Paddling the Gap

JOHNSTOWN — “The Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail is one of our region’s best kept recreation secrets,” said Laura Hawkins, Greenway Coordinator for the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy.

That water trail is currently nominated for River of the Year. But prior to its recognition the river caught the eye of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, something for which Hawkins is grateful.

“The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies understands the role of low-impact recreation in the economic development opportunities for our region.  Recreational access to the Conemaugh Gap holds tremendous potential, along with our other natural, historic, and cultural assets, for attracting and retaining our talented youth in the region,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins recently applied for a grant through the Foundation to help fund the Conemaugh Gap River Project. They received $1,400 to help increase recreational use of the Conemaugh River, particularly the Conemaugh Gap between Johnstown and Seward, where there had not been an official take-out point when paddling through the gorge.

”The Conemaugh River is such a tremendous asset to our region, but in order for people to enjoy it they need to be able to access it,” said Angie Berzonski, Program & Communications Officer for the Foundation. “This is a great example of how a small grant can make a big impact for hundreds of people every year.”

“The Conemaugh Valley Conservancy developed a public canoe-kayak take-out in Seward to encourage recreational paddling on the scenic Conemaugh Gap,” said Hawkins. “There are several places to access the Conemaugh River in Johnstown and with the new access in Seward people can paddle 15, 11, or 8 miles through the gorge. The launch area is primitive but provides a turnaround area as well as space to park a car for shuttling.”

The access is located at the end of Pine Street in Seward, and although it is open for public use now, Hawkins said the CVC will officially introduce the site on the first day of their annual river sojourn on June 2, 2016. However, she adds that it’s already made an impact.

“Aside from improving quality of life for residents, this project, and recreation on the Conemaugh, is part of many efforts CVC and others are making to help our area benefit from our considerable natural features,” said Hawkins. “I personally love this project and what it will do for the area.”

According to Hawkins, the new access makes it easier for area residents and visitors to experience one of the deepest gorges in Pennsylvania, and one with a very storied past. To read more about Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail click on river.

To apply for a grant or for additional details, log on to the Foundation’s website or email Angie Berzonski.

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