John Linkes, a resident of Leechburg, Armstrong County, accepted a River Hero Award from the River Network on May 23 at the River Rally Conference in Mobile, Alabama.
Linkes was one of five individuals from across the country who were selected for this award, which is presented by the River Network of Boulder, Colorado. The purpose of the award is to recognize and celebrate people whose efforts to protect and restore their local waters have been extraordinary in scope, scale, impact, and heart.
(Photo: Chelsea Walker, Sue and John Linkes, and Melissa Reckner.)
Linkes was nominated for this award by Melissa Reckner, director of the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy’s Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, and Chelsea Walker, a board member of the Roaring Run and Kiskiminetas Watershed Associations, both of whom accompanied Linkes and his wife, Sue, to the event.
Reckner said, “I’m so thrilled that John was chosen as an award recipient. He is an extraordinary volunteer and a thoughtful man who is passionate about the environment. He’s never sought the limelight and often does the jobs no one else wants. Even while enjoying some time along the beautiful Gulf Coast, John was picking up litter from the beach.”
Linkes has served as a director on the board and as an active volunteer with the Roaring Run Watershed Association and Kiskiminetas Watershed Association since 2000 and 2001, respectively.
He can often be found doing maintenance along the Roaring Run and Rock Furnace Trails or assisting with events.
Linkes serves as the local coordinator of the larger Ohio River Sweep, an annual, award-winning cleanup that draws thousands of volunteers to the Ohio River and its tributaries to collect trash.
Last year, 834 tires were removed from the Kiski River during this event, which is slated for June 18 this year.
He is the Stream Team’s longest serving volunteer with 16 years as a Stream Steward, who collects water samples from Abandoned Mine Discharges (AMD), AMD treatment systems, and nearby streams.
Linkes is an Associate Director with the Armstrong County Conservation District where he helps their AmeriCorps member download data loggers that are monitoring for historical and episodic pollution events, assists with the District’s Award Committee, and provides input for the District’s annual plan.
Linkes aided in the establishment of the Crooked Creek Environmental Education Center and serves on the steering committee for this organization. Here, Linkes leads environmental education programs for field trips and summer camps, helps secure presentations and program activities at the site, and assists with annual workdays to maintain the facility and its grounds.
Every spring, he dons the Pennsylvania Resources Council’s Litterbug mascot costume and spreads the “Don’t Be a Litterbug” message to citizens, especially kids.
His efforts make a difference. The return of aquatic life is testament to his collaborative work and when Linkes’ five-year old granddaughter, Bianca, sees litter, she says, “Pappy’s not going to like this!”
Of the award, Linkes says, “Follow your bliss. I started out doing simple litter cleanups and then started to do water monitoring and getting involved with other people and like-minded organizations and seeing what they do. Then the next thing that happened was that I was getting my picture in the newspaper and then, thereafter, I was getting quoted in the paper! Then I said to myself, ‘Ayyyye, there's the rub!’ Maybe I'm here doing this to raise awareness for the comeback of the Kiskiminetas and Conemaugh Rivers; to get the word out so to speak.”
And that Linkes has, on a national level.Past River Heroes Award winners from Pennsylvania include: John Klunk (2004), founder of the Codorus Monitoring Network in York County and David Hess (2002), former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.