said. “I want to see it promoted, used more, understood more and address issues it may have, such as water quality, land use, more access points, do you want to do more with interpreting it, and water quality issues.”

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is a statewide, nonprofit environmental organization which works on such issues as storm water, trails, ecotourism, energy and climate.

Participants can sign up for the paddle trip on line at

These trips are part of the River Town Program, a community and economic development project of Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The River Town Program, a project of Pennsylvania Environmental Council, helps communities to recognize the river as an asset around which potential community and economic development can occur, and thus a resource worthy of protection. For PEC, this program serves as a model for implementing collaborative solutions to environmental protection and restoration.

Woodwell said river sojourns are held each year, sponsored by trail and watershed groups and DCNR. Some sojourns extend over several days and involve camping as well.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council generally promotes sojourns across the state each year. But for 2013, the group is only involved with the sojourns along the Monongahela River.

A sojourn is a way to bring attention to recreational opportunities afforded by Pennsylvania's rivers and streams,” said Woodwell.

“It's one way to draw attention to them, to their benefits as well as issues like water conservation and habitat.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or