Charlie Urban, 91, of Kingston, Pennsylvania founded the Susquehanna River Watch in 1972 in an attempt to combat illegal dumping and pollution of waterways in the Wyoming Valley. Since its founding, the River Watch has been responsible for the organization and promotion of hundreds of cleanup efforts, fundraising events, and educational programs for children.
In 2020, due to dwindling membership and the passing of several leaders within the group, the Susquehanna River Watch was virtually non-existent.
Around that time I met long-time member Gere Reisinger, 73, who continued to police and clean up waterways in and around the Wyoming Valley. We bonded over our concern for Kirby Park: particularly the 100 acres of forested land adjacent to the park on the opposite side of the levee, often referred to as the Olmstead Trail. We both knew that this area was a hot-bed for illegal dumping and drug-related crime; further, clogged channels from the buildup of natural debris posed a huge risk for future flooding in the Wilkes-Barre and Kingston area.
Gere informed me that in the early 90s he and an old partner (i.e. Charlie) and several groups of volunteers had spent three years cleaning up that area and had begun work on restoring some of the old infrastructure that was there. At some point, he said, they were stopped by local authorities. Around that time, Charlie gave me a collection of DVDs that contained archived news footage of their efforts and hundreds of newspaper clippings indicating that Gere’s claims were true; it was then that I’d decided I would try my best to tell the story of the Susquehanna River Watch.
Two years and a bunch of interviews later, I put a bow on INDIAN PARADISE, a short-film that covers all of those events as well as what that area of Kirby Park looks like now. When you see the film, you may realize just how short-sighted the decision to stop the River Watch’s efforts was. Throughout the filming and editing process, it became clearer to me that I had to take some part in reviving the River Watch — the service that it provided the Wyoming Valley was just too valuable. After many conversations with Gere and Charlie, we decided to move forward with the reorganization efforts: just in time for the Kirby Park cleanup.
I hope you’ll consider joining us as we aim to implement a new plan to restore that 100 acres of land and revive the Susquehanna River Watch Coalition as a volunteer group dedicated to keeping our rivers and riverfronts clean and crime-free. Our goal is to see the membership of the Susquehanna River Watch span the three states that the river occupies (New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland). However, our first and biggest hurdle is getting the city of Wilkes-Barre to agree to once again opening the gates to the riverfront area at Kirby Park so that we can complete the work originally undertaken by the River Watch in the 90s. As such, we need your help!
Please join our facebook group where you’ll find information on cleanup efforts, city council meetings, and any and all developments regarding the restoration of the Olmstead Trail at Kirby Park.