This year, Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) will be joining us at the festival for the first time. We asked the organization to tell us a little more about their work, and we got this reply from PRKN intern Madison Upperman, a rising junior at Shenandoah University. Thanks, Madison!
Did you hear about the Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) at your school?
I was introduced to PRKN by a professor at Shenandoah University who told me about an internship opportunity. Before that, I had never heard of the group. I did a little research and learned that PRKN is run by people working to protect the public's right to clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and their tributaries. This is a goal I share, so I applied for the internship. Within 36 hours of applying, I heard from the president of PRKN. I've only been in the program for a short time, and I hope to learn more about how to advocate for clean water—for drinking, for wildlife and for recreation.
What is the history of the group?
Celebrating its 50th year anniversary, the Clean Water Act is a federal law enacted to restore the nation’s waters back to their prime biological, chemical, and physical states. PRKN was founded in 2000 by local members of the community who saw a need for more enforcement on all levels of government for clean water protection. PRKN relies on the “citizen suit provision” of the Clean Water Act, which allows an organization to file a lawsuit against a polluter who has allegedly violated the clean water act.
PRKN members are thought of as the “eyes, ears, voice and experts of the rivers” as they protect the public's right to access clean water. The organization relies on the knowledge and talent of many individuals from volunteers to scientists to fishermen to law officers. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, PRKN is hosting events throughout 2022—from paddling to snorkeling and tubing.
What area does PRKN oversee?
We have three full-time rivekeepers; one of them oversees the Potomac River from Harpers Ferry to Point Lookout, MD, where the river empties into the Chesapeake Bay. This means protecting aquatic life (including bottlenose dolphins that visit the river every summer), as well as monitoring the quality of the river as drinking water for millions of local residents and as a recreational place where people come to boat, fish and hike.
Another of our riverkeepers, oversees the Upper Potomac River's north and south branches that converge in Greenspring, WV. This section of the river is a popular spot for trout fishing, hiking, whitewater kayaking and other outdoor adventures.
Our third river keeper, monitors the Shenandoah River, with its two north and south branches running 100 miles before they meet in Front Royal. Then, the river continues to join the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry. This watershed not only provides rich soils for farming, but also supports a wide variety of species, including white-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, eastern brook trout, red-tailed hawks, and the endangered Shenandoah salamander. It's also known as one of the best destinations for small-mouth bass fishing.
Why are you attending the Round Hill A.T. Festival?
Walking on the Appalachian Trail in this area, hikers can see the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in different spots. We want these people to be able to look out on the water and see waterfowl and other wildlife enjoying clean water, not suffering from pollution. At this A.T. Festival, I want to help spread the word about PRKN and its work.
How can others get involved in supporting PRKN’s work?
We have many opportunities for volunteering, including helping to monitor water quality or participating in a stream cleanup. You can also help just by joining as a member. You can find information about becoming a member and volunteering on our website, www.potomacriverkeepernetwork.org.
Round Hill AT: Join us in bringing together local friends and family to get outside. Let’s discover our amazing backyards — from national treasures like the Appalachian Trail to new local and regional parks.