Americorps: Making a Difference on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail

The Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority and NeighborWorks Northeastern PA recently co-hosted a dedicated group of young adults from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). Known collectively as Team Oak 8, they spent three transformative weeks in the beautiful outdoors of Lackawanna County and surrounding environs, doing various cleanup and maintenance projects along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail. This ambitious group cleared debris, enhanced trail sections, and beautified the surrounding green spaces.

“Their efforts not only enhanced the aesthetic appeal of the trail but also improved its safety and accessibility for the community,” said Owen Worozbyt, director of operations at LHVA. “The trail is now safer and more inviting.”  

The collaboration between LHVA, NeighborWorks, and Team Oak 8 highlights the power of community and perseverance. These projects not only improved the local environment but also fostered a sense of unity and purpose among the young workers and the residents they served.

“The AmeriCorps team has set a wonderful example of community service,” added LHVA Executive Director Joseph Corcoran. “Their enthusiasm and dedication have inspired all of us, and their impact will be felt long after they’ve left.”

As Team Oak 8 wrapped up their three-week stint, gratitude from walkers, joggers and bikers in Scranton and Carbondale was palpable. Their efforts have left an indelible mark on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, serving as a testament to the power of teamwork and the positive change it can bring to communities.

Marywood’s STARS Align Over the Lackawanna Heritage Valley

SCRANTON — At Marywood University, the STARS (Students Together Achieving Remarkable Success) Summer Camp is connecting Latino/a/x students with the rich history and vibrant natural landscapes of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley. The program personifies Marywood’s commitment to experiential learning and while focusing on Latinx youth, is open to all 7-12th grade students.

One sunny morning, a group of enthusiastic STARS participants gathered on campus, ready for a day of exploration. They were embarking on a unique field trip to the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, led by LHV Volunteer Coordinator John Morrow, who guided them on a walking tour from the Elm Street Trailhead to the Six Nation’s Ampitheater. John shared stories about the trail’s history, the efforts to maintain its natural beauty, and the importance of environmental stewardship. The students learned about the diverse flora and fauna that thrived along the river, and the critical role the trail played in connecting communities and promoting outdoor recreation.

A week later, the group headed to their next adventure: a ride on a historic trolley car at the Lackawanna County Electric City Trolley Station and Museum. The students climbed aboard a beautifully restored trolley car, eager to experience a piece of the past.

As the trolley car clattered along the tracks, a museum docent shared fascinating stories about the early days of trolley transportation in the region. The students learned about the Electric City’s nickname origins, tied to the early adoption of electric streetcars in Scranton. They discovered how trolleys had transformed the daily lives of residents, connecting people and places in ways that had been unimaginable before their advent. The journey was not just a trip through history but also a celebration of the community’s ongoing efforts to preserve and honor its heritage.

By the end of the day, the STARS had gained a deeper appreciation for the Lackawanna Valley’s unique history and natural beauty. The partnership between the STARS program and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley had provided them with a memorable educational experience, inspiring them to become stewards of their environment and advocates for their community’s heritage.

 

Heritage Express: A Sequel 20 years in the Making

SCRANTON — Twenty years have passed since the Heritage Express rolled out of the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railyards at the Steamtown National Historic Site. Now, more than 1,700 fourth-grade students are getting a chance to relive that magical journey through history woven into the fabric of the Lackawanna Valley. 

“Bringing back the Heritage Express is not just about reliving history but also inspiring the next generation to cherish our heritage,” explained Owen Worozbyt, director of operations for the Lackawanna Valley Heritage Authority.  Worozbyt and April Rogato, LHVA executive assistant, applied for a $24,000 grant from the National Park Foundation to revitalize the program. LHVA joined forces with the National Park Service, Northeast Educational Intermediate Unit 19, and the Lackawanna Historical Society to breathe new life into the day-long adventure.

Earlier this year, NPS rangers visited more than 20 schools and engaged students with a basic framework of the program, explaining the importance of railroads, anthracite coal mining, and the textile industry that helped fuel America’s Industrial Revolution. 

Every Thursday and Friday throughout May, groups of students take an in-depth tour of Steamtown, where the rangers guide them through the roundhouse, museum, and restoration/repair facilities. Excitement builds as they board a select train for a trip back into time, complete with costumed characters who step out of history books and provide fascinating context as the story unfolds.

The 90-minute excursion winds its way through former coal mining towns before arriving in Carbondale, the historic home of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company and the first deep-veined anthracite coal mine in the United States. Many youngsters marvel at the resilience of past generations who shaped the region’s history and left an indelible mark on the nation.

“The Heritage Express embodies our commitment to preserving the stories of our past and sharing them with the leaders of tomorrow,” said Joseph Corcoran, LHVA executive director. “This journey back in time is more than just facts and figures — it’s experiencing history in a way that leaves a lasting impression.”

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Volunteer Month sets the stage for a beautiful summer on the Heritage Trail

Volunteers from Flowserve in Moosic beautified the Elm Street Trailhead

 

April exhibited a remarkable burst of energy along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, as families, students and local businesses came together to celebrate National Volunteer Month. Fuelled by a passion for preserving nature and history, dozens of participants joined hands to make a significant environmental impact. Their efforts didn’t just beautify the trail; they created a sense of pride and ownership among the community, fostering a deeper connection to the region’s rich heritage and natural beauty. 

Students from the Scranton Preparatory School cleaned up debris along the river levees in Scranton.

Cleaning up litter and debris helps protect the natural habitat and prevents pollution of the Lackawanna River and surrounding ecosystem. A clean and well-maintained trail enhances the overall appearance of the trail and promotes a sense of pride among residents and visitors, reducing the risk of accidents and exposure to harmful substances, making it a safer and healthier place for recreational activities.

As April draws to a close, the LRHT gleams with renewed vitality, a testament to the collective spirit of volunteerism and stewardship

Thanks to all our volunteers for your invaluable contributions!

 

 

LHV Unveils Trail Friendly Business Program

Are you a trail-friendly business owner?

We are making it easier than ever for owners of small businesses to tap into a growing market of outdoor enthusiasts. The Lackawanna Heritage Trail-Friendly Business Program equips you with the tools necessary to cultivate stronger relationships with walkers, runners, cyclists, and others.

“The trail provides unlimited opportunities for recreation, alternative routes for transportation and natural pathways to health and well-being,” says Owen Worozbyt, LHVA director of operations, noting a recent study by Urban Partners of Philadelphia found that LRHT users are spending more money on everything from beverages, sandwiches and snack foods to footwear, clothing, and bike supplies.

Participants receive a free guidebook filled with best practices to foster success, including advice on promotions and marketing, business plan development and technical assistance. Business owners also get a “trail-friendly” window cling, and bike pumps and racks, if needed.

“Becoming ‘trail-friendly’ requires a minimal investment that can open a new revenue stream,” Worozbyt explains. “By putting out the welcome mat and adding a few amenities, small businesses can become sought-after destinations to accommodate this largely underserved population.”

More than 44 percent of 600 people who responded to a recent survey typically visited the trail for 1 to 2 hours, while 13 percent said they used it for more than 2 hours at a time. “The trail exists to connect people with communities,” he asserts. “Our goal is to establish a collaborative ‘trail-friendly’ network of enterprises that can meet the needs and embrace the diversity of the trail users they serve.”

For more information, contact April Rogato, arogato@lhva.org or (570) 963-6730 ext. 8200.

 

 

Lackawanna River Heritage Trail Adds Over $144 Million to Pennsylvania’s Surging Outdoor Economy

SCRANTON –– Visitors are spending more money on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, propelling Pennsylvania’s surging outdoor economy to even greater heights.

In 2022/23, the LRHT generated a statewide economic impact of $144.2 million, including $106.9 million in Lackawanna County, according to an analysis prepared for the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority by Urban Partners of Philadelphia. The report measured direct and indirect economic benefits and noted that spending by trail users increased 26 percent, adjusted for inflation, since the beginning of 2017.

  • The direct economic impact of the trail was $95.3 million for Pennsylvania and $78.1 million for Lackawanna County.
  • The indirect economic impact was $48.8 million and $28.8 million, respectively.

Those combined impacts created an estimated equivalent of 886 full-time jobs in the state, including 721 jobs in the county, generating $38.4 million in state wages and $26.2 million in county wages. The LRHT produced an estimated $4.5 million in state tax revenues and $666,000 in county tax revenues, according to the report.

“The economic vitality of the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail is a reflection of myriad additions and improvements made as we continue to increase accessibility and close gaps within the trail system,” said Joseph J. Corcoran, LHVA executive director. He cited recent developments at the Marvine Trail in Green Ridge/North End and Dickson City Trail, the Lackawanna Avenue Connector in Scranton and trail extensions at the Carbondale Riverwalk and D&H Rail Trail in Simpson. Combined with the D&H Rail-Trail, the LRHT spans nearly 70 miles in four counties of northeastern Pennsylvania.

The analysis found that only 5.5 percent of 600 people who responded to a user survey did not purchase any sundries on their trail trips — a significant decline from 53.3 percent in 2016 — indicating much more spending over the seven-years. Popular items were water/beverages, meals, sandwiches, and snacks. All told, the average trail user spent $23.73, adjusted for inflation, which was $14.12 higher than in 2016.

While 25.1 percent of respondents did not purchase non-consumable goods related to trail usage – compared to 29.1 percent in 2016 – trail users who did buy something spent mostly on footwear, clothing, bicycles, and bike supplies. Spending averaged $536.17, adjusted for inflation, up significantly from $337.72 in 2016.

There were approximately 231,000 visits to the LRHT in 2022/23, a decline of 27 percent which researchers partially attributed to the addition of new electric trail counters that did not exist in 2016, as well as other factors.

“We have witnessed COVID changing household habits and routines due to different work, school, and travel patterns. It is possible that trail usage reflects those changes,” said Chris Lankenau, principal of Urban Partners.

Not surprisingly, most trail users live in Lackawanna County. Usage still favors women (50.7 percent) to men (46.5 percent). More than 44 percent used the trail for 1-2 hours, a slight drop from 2016, but those who used the trail for more than 2 hours increased from nine percent to 13 percent. “More than two hours would be an especially long walk or run,” said Lankenau. “The survey does indicate that bike usage increased since 2016, so that may be a factor.”

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources values Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy at more than $13.6 billion, accounting for 152,000 jobs and 1.6 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product.

“We are thrilled that people, even in cost-conscious times, are prioritizing the value of creating unique user experiences on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail,” said Owen Worozbyt, LHVA director of operations. He noted the LRHT will soon unveil a trail-friendly business plan with cost-effective strategies to help owners of small businesses attract more trail users passing close to their doors.

 “Our investments are reaping tangible and intangible benefits for trail users and businesses who contribute to the growing outdoor economy in this vibrant northeastern corner of Pennsylvania,” he said.

LHV offers first round of 2024 Partnership Grants

SCRANTON – Is your organization dedicated to enhancing our region’s quality of life by contributing to a rich mosaic of abundant natural resources and thriving cultural, recreational, and historic treasures?

The Lackawanna Heritage Valley is seeking partners who share a passion to inform, educate or entertain residents and visitors alike through a variety of community-oriented projects. LHV’s Partnership Grant program offers up to $5,000 for eligible initiatives submitted by nonprofit and civic groups, schools, and governmental entities.

“Our selection process involves a thorough evaluation based on the project’s potential to create positive change within the National and State Heritage Area,” said April Rogato, LHV executive assistant. She noted the program requires a dollar-for-dollar match of the requested amount and applications are due by March 1st.

Some past recipients include the Anthracite Heritage Museum, Scranton Jazz Festival, First Friday Scranton, Waverly Community House, the Tripp House, Lackawanna Historical Society, and Everhart Museum of Natural History, Science and Art.

A tipsheet on how to submit a successful application is available by contacting Ms. Rogato at the LHV office, 213 Railroad Ave., Scranton, arogato@lhva.org or (570) 963-6730 ext. 8200.

New Year’s First Day-First People’s Walk


SCRANTON — The Lackawanna River Heritage Trail will host a “First Day-First People’s” Walk to usher in the New Year with the Rev. Rebecca A. Barnes, Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Scranton.

The January 1st journey of renewal begins at noon from the Elm Street trailhead in South Scranton and continues to the Six Nations Amphitheater. The two-mile, ADA-accessible stretch of trail pays tribute to local Native American history with a sculpture of a Haudenosaunee fisherman-chief and stone carvings of animals. Most of the trail’s surface is paved and well-suited for a moderately paced two-hour round trip. The event will include a service to honor the indigenous peoples who came to Scranton before it became Scranton.

“The beauty of nature is awe-inspiring and found in abundance along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail,’ said Owen Worozbyt, director of operations for the Lackawanna Valley Heritage Valley Authority. “This is a terrific way to start the New Year by getting outside, enjoying nature — and with the help of Mother Barnes — gaining a greater appreciation of nature’s gifts and a stronger sense of gratitude for our local heritage.”

Mother Barnes is a graduate of the General Theological Seminary, New York City, where she earned a Master of Divinity (Cum Laude) and a Master of Sacred Theology. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and German from Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York, and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. She is particularly drawn to social justice ministry, outreach, pastoral care, contemplative spirituality, and prayer.

After 25 years, LHVA is Still Steaming Strong with Santa(s)

With every hearty belch of gray smoke from a 1929 Baldwin 26 steam locomotive, the Santa Train chugged through the Lackawanna Valley on December 2nd, celebrating 25 years as one of our region’s most cherished holiday traditions.
But did you know that Santa Train is a team effort that includes six different St. Nicks from Carbondale, Archbald, Jessup, Olyphant, Dickson City, and Scranton? Each Santa boards the train just before pulling into the station, bringing a unique personality and charm to every community.
Spectators who crowded the stations enjoyed delicious treats such as cookies, hot dogs, popcorn, and pizza, all generously provided by local volunteers and partners who made this special event possible.
LHVA would like to thank the Steamtown National Historic Site, Delaware/Lackawanna Railroad, Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority, Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau, and the host of community organizations for making the 25th edition of the Santa Train one of the best-attended LHVA events in recent history.
We hope you enjoy this photo sampling of hometown Santas from Archbald, Carbondale, and Dickson City:

Toys for Tots and the Santa Train: A Great Time for A Great Cause

Sgt. Jason Dombrosky, USMC 2023 Toys for Tots Coordinator, joins members of the Santa Train planning committee at the Steamtown National Historic Site.

“It is in giving that we receive.”

Since 1947, the Marine Corps and Toys for Tots have been making a difference in the lives of American families. A few years ago, Lackawanna Heritage Valley extended this thoughtful campaign to the Santa Train, where children and their families are encouraged to bring an unwrapped new toy when they visit Saint Nick along his stops throughout the Lackawanna Valley.
Created by Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks and his wife, Diane, Toys for Tots became a national community action program in 1948. Hendricks worked for Warner Brothers Studios and got Walt Disney to design a poster featuring a miniature three-car train that became the iconic logo. Today, the Toys for Tots Foundation, founded in 1991, continues to run and support the program. It’s a heartwarming example of how compassion and community spirit can create magic during the holiday season.
The Santa Train started capturing the imaginations of local children in 1996. After taking a two-year respite during the pandemic, the train returned last year and will celebrate its 25th anniversary.
On Saturday, December 2nd, Santa, and his jolly caravan of merrymakers will be rolling along the historic Delaware and Hudson rail line in the upper and mid-valley communities before reaching its final destination at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton. While some special anniversary surprises are in store, children can participate in the gift of giving by bringing an unwrapped new toy to any of the passenger station drop boxes. The train schedule: 10:30 AM at, Carbondale; 11:35 AM at Archbald; 12:20 PM at Jessup; 1 p.m. at Olyphant; 1:45 PM at Dickson City; and 3 PM at Steamtown. At each stop, Santa will greet the children, and families are encouraged to assemble at their respective train stations before the scheduled arrival times.