In 2022, the City of Lancaster launched River Connections with the goal of elevating the stories of Black and Brown people’s connection to the Conestoga River. By storytelling through various mediums, the River Connections team cultivated a greater sense of stewardship and community around the river. Local artists created and performed works that represent their connection to the river to a broader audience. Through spoken word, visual art, film and music, the need for care and repair of the Conestoga River is spreading throughout Lancaster’s neighborhoods.

The River Connections project is made possible by these community partners:

Thank you!


Watch a recap of the “River Connections Premiere” event that took place in June 2022 during Lancaster’s Water Week.

The event kick-started much of the work that followed — storm drain murals, spoken word poetry, and neighborhood clean-ups.

“Lancastrians have a long and often cherished history and relationship with the Conestoga River, however some of these connections are not well known. We’re excited to shine a light on people’s experiences with the river and to honor those connections as we continue to build a community of stewards for this valued natural resource.”

Stephen A. Campbell, Director, Department of Public Works

Gathering Stories

During 2022, Lancastrians of color were invited to share stories of their connection to the Conestoga River. Many talked of both their connection to the river and the stark reality behind their choice to swim in the polluted waters. Swipe through these quotes from community members to hear pieces of the stories.

Russel Howell

“We had that certain spot that we used to go and I didn’t know how to swim but you learned how to swim when you went down the Poggy. Because what the older boys used to do is pick you up and throw you in the water. Throw you right in the creek. They wouldn’t let you drown but you learned to swim pretty quickly. We looked forward to going to the Poggys.”

Barta Keith

“Sitting here brings back a lot of memories. Ever since I was about 5 years old, my mother used to bring us to this park and we had picnics. I remember as a child we used to swim in the river.”

Rev. Dr. Louis A. Butcher, Jr.

“Maple Grove had a pool. Later on there was a pool called Brookside and African American young people were not permitted to swim there and so the alternative was to swim in the Poggy. That portion of the river was called the Poggy, which I’m told derived it’s name from the fact that it ran by what is now Conestoga View but back in the day it was just called the county poor house.”

Nelson Polite, Jr.

“At the river it was cooler and we’d have cookouts with other families. It was community. I loved it regardless of the muddy water. We loved the gathering of food, family, fellowship and friends.”

Schirlyn Kamara

“When I was around 11 or 12 we used to walk down the grassy hill and get in the river and walk around in it. We loved it.”


In addition to collecting stories from people within this historically marginalized segment of our community, we engaged local artists to create works that represented their connections to the river and help carry messages about the river to a broader audience. The River Connections Crew artists created storm drain murals, poetry, and more.


Through direct action, spoken word, visual art, film and music, the need for care and repair of the Conestoga River is spreading throughout Lancaster’s neighborhoods.

The River Connections Crew completed numerous litter clean-ups in neighborhoods across Lancaster City.

River Connections will continue, elevating voices of those who have been impacted by past decisions and raising awareness about personal and collective connections to this treasured resource.

Stay tuned for more ways to engage!