Watershed Education by Bike (WEB)
The Watershed Education by Bike program launched in the spring of 2013 by Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) and local partners as an afterschool program in three Camden City middle schools.
Kids aged 11 to 14 participate in riding and learning events designed to teach them how different factors affect the watershed and ecosystem, and consequently, their own lives. In the summer, the program transforms into a day camp, with rides increasing in length from their afterschool counterparts.
In 2013, 77 students traveled by bike along local waterways—some trips totaling 35 miles. For many, the program was eye opening; none of the students had stood in a wetland prior to the program, and only five had ever set foot in a Camden waterway. Many participants also reached destinations by bike and trail that they never thought possible before, such as New Jersey’s capital, Trenton.
In 2014, RTC passed management of the program to the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties, which continues to positively impact the lives of children in the Camden area. A detailed Watershed Education by Bike Resource Guide documents the program’s successes and provides extensive information for other local organizations to design similar programs.
Purposeful destinations are ridden to in a group, and learning continues off the bike at those destinations. With most of the future trail networks in the Camden Region being planned along waterways, and two trails in Camden currently along the Cooper and Delaware Rivers, WEB allows opportunities to access waterways and understand their significance in their lives. Constant opportunities to interact with the system allow for more concrete teachable moments, and these moments can take place in many places throughout Camden County. As Petty’s Island begins to open to the community, bicycle trips to and around the island will become a reality not just for WEB youth, but also for their families. Environmental resources along the Cooper River, as well as from Camden County Open Space programs will help provide a more structured environmental education to the youth.
WEB seeks to create concrete associations between communities and the waterways among them. By using trails along the greenways that are part of the watershed, WEB gives access to waterways, from which a greater understanding of the affects we have on water can be understood. The programs that develop along the trails will also show the potential of greenways as a learning tool in addition to a safe a secure area of travel. WEB students will be among the first bicyclists to ride to different sites in a systematic and meaningful way to better understand the watershed.