Monday, March 4, 2024

WVIA: Bernie McGurl, Lackawanna River Conservation Assn. - A Life Dedicated To The River's Flow

This profile of Bernie McGurl of the
Lackawanna River Conservation Association first appeared on the WVIA website March 3, 2024--

Bernie McGurl remembers his mother pulled the bath stopper out of their tub when he was about three years old.

“I said 'Mommy where’s the water go?’ I wanted to know where the water went," he said.

She explained it goes down a drain pipe into their basement then into a sewer pipe under the street. Eventually, the water makes its way to the Lackawanna River. 

His mom, Jane, went on that the Lackawanna flows into the Susquehanna River and then into the ocean.

“So three years old, I knew that we're part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, thanks to my mom," he said.

For over a century, the Lackawanna River was polluted by the mining industry, sewers and garbage. 

In the late 80s, an early version of the now-Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) formed to change that. 

From 1991 until this past December, McGurl, a Dunmore native, was at the helm as executive director. 

He’s now moved into a part-time role, passing on a legacy of clean water and land conservation in the region.

WVIA News spent time with McGurl as fall turned into winter and his time as executive director came to an end.

He is a NE PA renaissance man. 

He’s been a carpenter, worked on the railroad and owned a business. 

He started nonprofits in the region — including a healthy food co-op that would later turn into local health food store Everything Natural — and was involved in the early days of the Steamtown National Historic Site and creating the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority.

Bernie is also a poet. He helped foster the Mulberry Poets in the late 70s.

"I've done quite a few different things," he said. "I've lived ... probably nine lives of a cat.”

In the mid-80s, he found himself at a new organization that aimed to do something astounding — clean up the long-polluted Lackawanna River.

During McGurl's three decades of involvement with the LRCA, attitudes have changed and so has the river.

He's in his 70s and has gone from pulling tires and washing machines out of the 42-mile river to working on plans for a riverfront park, a new building for the organization and finally cleaning up a major pollutant of the Chesapeake Bay, the Old Forge Bore Hole.

Click Here to read the entire profile.

Related Articles - Bernie McGurl:

-- PA Environmental Professionals Honor Bernie McGurl  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Honors Bernie McGurl With Williams Jeanes Award For Environmental Excellence [PaEN]

-- DCNR Celebrates Lackawanna River As PA’s 2020 River Of The Year [PaEN]

-- Op-Ed: 50th Earth Day: Time To Consider Wiser Course - We Are All Of This Earth And Dependent On It - Bernie McGurl, Lackawanna River Conservation Association  [PaEN]

-- Listening To The River, Conservation In The Lackawanna Watershed, Bernie McGurl  [YouTube TED Talk]

[Posted: March 4, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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