MONT CLARE PA and PHOENIXVILLE PA – Southeastern Pennsylvania organizations dedicated to waterway preservation, environmental sustainability and the area’s industrial heritage are collaborating to create the first-ever Schuylkill River Shad Festival, scheduled for April 30 (2011; Saturday) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at three sites in Mont Clare and Phoenixville PA.
The Schuylkill Canal Association, Phoenixville Green, the Phoenix Iron Canal and Trail Association, Phoenixville Area School District, and Phoenixville Area Historical Society all are primary organizers of the festival, joined by a wide range of businesses, community groups, educators, entertainers and vendors who are dedicating their time for what is hoped to be the launch of an annual event.
The Shad Festival has been in various stages of planning since last October (2010).
The festival observes the role shad fishing and harvesting played in commercial and residential development along the Schuylkill River, which ultimately led to riverside communities that are thriving and enjoying a rebirth today. It also “celebrates the return of the American Shad up the Schuylkill River,” thanks to construction of a fish ladder at Phoenixville’s Black Rock Dam built by Exelon Generation in cooperation with Chester County Parks, said SCA’s Executive Director Betsy Daley.
Festival activities will operate simultaneously at three specific sites:
- Lock 60 on the Schuylkill Canal in Mont Clare PA (Montgomery County);
- Taylor Alley in Phoenixville PA (Chester County), along French Creek; and
- Black Rock Sanctuary and the Black Rock Dam Fish Ladder in Phoenixville.
The festival’s opening also is planned to coincide with the launch of Bike Schuylkill, a free bicycle sharing program to be operated from Phoenixville. It intends to encourage healthful, leisurely, and environmentally conscious exploration of the borough and the expanding Montgomery and Chester counties’ trail system that substantially follows the river and its tributaries.
At Lock 60
Lock 60, the only functional lock of the Schuylkill Canal, is among the prime visitor attractions and historic jewels of Mont Clare and Phoenixville. Located in Mont Clare adjacent to the Schuylkill River in Upper Providence Township, on the north side of PA Route 29 (Bridge Street), it is owned by Montgomery County and carefully preserved and maintained in part by volunteers of the Schuylkill Canal Association.
During the festival at Lock 60, the association will host a spring float down-and-back on the Schuylkill River and Canal known as the LoopFest, a guided, 5-mile water trail loop paddle. Two guided paddles will be scheduled. The association will coordinate several water sports activities, including the LoopFest, fishing derby, boat rentals and demonstrations.
The Locktender’s House will be open, and lock openings will be scheduled along with history displays that highlight the navigation system and its impact on the American Shad river population.
At Taylor Alley
Taylor Alley in downtown Phoenixville runs parallel to, and a block north of Bridge Street, between North Main and Mill streets. It has served for decades as a site that reflected the changing nature of commerce in Phoenixville, from heavy industry to retailing. Most recently it plays host during spring, summer and fall to the Phoenixville Farmers Market.
Activities on Taylor Alley, organized by Courtney Johns-Harvey, including informational displays from several community organizations, face painting, balloons, a Phoenixville Historical Society exhibit, musical performances, Lenni Lenape Indian demonstrations, and a general store.
Visitors to the alley also will be introduced to Bike Schuylkill. Ten of its free-to-use bicycles will be available, and a bike tour will be offered to allow all three Shad Festival locations to be visited without having to use a car. The bicycle program is sponsored by the Phoenixville Community Development Corp. Green Team, better known as “Phoenixville Green,” which formed in 2009 to promote environmental sustainability within the borough.
At Black Rock Dam and Black Rock Sanctuary
As the American Shad returns to the Schuylkill River and its adjacent and adjoining waterways, the Black Rock Dam Fish Ladder will be an instrumental component in fish travel and their ability to flourish and thrive. The dam and sanctuary are located on PA Route 113 (Black Rock Road), just a third-mile northeast of Lock 60 and only 1.8 miles northeast of the center of downtown Phoenixville.
The Phoenix Iron Canal and Trails Association will host tours of the Fish Ladder and coordinate with Chester County Parks to provide an educational tour of the sanctuary, a haven for birds of all species and a part of the ecosystem in which the American Shad plays such an important role.
At All Locations
Public amenities and services will be available either on site or nearby. Area vendors have announced plans to provide a wide variety of delicious and satisfying edibles for festival patrons at customary prices.
The inaugural Schuylkill River Shad Festival promises a full day of fun, excitement, history, education and exploration into the impact the American Shad population had on the Phoenixville-Mont Clare area in years past, and a glimpse of what it can mean for the area’s future as well.