More Should Be Done to Promote Riverfront, Washington County
Pittsburgh Tribune Review
14 February 2015
By Joe Napsha
Mon Valley communities in Washington County should do more to
promote riverfront recreational opportunities and tourism along
the Monongahela River, which would lead to an increase in economic
development, county officials told a group of community and
business leaders in Charleroi last week.
“I think we are missing the boat a little bit on it,” Washington
County Commissioner Lawrence Maggi said during a Feb. 10 panel
discussion with fellow commissioners before about 80 community and
business leaders at a Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce
meeting in Charleroi.
Maggi said people are purchasing riverfront homes in the Mon
Valley as second homes instead of traveling out-of-state to
tourist destinations, Maggi said.
Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan agreed, saying that county and
communities need to work to improve recreational opportunities
along the river.
“The asset you really have along the (Mon) Valley is the river,”
Commissioner Harlan G. Shober Jr. said, noting the region's
economy had suffered from the downturn in steel and related
The commissioners pointed to the River Town Program as an
initiative that is working to boost economic development by
connecting towns to the outdoor recreational market, using the
The Mon River Valley Coalition, a partnership between the River
Town Program and the National Road Heritage Corridor, is working
with the Washington County planning department on efforts to
repair existing boat launches and create new ones. The planning
department wants to create a canoe and kayak launch ramp in
Fredericktown and Monongahela and upgrade the Charleroi boat
launch. Those projects are to be bid this spring.
Those projects will be funded through a $247,000 Commonwealth
Financing Authority grant through Act 13 gas well impact fee
funding, along with $70,000 in cash and in-kind funding from
Casino revenue in play
Charleroi Borough is also seeking to improve riverfront
recreation and use of the river, said Donn Henderson, borough
The borough wants to clear riverfront land behind the ballfields
at Trustees Park, adjacent to the Chamber Plaza, and improve a
boat ramp behind the Charleroi High School football stadium.
“We have a riverfront park where you can't really see the river,”
The two projects would cost between $60,000 and $70,000, Henderson
The borough has accumulated about $35,000 for that work, but
Henderson said Charleroi's application for $35,000 from Washington
County's 2015 share of the gross revenue from The Meadows
Racetrack & Casino was rejected by the committee overseeing
distribution of the money.
Charleroi has received about $1.2 million from the local share of
the casino revenue since the money was distributed to local
communities in 2008, said Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington
County Chamber of Commerce, who served as moderator of the
discussion with the county commissioners.
This year, the commissioners approved the distribution of $6.5
million in local share revenue from the casino, which the county
projects will leverage $30.5 million.
Since 2008, the county has invested about $65 million into new
economic, community and industrial development projects from its
share of The Meadows' revenue, Kotula said. Communities in the Mon
Valley have received more than $20 million of that $65 million
distribution. The total amount of money distributed was used to
leverage more than $185 million in additional federal, state and
local money. The state Department of Community and Economic
Development is required to distribute a portion of the casino
revenue to the counties where those gambling operations are
The Mon Valley has been successful in having applications approved
because the communities have worked together on joint initiatives,
such as a regional police force.
“We don't do anything unless the local communities are behind the
projects,” Shober said.
Some communities seeking funding from the local share of the
casino money want support for projects, but do not have all the
necessary permits to move forward, Shober said.
“We're trying to make the money work now. We don't want to give
out money in 2008 for a project in 2014,” Shober said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be
reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.