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Delaware River is tops: River rats needed

After months of bated breath and enthusiastic voting, Pennsylvania has chosen the Delaware River as its 2011 river of the year.

"The Delaware River is the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi and is steeped in history, diverse in resources, and is vital to protect," Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley said in making the announcement earlier today. "Its waters serve the needs of more than 15 million people from four different states, including more than 5 million Pennsylvanians. It boasts the largest freshwater port in the world, as well as threatened and endangered species, and a thriving tourism industry."

One goal of the River of the Year designation is to raise awareness of the river and its conservation needs. So what better time than to volunteer to do just that?

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has launched a river ambassador program and is recruiting people who are passionate about the river to immerse themselves in all things river-ish and then lead people on trips, tours, clean-ups, you name it.

The council intends to select 20 to 30 trainees, after an online application and telephone interview. Afterward, they'll participate in a six to eight-week training program where they will learn about history, ecological restoration, safe recreation opportunities, waterfront redevelopment and wildlife from guest speakers and local experts.

And, yes, they'll have to pay $75 to do it, in addition to donating their time, but many would argue the river is worth it.

The program focuses on the stretch of the river between Trenton and Marcus Hook. For a refresher on all the things you can find there, check out the council's online guide, the Tidal Delaware Water Trail, which guides boaters and others to environmental, cultural and historical experiences accessible by river.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 21.