Pennsylvania State Representative Mary Isaacson serves the 175th District in Philadelphia County, including areas along the Delaware River. She is a member of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
One of the common themes of this past year, and this pandemic, has been that so many people who live in cities and less rural areas across Pennsylvania have, in their words, “reconnected with nature.” Now, many people obviously turned to the outdoors because we were told not to gather inside, but after a little while, a lot of people began exploring our parks, trails, and rivers not out of last resort, but out of true enjoyment and pursuit for the recreation and sense of well-being that being outside, “amongst nature,” brings. And in a year of so much sadness, this realization for so many brought me joy.
2020 was a year that brought many hardships, but also really showed us not only how each of our individual actions can make a difference, but how we share a responsibility for the world in which we live together. 2021 can be a year in which we turn that realization into positive change.
For me, as someone who not only lives alongside the Delaware River, but also represents the citizens who live on its shores and banks, I am always connected to nature – even though I live in Philadelphia, a large City with an industrial past on that working river. And I try not to take that for granted because so many people travel to and vacation in the Delaware River Basin – our beloved shared waters that not only provide clean drinking water and life to the aquatic, but also tranquility in simply observing them on a lazy sunny day.
I have lived and worked along the Delaware River for as long as I have lived in Pennsylvania. We are a community along this river and I am proud to be the State Representative for the Riverwards – not just the people, but the soil, the red-bellied turtles, the shad, and all of the nature and history that the river holds as well.
Years ago, the communities alongside the River came together to discuss creating a master plan of what we would like our riverfront community to be like. Neighbors came from all parts of the waterfront, from the south the north, and the stories they brought with them about our river were woven into the master plan. From the longshoremen who earn their living from the river and its ports to the memories of swimming and fishing in its waters to residents who drink their coffee and look out at the shipping and tugboats every morning, the river holds each of these stories and daily rituals. While some neighbors had different visions for the future of the riverfront, they were joined in their desire to make certain that it thrived and was accessible to all.
Today, the Delaware River is cleaner than ever, and while it still faces challenges to its sustainability and thriving future, I know that everyone who loves it in the myriad of ways possible is dedicated to sustaining these stories and creating new ones for future generations.
The Delaware River is a shared resource, not just for those of us in Pennsylvania but our surrounding states. And as we reflect on Earth Day and each of our roles when it comes to sustainability, preservation, and personal responsibility, I hope the Delaware River Basin is both in mind and heart. I hope to see you out on the water for years to come.