French Creek is state's top river for 2022

Dec. 29—2022 was a year to remember for French Creek, which has served as Pennsylvania's River of the Year for the past 12 months.

The impact of the title was significant, according to Brenda Costa, executive director of French Creek Valley Conservancy, the nonprofit that nominated the creek and coordinated activities throughout the year after the nomination proved successful.

Nearly 1,500 people participated in and volunteered for those events, many of them new to FCVC activities and from outside the Meadville and Crawford County area, Costa said.

"It demonstrated that we're really getting regional and statewide recognition," she added. "It was a lot of work but there was far more benefit than we ever imagined. It really put a spotlight on our region and made people more aware of our conservation work."

The creek was named River of the Year in late 2021 by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers. In an online vote that was part of the process, French Creek received nearly half of approximately 14,000 votes cast, about double the votes received by the Monongahela River, its nearest competition.

The title came with a $10,000 grant to fund a full slate of activities celebrating the biological diversity and recreational opportunities of the river's watershed. The recognition also coincided with the 40th anniversary of French Creek Valley Conservancy, the land trust that protects more than 3,000 acres in that watershed.

The highlight of the year's activities came in June with a paddling sojourn from Bicentennial Park in Meadville to Shaw's Landing near Cochranton that drew more than 150 participants — including DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.

"Pennsylvania is a beautiful state with amazing waterways, and today I am pleased to paddle one of the commonwealth's best bodies of water, French Creek, to celebrate the tremendous 2022 River of the Year honor," Dunn said at the time. "Special thanks to the French Creek Valley Conservancy and its volunteers for protecting the creek throughout the year. That work is critical to community leadership driving conservation and providing valuable recreation opportunities to the public."

Later in the summer, another highlight allowed creek enthusiasts to not just get on the water, but to explore underneath the surface.

"My favorite event was the snorkeling event," Costa recalled. "It was great that people got a chance to take a peek under the surface and see all the diversity — it demonstrates why we're doing this work to protect French Creek."

Even after a year in the spotlight, the thrill continues for Costa.

"I still feel a sense of pride that people voted for French Creek," she said,"and that they feel such a connection for French Creek."

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at