RiverQuest Short of Money, Looks for a Partner
18 April 2014
By Bill Zlatos, Staff Reporter
Bill Zlatos 412-320-7828
RiverQuest, a river-based education program, is so low on cash
that it may go out of business.
“If we do not have a merger partner by the end of our fiscal year,
which is in June, we will begin closing the program down,” said
Jim Roddey, president of the RiverQuest board.
Established in 1995 as Pittsburgh Voyager, the North Side-based
RiverQuest offers hands-on environmental education to students
aboard Explorer, its vessel that plies the rivers near Point State
Park. This year, it welcomed aboard 7,275 students from 97
The RiverQuest budget decreased from $2.1 million in 2008-09 to
$1.2 million this year when the state reduced the amount of money
it gave the nonprofit group and school districts. Schools no
longer could afford to book trips unless they were subsidized.
RiverQuest relies heavily on foundations and corporations for
support, but those groups are encouraging it to get money from
other sources. The Heinz Endowments, which declined to comment,
has provided about $7 million.
Roddey said RiverQuest met with the Carnegie Science Center about
a merger and talked to the state Department of Community and
Natural Resources, which runs Point State Park, about how they
might work together.
“We have had discussions with RiverQuest, but there are no
definitive next steps,” Ann Metzger, co-director of the science
center, said through a spokeswoman.
During at least two winters, RiverQuest shut down operations to
David Donahoe, executive director of the Allegheny Regional Asset
District, said RiverQuest's finances have been weak for years, he
RAD gave the group a total of $245,500 since 1997, but reduced its
annual grant to the group from $15,000 in 2009 to $7,500 in 2010
because of concern about its financial problems. RAD increased its
grant to $10,000 in 2013 and 2014.
“Members of the staff have been very impressed with the program,
and the participants have been excited,” Donahoe said.
Angel Losteter, a fifth-grader at South Allegheny Elementary
School, drew water from the rivers and studied plankton under a
microscope when she went aboard Explorer to examine the health of
the region's rivers.
Told of the program's financial plight, Losteter offered to raise
money for them.
“It was a very good experience, and I wouldn't want that to die
out,” she said.
Roddey and RiverQuest staff said if the program must end, it will
pay all of its bills. Employees would get severance pay, and
RiverQuest would return any unspent money from donors, Roddey
So far, there is no plan for disposing of its boat, valued at $2.6
Roddey holds out hope for a merger to save the program.
“I would hope that somewhere out there, there's a person who would
say, ‘We can't lose this asset,' and we'll have a miracle on the
Mon,” he said.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be
reached at 412-320-7828 or email@example.com.
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