This plan is the result of a three month intensive effort on the part of residents, officials, businesses, and friends of Shickshinny to lead their recovery from disaster.  This process produced Shickshinny’s Long-Term Community Recovery (LTCR) Plan and Project Development Guides. The planning approach for Shickshinny was customized by incorporating features of a values-based planning approach, known as Heart & Soul Community Planning, into the LTCR planning process.  Values-based planning ensures that the community’s core values, important places and people, vision for the future and love of Shickshinny were woven into the recovery planning process, preserved in the plan, and exhibited in the recovery activities. Our community came together to create this plan, owns this plan and will implement this plan with the help of key community partners.  To develop a roadmap for recovery, the community organized a steering committee on November 9, 2011 and established working groups on December 8, 2011. On March 15, 2012 the Recovery Committee formalized themselves into a non-profit organization, Shickshinny Forward, that will, in time, seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  By partnering with the Disaster Recovery Coalition of Luzerne County, the Great American Cleanup, American Rivers, and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the youth hosted a community-wide Muck, Gut, and Clean It Up! Day on March 24, 2012.  And this is only the beginning.

This plan and the accompanying Project Development Guides will be used to:

  • explain Shickshinny’s post-flood status and solutions for moving forward
  • market projects to potential funders
  • guide implementation of recovery projects
  • incorporate floodplain management and mitigation techniques
  • leverage resources of the recovery projects among each other
  • communicate and share ideas for Shickshinny’s development with regional partners

Our vision for Shickshinny is a safe, vibrant, attractive river front community. Achieving this vision requires safeguarding our homes and businesses from repetitive flooding.  We will build back stronger, safer, and more sustainably.  By re-orienting development out of the floodplain, mitigating homes and businesses, and finding cost effective methods of utilizing acquired property, Shickshinny will thrive.

“When you see so much devastation you say what’s the use? People say, wait a minute, this is my home, this is where I went to high school, where I met my wife or husband, where my children were born.  So many people look back not to the things they don’t have but the things they do have. When you start rebuilding, say okay, let’s just make it better.  Let’s make it home.” Pastor Terry Hughes, Recovery Committee Chairman


Historical Context

Shickshinny, a small borough in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, sits on the west bank of the Susquehanna River, centered at the intersection of US Route 11 and State Route 239 in the lower end of the Wyoming Valley.   Settled in the 1780s and incorporated in 1861, Shickshinny has a long history as the central hub of commerce between Nanticoke upstream and Berwick downstream[i].  In the mid-1800s, the community prospered because of its downtown businesses and hotels, the intersection of turnpikes along the river and up the mountain, and its location on the canal system and railroad, all of which were used by thousands of area farmers and local coal companies shipping their goods[ii].   Shickshinny’s settlement, development and identity always have been tied to its location nestled between five Appalachian Mountains –Knob, Newport, Lee, River, and Rocky – at the confluence of Shickshinny Creek and the Susquehanna River[iii].  The name Shickshinny comes from a Native American name that is said to mean “place where five mountains meet”[iv].

“Shickshinny, right from the very beginning was destined to become a busy and thriving community, because here is the only break in the…mountains for sixteen miles up and down the river.”[v]

The Garrison Fund, established in1958, is crucial for Shickshinny. Forest L. Garrison, the son of Shickshinny’s founding father Nathan Garrison, stated in his will:”The residue of the income from my estate… shall be paid to the First National Bank of Shickshinny, PA, to be judicially expended for the sole use and benefit of the Borough of Shickshinny, Pennsylvania.” Today the Garrison fund provides upwards of 28% of the revenue for Shickshinny Borough[vi].

In 2011, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership named Shickshinny as one of its official River Towns because of its riverfront location, plentiful water recreation, easy access to the river, and recreation-related events and amenities[vii].

Did you know …

  •  The first newspaper in the area, The Mountain Echo, was first issued in 1873.
  • At one point Shickshinny was the meeting point of over 10,000 farmers to ship their goods.
  • The canal ran along the river and by 1865 was built to Nanticoke giving Shickshinny the advantages of both a railroad and a canal, which was built through in 1828.
  • In 1840, Dr Darwin Crary invented the first inclined chute to be used for the coal industry, which sent coal to the canal down the mountain in Shickshinny.
  • Shickshinny is the southern gateway to the Wyoming or Northern Coal Fields.
  • Mrs. Woodrow Wilson named a 7,800 ton freighter ship the “U.S.S. Shickshinny”, shortly after the close of the First World War.  The first captain of the Shickshinny opened a restaurant in Virginia upon his retirement.  He named the restaurant “Shickshinny.”[viii]
  • In 1956, General Motors Company featured Shickshinny in a two-page color advertisement in both the Saturday Evening Post and Life magazine because it “represented all things that are good in our country.”[ix]
  • Carl Sawatski, a native of Shickshinny, was a Major League baseball player who helped the Milwaukee Braves win the 1957 World Series.


Shickshinny has a long history of flooding.  Among the earliest recorded floods is the “pumpkin flood” of 1786, when flood waters were said to have carried October’s pumpkin crop down the river.[x]  Many residents vividly recall the historic flood damage caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

In September, 2011, just days after the celebration of Shickshinny’s sesquicentennial celebration, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee created historic flood conditions throughout eastern Pennsylvania[xi].  Shickshinny was especially hard hit and experienced some of the worst damage.  FEMA DR4030 January 2012 inspection data indicate that 212 households, half of the homes in the borough, were damaged[xii].  Borough officials estimate that approximately 75 of the Borough’s 440 homes sustained first-floor damage[xiii].  Thirty-one of thirty-three businesses (94%) located in Shickshinny Borough were damaged by the flood.[xiv]  One of the most difficult losses was the historic First National Bank building, which was demolished six months later as a result of substantial flood damage.  This was the very bank which Nathan L. Garrison specified in his will.

“People can really pull together.  Watch them when the water’s coming up.  Just watch them when the water’s coming up!”



 “The foundation of a community is always the people.”

The community of Shickshinny is family oriented with a rich history and tradition.  We are empathetic, spiritual and deeply value our friendships. After the flood we came together to help one another with more than 7,500 meals served out of the First United Methodist Church in a five-week period.[xv]  We are committed to working together to prepare for future flooding and are united in our efforts going forward.


2010 Demographics for Shickshinny, PA

  • Population 838
  • Senior Population (65+ years)- 21.3%
  • Size 0.4 square miles
  • 440 housing units
  • 57% home-owner
  • 43% renter
  • Median income $34,615
  • 83 % have a high school degree, or equivalent


 Regional Involvement

Individuals from the four surrounding townships, with 2010 populations totaling approximately 10,000[xvi], frequent Shickshinny for their banking, grocery and personal needs. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 2010 study, approximately 8,900 vehicles pass through Shickshinny each day along US Route 11 and State Route 239[xvii]. Approximately seven colleges or universities are within easy commuting distance of Shickshinny, the closest being Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke, less than ten miles away[xviii].

Already known for its hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation, Shickshinny plans to capitalize on these assets and become a regional recreation hub. There are 22 well-established recreational facilities and opportunities in the area[xix].  Mocanaqua, known as Shickshinny’s twin city, is home to world class rock climbing, hosts trails and recreational opportunities, and was also impacted by the flood. Shickshinny is committed to inviting other local communities to work together towards regional success.

 “Mocanaqua and Shickshinny are kind of rivals…but in the last 30 years, it’s been a community thing where we relied on Shickshinny for day to day living.”- Mocanaqua resident



Shickshinny’s long-term community recovery planning process consisted of 5 steps:  (1) capture the past, (2) envision the future, (3) design your town, (4) create your plan, and (5) make it reality.  We immersed more than 80 individuals in the process.  Hundreds more participated.

Community Participation

  • Capture the Past- 85 people
  • Envision the Future- 234 people
  • Design Your Town- 314 people
  • Create Your Plan- 60 people held 62 meetings
  • Make It Reality- Meetings held with 55 partner organizations
  • Total Commitment- More than 2,000 volunteer hours have been devoted to creating this plan

Capture the Past 

“Your values are what make you.  It is what makes Shickshinny, Shickshinny.  It is that character, that fundamental character, of what you love about your town.”

Capturing the past was about identifying attributes that residents treasure and that connect them to one another and to their community. Through the story circles and interviews 85 individuals told their story. The LTCR team recorded these interviews and posted clips on the Community Almanac website. From the stories community values were identified to provide direction for the planning process and ensure this plan was representative of the character of the town.

Envision the Future 

“The community started making sure that everything they did, all of the decisions they made with their land, their schools, with their businesses, their homes fed towards that vision.  That they communicated together, and they built towards that vision.  What you realize about that tiny vision up in the sky, that vision the whole time was the keystone.  It was the key to the whole thing.  Build towards that.”

Visioning is a way to capture and build consensus around what community members identify as Shickshinny’s assets and opportunities. On December 8, 2011, more than 100 community members and stakeholders attended the workshop at the Northwest Area High School.  A youth visioning workshop was held on December 14, 2011; 126 seventh to twelfth graders participated.  At both workshops participants engaged in word cloud and community mapping exercises.  During the “word cloud” exercise, participants provided two words that captured their vision for Shickshinny. The larger the word, the more times it was repeated.

Community mapping is a fun drawing activity that promotes creativity, inclusivity and consensus. Community members used this technique to identify what is great about Shickshinny and the opportunities for making Shickshinny better.  Using the word clouds and mapping results, the Steering Committee developed its mission and vision statements and decided which working groups needed to be established.

Shickshinny’s Long-Term Community Recovery Vision:

A safe, vibrant, attractive River Town community, an area hub of recreation, culture, business and community activity, Shickshinny welcomes all to live, work, and play.

Recovery Committee Mission Statement:

Our mission is to rebuild, reinvent, and protect Shickshinny by encouraging, empowering, equipping, and engaging the Shickshinny area community for long-term recovery.

Design Your Town

“Everyone came together from the different groups.  We are all volunteers.  We had summarized all those ideas and came to a conclusion on which ones were the most important and focused on them.  So we are now having a cleanup day as the first project to let people see what is happening.  Other projects are also in the works to grow businesses, use the land near the river, build housing and reinvent the town.  It will take years but everything good takes time.”    

Following the visioning workshops the steering committee established six working groups to take the information and ideas gathered and identify the core issues, problems and solutions related to recovery.  Each working group defined their post disaster community needs, identified and gathered supporting data, and brainstormed potential alternates. Two design workshops were held on January 24, 2012, at Northwest Area High School. Participants learned about these core issues and solutions and provided their feedback to the working groups. Design professionals and artists sketched participants’ housing, business, recreation and land use ideas on maps of Shickshinny.  One artist used PATH, a facilitated graphic planning process, to capture what projects community members want to see accomplished first.

Create Your Plan

“The working groups are amazing because in these working groups individuals ‑‑ this is my community’s time to shine.  This is when my community comes together and comes up with ideas.”

Building upon the feedback gathered from the design workshops, the working groups came together to combine solutions to over-lapping core issues. From this 15 recovery projects were identified. These projects are strategic, reduce damage from future disasters and provide creative methods of addressing the issues while still remaining true to Shickshinny’s values and character. The working groups reorganized around these recovery projects and further developed them into actionable steps. The recovery committee hosted a Project Fair to unveil the projects to the community and our partners. Shickshinny Forward’s Project Fair held on February 28, 2012 was an opportunity to begin identifying project champions– community members responsible for making the projects reality.


Make It Reality

“We have partnered with so many groups.  And the biggest thing that we have gotten from them, from all of them that have come to help us through this, is hope.  And that’s what we needed.  We needed hope.”

As our community begins to realize our vision, the partnerships developed with over 50 local, regional, and state organizations will be expanded. Additional partners will be identified and included. On March 15, 2012 the recovery committee met to formalize an organization for sustainable recovery. This organization, Shickshinny Forward, will work hand in hand with Shickshinny Borough to realize the projects in this plan.

[ii] Selections from “A History of Shickshinny” by Walter Hontz (an unpublished manuscript), taken from Celebrating Shickshinny: A Sesquicentennial Celebration, Eighth Annual Community Choirfest, August 2011.

“Shickshinny Borough” found by a LTCR Steering Committee member at the Garrison School, presumed by many community members to be part of the Centennial Celebration program.

[iv] Shickshinny Historical Marker at 35 West Union ST, Shickshinny, PA 18655, outside the Shickshinny municipal building.

[v] Walter Hontz, Untitled (unpublished manuscript), p. 24.

[vi] 2010 Shickshinny Borough Budget

[vii] “Susquehanna Greenway Partnership to designate Shickshinny as a River Town,” Citizens Voice, March 28, 2011;

[viii] Shickshinny Community Choirfest, Celebrating Shickshinny, A Sesquicentennial Celebration.

[ix] Shickshinny Community Choirfest, Celebrating Shickshinny, A Sesquicentennial Celebration.

[x] Shickshinny Community Choirfest, Celebrating Shickshinny, A Sesquicentennial Celebration.

[xii] January 23, 2012, FEMA IA report of FEMA-Verified Losses.

[xiii] Interview with Mayor Beverly Moore, February 7, 2012.

[xiv] Brian Phillips, Business Association President, March 14, 2012.

[xv] Dan Hinchcliff, First United Methodist Church of Shickshinny.  March 13, 2012.

[xvii] Traffic Volume Map for Luzerne County, PA, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, January 2012;

[xix] Dale Freudenberger, Susquehanna Greenway Partnership.  January 5, 2012.

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