By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
MONT CLARE >> The community’s invited to travel along the Schuylkill River for a good cause and possibly get front row seats of a man paddling while wearing a dress.
The 2nd annual Schuylkill Canal Fundraiser Paddle is Aug. 5 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Lock 60. The Schuylkill Canal Park is located at 400 Towpath Road in Mont Clare, off of Route 23.
The Take it Outdoors Adventure Group is hosting the evening paddle that starts at the lock’s boat launch. It includes a 5-mile loop along the canal, peaceful enough for beginners to enjoy. The cost is $25 to register and $45 if a kayak rental is needed.
“Lock 60 has an amazing crew of volunteers who selflessly donate their time, equipment and money to keep the canal functioning,” said Doug Chapman, owner of the adventure group, in a press release. “It is because of the hard work and commitment of the Schuylkill Canal Association volunteers who spend thousands of dollars in man hours and equipment clearing trees out of the canal that we are able to navigate the waters.”
Last year, about $2,000 was raised through the event and the money was used to purchase new tree removal equipment. Chapman said they exceeded their goal which resulted in an amusing clothing choice. After such a successful fundraiser, Chapman sported a dress while traveling the canal loop on a standup paddleboard.
“Everyone loved it. It was definitely fun,” he said adding that plenty of people witnessed the evidence when photos were published in the newspaper.
Like last year, Chapman has agreed to wear a dress once again while paddling if their goal of $1,500 is reached during at this year’s event.
Paddle participants will not only have the possible pleasure of seeing Chapman in a dress but will also score some free beer. Individuals over the age of 21 will receive a free Sly Fox beer at the event and a voucher for a free beer at Sly Fox’s Phoenixville or Pottstown locations.
Another benefit to the evening is the actual paddle along the Schuylkill Canal. Schuylkill River Heritage Area communications director Laura Catalano got the chance to travel the canal loop for the first time at last year’s fundraiser.
“I was pretty impressed with how scenic it was,” she said. “It’s on the only watered section of the canal that you can really travel on.”
Catalano said she enjoyed paddling on the historic canal.
“That’s a really strong piece of the (Schuylkill) River’s history,” she said.
Chapman said the canal is a huge asset to the community and he often uses the water for his Wednesday night paddles with the adventure group. He said the location is special because it’s the only remaining operational lock along the Schuylkill River.
“It’s a link to our past,” he said.
A navigation company built the Schuylkill Canal in around 1816 to transport goods such as coal to Philadelphia, according to the Schuylkill Heritage Area website www.schuylkillriver.org. It covered 108 miles. Canal locks such as Lock 60 in Mont Clare were part of a series of gates to allow boats to pass from one level of water to another.
The Schuylkill Canal and Navigation was successful for many years until the opening of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad which eventually ended the canal’s transportation services.
After years of neglect, the state almost filled in the canal in 1860. A group of local citizens organized volunteers to help maintain the canal at low costs which is how the Schuylkill Canal Association came to be.
Find out more about the canal fundraiser and register at www.takeitoutdoorsadventures.com/adventures/schuylkill-canal-fund-raiser-paddle or call 610-656-3969.
To learn more about the Schuylkill Canal Association, visit schuylkillcanal.org.