Operation Recreation

Washington PA  Observer Reporter
3 August 2011
By Emily Petsko, Staff writer

FREDERICKTOWN - The blue bass emblem seen throughout downtown Fredericktown is simply a decoration to visitors, but to residents it means much more.

The new mascot is part of the Maxwell Basin Recreation Area's campaign to create an identity for Fredericktown and Millsboro.

Establishing outdoor recreation as a theme to unite the community is just one of the four goals MBRA has set since its inception last year. The group also plans to clean up the area, bring business back to downtown Fredericktown and use funds strategically to benefit the community.

When a plan that East Bethlehem Township adopted in 2008 was never put into action, BeeGraphix company President Dennis Slagle decided to take matters into his own hands.

"Thirty people spent a year to develop this program, put a lot of time and effort into it and got some good ideas, but nothing was happening," Slagle said.

Slagle held a meeting in February 2010 with East Bethlehem Commissioner Paul Battaglini and the owners of three other local businesses - Greene Cove Yacht Club, Bower Brothers and The Riviera - to discuss a plan of action. The group brainstormed ideas for events to bring visitors to the area and agreed that outdoor recreation should be the primary focus.

"The only thing that can provide sustainable economic growth for this area is recreation," Slagle said. "It's never going to be a coal mining industry town again, but the river and the Ten Mile Creek are always there."

The name for MBRA was modeled after the Maxwell Pool, which is the longest stretch between locks on the Monongahela River.

"It's over 20 miles long," Slagle said, adding that the pool is the ideal location for boating, fishing and water sports.

Beginning last year, local businesses hosted an annual Ferry Boat Festival, as well as Rockin' on the Mon, a gathering of boats and a live band on the river.

The group isn't all about fun and games, though. MBRA recently partnered with River Towns, a private organization that helps to revitalize towns along the upper Monongahela. Together, they hope to improve the area both aesthetically and economically.

"River Towns will help us from an outsider's perspective," Slagle said.

River Towns helps to point out some issues that Fredericktown residents have become oblivious to over the years, such as the Christmas lights that hang on telephone poles year-round.

"Those who live here probably no longer see them, but it's almost the first thing you see when you come into town," said Cathy McCollom, representative of River Towns. "You notice those right away, even if they aren't lit."

The chamber of commerce last month approved the group's proposal to replace the lights in spring with banners, but there are some legal issues that need to be resolved regarding hiring contractors to carry out the job.

MBRA and River Towns meet together every other month. At July's meeting, four primary projects were announced.

The priority is to find a business owner to open a gas station in town. The abandoned Taylor's gas station at the edge of town is an eyesore, as well as a reminder of the frustration locals face driving six miles to fill their tanks.

The groups would also like to revitalize the 17-acre Clyde Mine site on Route 88. Several parties have expressed interest in purchasing the land, which could be used for river access, commercial use or the construction of a gas station, public park or senior housing.

A sidewalk improvement plan is also under way, and the groups are creating a marketing strategy to attract business and visitors.

This month there will be a beach volleyball tournament, a bachelor auction, Rockin' on the Mon and a dock dogs competition at Greene Cove Yacht Club. Slagle is anticipating at least 80 dogs from other areas will compete. The preliminary round will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the championship round will be held Sunday at a time to be determined.

Since MBRA was founded, the events have grown. Slagle estimates that 5,000 people came to watch the fireworks this year, and that's just those who were watching from land. Boats dotted the river as far as the eye could see.

Slagle hopes community participation will continue to grow. MBRA and River Towns also plan on creating a proposal to submit for consideration for Washington County's local share of slots revenue. If granted money, the group will expand the public access boat docks and replace the 50-year-old gabion boxes on river embankments.

For more information on upcoming events, visit MBRA's website at http://www.maxwellbasin.com.