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Outdoorsy Pennsylvanians are linked by the Lackawaxen River Trails Project

The White Mills River Access Park opened to the public on Oct. 27.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
The White Mills River Access Park opened to the public on Oct. 27.

Communities around the Lackawaxen River are connected by new water access sites for paddling, fishing, and other water sports.

On Friday, organizers opened White Mills River Access Park – Wayne County’s first handicap accessible access to the Lackawaxen River. Tiffany Schemitz-Dzwieleski spoke on the behalf of her late father, Rudy Schemitz, who provided the needed land.

“It’s my family’s desire that the community benefits from this, enjoys this, uses this for generations to come. We know we won’t be here forever, but it’s a matter of making it better for the people who take charge going forward,” said Schemitz-Dzwieleski.

She is excited how the access point will help the community plan for an upcoming race.

“The Honesdale Area Jaycees are going to love this for the canoe race. We get over a hundred paddlers in the spring. So, this is going to be a wonderful reason to bring even more people into the area. And to, y’know, enjoy the beauty of Wayne County,” said Schemitz-Dzwieleski.

A sign beside the water access point displays information on fly fishing.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
A sign beside the water access point displays information on fly fishing.

Through experiencing nature’s beauty, Wayne County Chairman Brian Smith said the park will enrich early education.

“Our kids in school can learn at a very young age to walk along the river, go down and see what the fish are like, go down and see what the crustaceans are like, the microinvertebrates. They’re learning science. But they’re also learning to enjoy life at the same time,” said Smith.

Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), said the water access will be invaluable to community safety during warmer months.

“In the heat of summer, people are going to be seeking water recreation in ways they never have. People are going to be wading, getting into the water, swimming – just trying to cool off. And the more access we can have to rivers and water across Pennsylvania, the better off we’re going to be,” said Adams Dunn.

The Lackawaxen River is 31.3 miles long.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
The Lackawaxen River is 31.3 miles long.

The White Mills Park is not Wayne County’s first Lackawaxen River access point. There is already one open at Bingham Park in Hawley as part of the Lackawaxen River Trails project. Two additional access sites are planned, one in Honesdale and the other in Indian Orchard. Organizers have not announced a timeline for completion, according to Chairman Brian Smith.

The project is part of the Wayne Pike Trails & Waterways Alliance, which hopes to connect communities along the Lackawaxen River by water and trails. However, plans for a walking trail running through Pike County stalled due to low public support from Lackawaxen Township residents.

Organizers and outdoors enthusiasts leave the opening event for White Mills River Access Park.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
Organizers and outdoors enthusiasts leave the opening event for White Mills River Access Park.

Funding for the White Mills access point came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the PA Fish and Boat Commission’s (PFBC) Boating Facility Grant Program, which gave around $120,000 dollars, DCNR provided $158,000 dollars, and local fundraising brought in an additional $37,000 dollars.

Isabela Weiss is a storyteller turned reporter from Athens, GA. She is WVIA News's Rural Government Reporter and a Report for America corps member. Weiss lives in Wilkes-Barre with her fabulous cats, Boo and Lorelai.

You can email Isabella at isabelaweiss@wvia.org