By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director
On Thursday, November 16 at 7 pm, the Schuylkill Center presents our highest honor, the Henry Meigs Award for Environmental Leadership, to an old friend and Roxborough neighbor, Kay Sykora.
Founder of the incredibly successful Manayunk Development Corporation in the early 1980s, Kay has over the last 30 years pioneered and tirelessly championed the Schuylkill River Trail through Manayunk and Roxborough, leading the effort to transform the canal towpath into the River Trail, now one of Manayunk’s most-loved amenities. She played a key role in the planning efforts that led to the Manayunk Bridge’s reinvention as a multi-modal trail beloved by thousands of bikers, runners, and walkers.
She also founded Destination Schuylkill River to re-connect Manayunk to its river, has been involved in restoring the canal, and is equally passionate about making the towpath a more vibrant and enticing community amenity. She has been a leader in the Central Roxborough Civic Association and co-founded Roxborough Green, a community tree planting and gardening project.
“I am deeply honored by the recognition for the work we all have done,” Kay said. “I say this because I feel that I am more a facilitator for the people who care about trails, nature, and greening. If people didn’t care the work never would have succeeded.”
After being presented the award, Kay will be joined by a distinguished panel for an interactive discussion on finishing Manayunk’s River Trail and improving the canal and towpath. Panelists include Sarah Clark Stuart of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, architect and planner Robert Thomas, Upper Roxborough Civic Association president Rich Giordano, and Lower Merion planner Chris Leswing.
After the town meeting, enjoy a reception with Kay, the panel, and the community.
The award has great timing for the Schuylkill Center, as we are currently engaged in transforming our center’s connection to the Schuylkill River Trail above River Road, so the tens of thousands of runners and bikers flowing below our trails know the Center is just uphill from and connected to the River Trail. At the event, I’ll highlight the Center’s new plans for an updated connection to the Schuylkill River Trail.
Kay rightfully recognized early-on that Manayunk’s economic transformation would be elevated by connecting to the River Trail and the river itself, and the River Trail, now part the the 700-mile Circuit trail system, has exploded in recent years, with new sections of the Circuit opening seemingly daily. The regional trail system is earning nationwide acclaim, and– as an early adopter– Kay has been critical to shepherding the trail system through Manayunk and Roxborough.
In addition, as an active and engaged Roxborough resident, Kay models how volunteers can impact their communities. She’s also– we’re happy to add– the very first Roxborough resident to win the award.
Named for Henry Meigs, one of the Center’s founders and its longest-serving trustee, this year’s edition is the 12th annual, given for visionary leadership in sustainability, and over the years has been given to such luminaries as Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, city managing director Mike DeBerardinis, botanist Ann Fowler Rhoads, aquatic ecologist Tom Dolan, and Carole Williams-Green, founder of the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center in West Philadelphia. At the awards evening, Binney Meigs, Henry’s son and a former Center trustee himself, will provide some remarks about his father’s legacy.
We invite all Schuylkill Center friends, trail devotees, Manayunk supporters, and Roxborough neighbors to celebrate an extraordinary friend and neighbor, Kay Sykora.
All photos by Susan Beard Photography