THERE ARE people who disparage the Susquehanna, convinced it is a cesspool of effluence and pollution.
There are those who fear it, remembering its destructive flooding force, it’s ability to wipe out a lifetime’s work and memories, and even a life.
There are those who forget it exists until forced to cross a bridge, more likely to grumble at traffic or construction than admire the river’s serenity.
And there are those who toil tirelessly to celebrate it, to reconnect the us to it, to remind all that the river is the reason we are here. Humans came to Wyoming Valley because the Susquehanna offered transportation, sustenance, constant replenishment.
Yes, they acknowledge, the river is less than pure and more than dangerous. But it is also a source of recreation and contemplation. Cast a line, paddle a kayak, skip a rock, lounge on the shoreline, stroll the forest … Fear it if you must, proponents argue, but do not let fear of its infrequent rage rob you of its daily bounty.
Surely, to the tireless supporters of the Susquehanna the battle often seems uphill. Riverfront Parks Committee Executive Chairman John Maday tacitly conceded as much, painting the annual RiverFest in part as part classroom to educate people about the river. The festival lures with dragon boat races, river floats, food, bands and other entertainment.
“You need to get people in their seats before you teach them something,” Maday said recently.
And getting people to reconnect to the river is the best bet for mitigating problems that keep them away, Riverfront Parks Committee President Vinnie Cotrone rightly reasoned. “Part of RiverFest is really bringing people’s attention to the river so they’re not thinking of it as something dirty … The way we clean the river up is to get more people to use it.”
It is precisely the decision to ignore the river that makes it possible to allow pollution problems — and contrary to popular belief, they have been greatly mitigated — to persist. Writing off the river as a lost cause is not a statement of fact, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So here’s a nod to people like Maday and Cotrone and many volunteers and supporters who make things happen on the Susquehanna. Kudos to companies and organizations that contribute to the cause, including those who sponsored a Dragon Boat this past weekend, the long vessels that decorated the river Sunday.
Because in the end, the river is what we make it. And it is the commitment and vision of those people who contribute who make it better for all of us.