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Kayak Pittsburgh To Stay On The North Shore, For Now

Venture Outdoors
The Pittsburgh nonprofit Venture Outdoors operates Kayak Pittsburgh from three regional locations, including one just across from Point State Park.


On today's program: Venture Outdoors wants to get more people outside; the face of long-haul trucking is changing; a conversation with a Pittsburgh teen climate activist; and exploring the infamously polluted Ohio River. 

Credit Venture Outdoors
Venture Outdoors
Valerie Beichner joined Venture Outdoors in October.

  Former Friends of the Riverfront head joins Venture Outdoors
(00:00 — 12:24) 

For nearly 20 years, the Pittsburgh nonprofit Venture Outdoors has been encouraging people to get outside and experience the natural spaces around them. The new leader of the organization says the primary task on her agenda is to further develop and implement a new strategic plan.

“We need to examine our role in health and wellness but also in diversity and inclusion,” executive director Valerie Beichner says. “We have a gap with underserved populations, and I think that’s what we’re aiming to fill.”

Beichner says she doesn’t expect the member-based organization’s $1.6 million budget to grow, but leaders will review how it’s spent. That could mean different allocations to existing offerings like education and training, youth programming and volunteer-led day trips, paddles and hikes all over the area.

Shorter term, the staff is also hoping to find a replacement home for Kayak Pittsburgh. Rentals are available seasonally in North Park, Aspinwall and on the North Shore beneath the Clemente Bridge, which was scheduled for repairs as soon as next year. Beichner says a change in the bridge’s construction schedule, now due to start in 2021, gifted VO another year. 

Kayaks will remain in the Downtown pool, Beichner says, but she declined to disclose potential new homes due to ongoing negotiations. 

“To be able to experience that gorgeous city shining in the background from the water, that’s a really important element, not just for tourists but for our own residents,” she says. 

A site selection announcement will come before the end of summer 2020, according to Beichner. A capital campaign will follow to raise a projected $250,000 to pay for the new location.

Trucker demographics are changing in PA
(13:34 — 17:51)

The number of long-haul truckers in the United States is at an all time high, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the demographics of who is behind the wheel are shifting

Keystone CrossroadsLaura Benshoff reports from a truck stop in Northeast Pennsylvania, where she says truckers from India and West Africa come for a taste of home. 

Get to know Pittsburgh’s Greta Thunberg
(17:53 — 22:08) 

Leandra Mira has been demonstrating outside of the City-County Building every Friday for about six months, and she says she has no plans of slowing down. The 18-year-old Upper St. Clair resident has become the face of the climate movement in Pittsburgh. 

90.5 WESA’s Kathleen Davis reports Mira began striking in May because of an abundance of cases of Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in southwestern Pennsylvania. The state health department has said the 27 cases are not indicative of a cancer cluster, though it will study whether natural gas fracking is tied to its prevalence. 

Local reporting explores challenges facing the Ohio River
(22:11 — 38:57) 

From stem to stern, the Ohio River provides drinking water for about five million people, and its stories are being chronicled by, The Allegheny Front and others through January as part of an ongoing reporting collaborative titled "Good River: Stories of the Ohio.”

The project looks at the economy, environment and culture, especially where industry has dotted its more than 900 miles from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill. For the Allegheny Front, reporter Julie Grant visits one town where tourism and river recreation are gaining momentum and helping keep the local economy afloat.

PublicSource managing editor Halle Stockton says the coverage is nonpartisan—that the health of the watershed impacts millions of residents.

“A lot of people are shutting off of issues that are really universal,” she says. “There is no pro- or anti-regulation agenda. It’s to educate people on the history, and we’re at right now, and the future of this watershed.” 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.