The Lehigh River Watershed Fund was established earlier this year to support the efforts of nonprofit organizations, charitable programs and projects, with priorities that include education, promoting outdoor recreation, and protecting and preserving our precious natural resources.
The fund was shaped with input and an initial gift from Dennis DeMara, former director of the county’s Mauch Chunk Lake Park who has spent much of his professional life working in conservation. Additional support has come from the owners of the four rafting companies serving the Lehigh Gorge (Jim Thorpe River Adventures, Pocono Whitewater, Whitewater Challengers, and Whitewater Rafting Adventures). Each company has pledged their support to help grow the fund and may participate in helping to advise grants to the community.
When approximately 85 attendees were surveyed last month at the Community Foundation’s Nonprofit Forum, Carbon County’s high-quality environment was cited as top among its greatest assets. “People value the clean water, wildlife, and scenic beauty of our region,” said CCCF Executive Director Amber Breiner. “We can’t afford to be anything less than visionary when it comes to preserving and enhancing our natural resources.”
With so much nature in abundance, one may wonder, what is the need for the fund? Much has been accomplished to restore and preserve the quality of our natural resources, yet much remains to protect them and prevent further deterioration. Wildlands Conservancy has detailed recommendations for conservation priorities in their 2018 Lehigh River Watershed Conservation Management Plan, which include projects in waterway and habitat restoration, land protection, education, and outdoor recreation.
According to the 2018 Return on Environment study published by the Kittatinny Coalition, our scenic natural resources provide ecosystem services—such as water filtration and air pollution removal—that would otherwise cost many millions of dollars. Further, our environment generates revenues through regional tourism and outdoor recreation, and value added to real estate premiums. Its resources have sustained our small towns and rural communities as well as the millions of people who live nearby and downstream.
The website of the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development, who partnered on the study, states:
The biggest challenge facing Carbon County is promoting sustainable economic growth while maintaining its high quality of life, low cost of living, good health, and the unique sense of place that has been the region’s hallmark for hundreds of years. The careful protection, management, and use of its natural resources are essential to the long-term sustainability of nature and the local and regional economies.
CCCF’s executive director offers high praise for the professionalism of area conservation organizations. “By necessity, conservation projects often have long timelines and require a high-degree of public and private collaboration and I have been very impressed with local efforts,” said Amber Breiner. “The Foundation is honored that many of the environmental nonprofits making a difference in Carbon County have chosen to support the launch by donating their time and services to our outreach programs this year and we look forward to supporting the good work they are doing in our region in the future.”
The Foundation is hosting a series of collaborative outreach events aimed at getting people outdoors to enjoy the beauty of nature and begin to raise awareness and funds. Any proceeds generated from these events are designated for the fund. In addition to or in lieu of attending an event, community members who care about Carbon County’s natural resources are encouraged to make a donation via cccfoundpa.org/watershed-fund/ or by including the fund in their will or estate plan.
Event details below. Each event has specific registration instructions, however, contact the Foundation with questions regarding any event: 1-855-545-1311 or email@example.com.
Tuesday, June 4 – Kick-Off Reception & Ride 4pm-6:30pm @ Lehighton Outdoor Center
Join us as we celebrate and officially launch the Lehigh River Watershed Fund! Hear from Dr. Abigail Pattishall, Vice President of Conservation at Wildlands Conservancy, on the state of the Lehigh River Watershed, and stick around after to take a scenic bike ride on the D&L with D&L Trail Programs Manager, Brian Greene. LOC is donating bikes for the ride from 5:30-6:30 and light refreshments will be provided during the networking/presentation from 4-5pm. FREE, but RSVP in advance required. More info and registration at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lehigh-river-watershed-fund-launch-event-tickets-61698838888
Sunday, June 9 – River Explorers Family Rafting Trip 11:45am-5pm @ Pocono Whitewater Rafting
The perfect introduction to the Lehigh River for the whole family! Raft the historic and scenic section of river from Jim Thorpe to Lehighton (approx. 1.5-2 hours). This stretch is pretty leisurely, but includes a few rapids along the way to keep things interesting. Picnic lunch included after rafting, then join Wildlands Conservancy staff naturalists to explore the Lehigh River in a whole new way with snorkeling and an aquatic wildlife survey.
Registration: Call 1-800-WHITEWATER (1.800.944.8392) or 570.325.3654 to make your reservation. Let them know you are booking for the Carbon County Community Foundation trip OR give reservation number – 348317 Rates: $39.99 per child (age 4-12) and $49.99 (age 13+) SPACE IS LIMITED!
Pocono Whitewater and Wildlands Conservancy have generously donated their services and proceeds from this trip are designated to benefit the Lehigh River Watershed Fund, a fund of the Carbon County Community Foundation.
Thursday June 20 – The Long Pond Barrens Nature Walk 7pm-8:30pm @ The Long Pond Preserve (off Route 115)
Located in our backyard, the Barrens in Long Pond are unique in the entire world. They hold the highest concentration of globally rare species in PA and fire is essential to the long-term maintenance of this community. In 1992, The Nature Conservancy declared the Long Pond Barrens one of the “Last Great Places” and opened one of the very first community offices in Blakeslee. Come learn how the long-range plan for conservation has unfolded in this exceptional place. Registration: Space is limited and registration is required. To register, contact Jenny Case at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 570.643.7922 ext. 325. Please dress appropriately for the weather and for walking on uneven ground. Program is free, but donations to the Lehigh River Watershed Fund are welcome. Please arrive 15 minutes prior to the event for check-in. Directions and additional information will be provided when registering for event.
Sunday, June 23 – Premier Whitewater Rafting 9:40am-2:40pm* @ Whitewater Challengers
Head out for Whitewater Rafting for a good cause on June 23rd (a dam release weekend)! Spend 3-4 hours on exciting class 2-3 rapids in the scenic Lehigh Gorge State Park. Ages 9+, $65 per person Registration: Call 800-443-8554 to book for the 9:40 check-in time. Make sure to mention the event code, CCCF2019 Bring a lunch or purchase one on site; $6 wet suit rentals *Please note: End Time is an approximation Whitewater Challengers have generously designated all proceeds from this trip to benefit the Lehigh River Watershed Fund, a fund of the Carbon County Community Foundation.
Tuesday, July 2 – Cookout at Whitewater Rafting Adventures 4:30-7:30pm
Choose your own adventure at our cookout for a cause! This family-friendly event will feature:
• Picnic-style food (grilled chicken, burgers, hotdogs, etc.)
• Smoothies by Purple Green Juice Bar
• Live music by the Sound Birds and friends
• Unlimited zipline rides donated by WRA (must be age 10+)
• Stand-up paddle board demo by LL Bean (bring a swimsuit!)
• Live raptors and nature-based activities provided by Carbon County Environmental Education Center and others
Registration: $25 kids, $50 adults. Tickets must be purchased in advance online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cookout-at-whitewater-rafting-adventures-tickets-61870782175
Whitewater Rafting Adventures, Purple Green, Sound Birds, LL Bean, CCEEC and others have generously donated their services.
Learn more about the fund at cccfoundpa.org/watershed-fund
photos by Cleo Fogal