On Saturday, members of Cadence Youth Cycling, including 14 youth 7 adults, will kick off a 3-day, 2-night biking and camping sojourn weekend along the Circuit.
This event is organized by Cadence Youth Cycling and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The purpose of the Sojourn is to explore a portion of the Circuit Trails, learn about local environmental organizations, watersheds, and have fun! will be attending this trip.
The ride will leave from Philadelphia, travel through Pottstown and stop for the night to camp in French Creek State Park. Eventually the group will go to Marsh Creek State Park, and travel back through Valley Forge to the Schuylkill River Trail.
Along the way, youth will be getting watershed education lessons from Tom McKeon of Rails-to-Trails and history lessons from one of the youth, Allen Williams, who’s done research and helped plan the route. Of the adults on the trip, three are bike mechanics and will be able to help if any bikes break down or need a tube change.
“My role has been to organize logistics for this trip, planning the route, making reservations, advising on lessons and activities for watershed topics, communicating with youth and parents, making sure all edges are smoothed over for a fun and happy time,” said Tom McKeon, Youth Engagement Coordinator at Rails-to-Trails.
“The idea for the sojourn trip came about when we brought the youth to Seattle for the Youth Bike Summit,” said Cy Maramangalam, Cadence Youth Cycling Program Manager. “At the bike summit, there were other organizations that had gone on bike tours with the youth and when our students saw that they said they wanted to bring that back to our region. And we were able to make it happen when we made the partnership with Rails-to-Trails.”
The 21 riders (14 youth 7 adults) will leave on Saturday, September 5 and return on Monday, September 7.
Summer vacation is in full swing, but troves of kids in the Philadelphia region aren’t putting learning on hold. Through watershed education programs on the Circuit, Philly students are connecting to their home turf in the get-your-hands-dirty kind of way.
Tom McKeon, youth engagement coordinator with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, is teaching watershed education curriculum to youth in the Philadelphia region. Working with a variety of partners, including the Asian Arts Initiative, Neighborhood Bike Works, Cadence Youth Cycling, Lloyd Hall Boathouse, TTF Watershed Partnership and the Wooden Boat Factory, allows McKeon’s brand of education to break from the mold. The groups he works with get a hands-on, real world experience, which allows education to be which allows outdoor education to be fun and memorable.
The Circuit’s access trails, such as Cobbs Creek Trail and Tacony Creek Trail have allowed McKeon to organize bike rides and hikes focused on local watershed topics. And because the connection to Philadelphia’s rivers and streams is such a central focus for many of the region’s residents, the on-trail watershed education is a no-brainer.
“Watersheds are important because their health impacts public and ecological health,” explains McKeon. “And the diversity of the Circuit makes these projects easy and fun,” says McKeon. “The Circuit really is the most effective way of running an outdoor program.”
Over the course of the summer, McKeon and his eager students share the wonders of benthic macro invertebrates, dig into issues like storm water runoff, and discuss the importance of healthy wetlands and riparian buffers. And the best part? The “lab,” “classroom” and “library” are all trailside.
For some students, the summer watershed education is the first introduction to the Circuit trails. It’s an assuming entrance point for youth in Philadelphia, and a taster of the incredible asset to which the region lays claim.
“I’ve seen how the Circuit is interwoven with Philadelphia culture,” explains McKeon. And the outreach that’s being done on the Circuit- by McKeon and others- that’s educating and inspiring the next generation of trail users.