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Loyalhanna Creek nominated for 2015 River of the Year | TribLIVE.com
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Loyalhanna Creek nominated for 2015 River of the Year

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, November 19, 2014 9:01 p.m.
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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
This historic swinging bridge crosses the Loyalhanna Creek in Ligonier.
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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
The Loyalhanna Creek near Ligonier.
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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
The public is invited to vote online for the Loyalhanna Creek through Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the 2015 Pennsylvania River of the Year, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state. Other nominees are Conewango Creek, Lackawanna River, Neshaminy Creek and the Ohio River. Voting continues through 5 p.m. Dec. 15.

Loyalhanna Creek is one of five Pennsylvania waterways nominated for 2015 River of the Year through the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds & Rivers.

Susan Huba executive director of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association submitted the local waterway for the honor but is looking for the community’s help to win the competition.

“This will be a great way to be recognized on the state level,” Huba said. “People have the opportunity to learn about the beauty of the environment and history of the area. Plus, if we win, we get $10,000. That’s a huge grant.”

The winning recipient will receive a $10,000 grant to promote the creek through various programs and events throughout the coming year.

“The people that live in this area are very passionate about the Loyalhanna,” Huba said. “It has been in their backyard since they were kids. Family members have grown up here with the stream.”

Huba will count on those local and visitors who return to the area year after year for fishing and boating.

Huba said the headwaters of the 41-mile-long Loyalhanna originate in the Laurel Highlands near Donegal.

The stream flows north to Ligonier before passing through the Loyalhanna Gorge through the Chestnut Ridge. The stream travels through Latrobe and Keystone State Park to Loyalhanna reservoir. The Loyalhanna meets the Conemaugh River at Saltsburg to form the Kiskiminetas River. That river flows into the Allegheny and on to the Ohio in Pittsburgh.

Other waterways in the competition are the Lackawanna River, Ohio River, Conewango Creek and Neshaminy Creek.

“If not for the Loyalhanna, the Ohio River would not be there. It flows into the Ohio,” Huba said.

Huba credits the many groups who partner with the watershed to make improvements to the stream.

Huba said winning the contest could help promote those partners as well.

“We plan to conduct the second Loyalhanna Creek Sojourn (a kayak trip on the creek), provide chartered bus tours of the Loyalhanna Creek Watershed, lead a river sweep clean up of the Loyalhanna Gorge and conduct free education programs including nature walks and fish surveys,” Huba said.

Thanks to the efforts to restore and improve the Loyalhanna Creek by conservation groups, state and federal agencies and local universities, the stream offers a selection of fishing opportunities, including a 1.5 mile delayed harvest section filled with trout and other locations to fish for pike, muskie and bass.

The Loyalhanna Creek Water Trail brochure, developed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council in partnership with the watershed, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers, was released this year providing a map and detailed guide of the stream from Ligonier to Saltsburg.

The water trail brochure is available at the watershed office on Andi Drive, the Laurel Highlands Visitor Bureau and the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Huba said efforts are ongoing to make the stream more user friendly.

“We want to create more stream access points,” Huba said.

Most recent improvements include two new boat launch areas in Ligonier. Both were constructed as projects by local Eagle Scouts. One stream access is located at the former ABC Motel property along Route 30 and another is located along Idlewild Hill Road, near the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum. Both have parking areas.

“It is nice to see people recognize the Loyalhanna as an unknown gem,” Huba said. “I love to have people support the work done along the Loyalhanna by voting for it, so it can be even more recognized It is a deserving stream.”

To vote for the Loyalhanna Creek, go to pariveroftheyear.org. Voting continues through 5 p.m. Dec. 15.

As of Nov. 17, more than 1,600 votes were posted. The Loyalhanna Creek was in the lead with 38 percent, the Lackawanna River — 33 percent; the Ohio River — 19 percent; the Conewango Creek — 7 percent and The Neshaminy Creek and Watershed — 3 percent.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or dbrehun@tribweb.com.

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