Natural explorer …
Owen Worozbyt needed to leave the area in order to realize all the gifts that Scranton and its surrounding areas have to offer. The 26-year-old Dunmore native studied Parks and Recreation Management at East Stroudsburg University before he took a position with the National Park Service and hit the open road. Shortly after returning home, he began to volunteer his time to various organizations around the Scranton area before landing the Volunteer Coordinator position at the Lackawanna Heritage Valley National and State Heritage Area. A volunteer with the Lackawanna River Corridor Association, the Sierra Club and the National Park Association, Worozbyt is gearing up for the Third Annual Heritage Explorer Bike Tour and Festival on June 16 at Mellow Park in Peckville, providing riders of all ages the opportunity to meet new friends and enjoy the bike trails along the Lackawanna River. Worozbyt just finished lending his helping hands to Arts on Fire at Scranton’s Iron Furnaces and is readily embracing his busy schedule, as well as hoping for agreeable weather. He’s a busy man who is here to help his community. Meet Owen Worozbyt …
Were you always outgoing and involved in the community as a child or did something in you change over time?
That is something that has changed over time. I was never really involved in many community organizations growing up. I played sports in high school, but as far as being active within the community, I never got involved until I came back to the area after college. After graduating from college, I worked for the National Park Service for four years. I traveled to North Carolina, Tennessee and Maine, but every year I would return to the area. It wasn’t until I was finished with my service in Maine at Acadia National Park that I started to volunteer for the Lackawanna Heritage Society and ended up working there.
Was it through your travels that you gained appreciation for the area?
The first thing you realize is that we have the best food. As you go from area to area, you can’t beat the pizza and wings of northeastern Pennsylvania. After I came back from Maine, I did realize that this area had a lot more to offer and that I wasn’t necessarily taking advantage of it. That’s why I started getting out and being active in the community, whether it was through volunteering or becoming a member of different organizations. After being in the area for a while, I developed a greater sense of appreciation of what we have here. Before I would say that there is nothing to do, but now after being involved and getting to go to all the different places in the area, I just love taking people out on the trails and going to different museums and exploring. We have such a rich cultural and ethnic history here.
Talk about the Heritage Explorer Bike Tour.
The Heritage Bike Tour is a volunteer driven effort from the Lackawanna Heritage Valley promoting family friendly outdoor recreation. We provide everything from a 5-mile, family friendly tour to a 44-mile tour, which is for biking enthusiasts. You travel north along the Lackawanna River from Mellow Park past the headwaters at the still water dam to Uniondale and return along the same route. We use mainly old railroad right of ways, whether it is the Ontario and Western Rail-trail or the Delaware and Hudson Rail-trail. We follow as close to the Lackawanna River as we can. Not all of the tour is on the trails. We do use some city streets. You go right down the middle of Mayfield and Carbondale. People coming in from out of the area get a chance to see all the different aspects of the Lackawanna Valley. We already have well over 350 registrants from everywhere from Lackawanna County to Binghamton, Allentown and now down to Florida. This is our third year hosting the event. Each year is bigger and better. After the bike tour, there is a big community festival at Mellow Park, where we encourage all riders and local members of the community to come. We’ll have food, live music, different vendors from the area, as well as educational programs for kids, Scranton K-9 unit demonstrations with police dogs and a demonstration by Stephen Cerra, a professional BMX biker and former X Games participant. We are trying to make the festival bigger and better every year.
How long have you been involved?
This is my second year involved in the bike tour. We call it a friend-raiser. Though it is a fundraiser for the trail and helps fund trail developments and projects throughout the year, it’s more geared toward creating awareness — getting people out and enjoying the trail. Last year we had about 100 volunteers working. It was great to see that many people come out and volunteer their time.
You have a very busy schedule with a lot of community involvement. Is it overwhelming at times?
I enjoy it. It’s finally great to be back outside. Winters can be a little rough. It’s just good to see so many people coming out. That’s what I enjoy most; to see all the happy people coming out. Just busy, not too overwhelming. I like being busy.
What do you like to do when you are not lending your hand to the trails and river?
I love traveling. Having worked for the national park service, I love visiting national parks. I haven’t been able to do that as much recently. Camping, biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, fishing. Anything and everything outside.
Do you have any words of encouragement to others looking to get involved within the community?
I encourage you to get out and volunteer your time. Get involved within your communities because not only will you feel better about what you are doing, it benefits the communities by having more people out there helping.
— tom graham
The Third Annual Heritage Explorer Bike Tour and Festival will take place Saturday, June 16 at Mellow Park in Peckville. The Bike Tour offers riders a choice of four out-and-back routes of 5, 11, 22, and 44 miles beginning at 8 a.m. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bike Tour riders, their families and friends, and members of the community are all welcome to join the fun. It is free and open to the public. Visit www.heritageexplorer.org for more information.