AP NEWS

RiverFest 2019 Aims To Teach Kids Conservation

May 12, 2019

SCRANTON — Sisters Juliette and Lexi Forrer scampered along the riverbank at Sweeney’s Beach, winding up to throw rocks and sticks as far as they could into the Lackawanna River on Saturday.

The siblings from Factoryville joined about 900 others as they enjoyed the Lackawanna River Conservation Association’s annual RiverFest.

“They want to do everything,” their mom, Shannon Forrer, said. “They want to see everything.”

Crouching down by the water, Juliette, 6, and Lexi, 5, stopped to wash some of the “dirty rocks” before tossing them into the water.

“I saw little fishies,” the younger sister added.

In addition to the “little fishies” in the Lackawanna River, more than 100 boaters trekked down the river for the annual Canoe-A-Thon race at RiverFest.

Featuring about 30 vendors and at least 10 educational booths, RiverFest 2019 aimed to spur a new generation of conservationists, LRCA Executive Director Bernie McGurl said.

“We’re focused on the next generation down here,” he said.

A.N.A. Critters, short for Another Noah’s Ark, of Lake Ariel aims to teach conservation through education, said founder Ana Dowe. The animal ambassador program and sanctuary takes in surrendered, rescued and formerly abused animals — often exotic ones. Moana, a 17-month-old Juliana pig with bristly gray fur, was the star of the show as she contentedly munched on straw while passersby stopped to pet her. Next to her was Bruce, a 35-year-old sulcata tortoise.

“It’s one thing to look at a book or even a TV program, but when you see an animal, you smell it, you connect with it, you look it in the eyes, you watch it breathe, you know that you’re dealing with another sentient being — another living creature,” Dowe said. “You’re going to want to do something about it to protect it. You’re going to want to learn a little more about it.”

RiverFest 2019 featured a “science ‘ology’ fair” encompassing 10 different “ologies,” including zoology, geology and restoration ecology, said Paul Bechtel, an environmental scientist and the LRCA board vice president.

With hands-on activities and a mix of educational opportunities, teaching kids to enjoy the environment is key, he said.

“That’s the most important aspect: If you don’t teach the kids at an early age to enjoy and respect the environment, they’re not going to when they get older, so we have to continue that cycle,” Bechtel said. “We have all ages represented down here.”

This year’s event also promoted recreation on the river, from biking to running to kayaking, Bechtel said.

“There’s a lot of ways to enjoy the watershed — that’s the goal we’re trying to explain this year,” he said.

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