River Coalition Planted Seeds for Projects

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 
21 October 2015
By Chris Buckley

By the middle of next year, boat launches should be opening in Monongahela and Charleroi, attracting tourists to the two communities.

They will be built near the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium in Monongahela and the former Charleroi football stadium.

The genesis for those projects can be traced back to the first Monongahela River Coalition meeting Sept. 3, 2013, at California University.

More than three dozen municipal leaders attended from 13 communities nestled along the Monongahela River — including Charleroi, Monongahela, Brownsville, West Brownsville, California and Belle Vernon.

Also on hand were representatives from the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Greene County Tourism and Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau along with the Mon Valley Progress Council and the Washington, Fayette and Greene county Redevelopment Authorities and West Virginia University and California University of Pennsylvania.

The coalition that was formed created a five-year plan titled “Capturing the Opportunities in the Mon River Valley.”

“We went to all 13 communities and said give us your priorities with reference to riverfront and tourism, and we looked at commonalities,” said Cathy McCollom, director of the River Town Program.

Some priorities included more boat and canoe access locations, canoe and kayak rental businesses and uses for vacant and underused buildings.

The boat and canoe access launches are being built with $247,000 in Act 13 Impact Fee funding provided by Washington County. That fund is created from Marcellus shale impact fees.

The funding will also be used to assist West Brownsville in planning for the use of its riverfront.

The tourism agencies are providing funding to erect community name signs along the rivers.

The coalition also started Sustainable Marketplace for Art, Artisans, Recreational and Trending Businesses to actively pursue small businesses in those areas.

A part of the SMAART program is the first Mon River Valley Entrepreneurial Business Plan Contest. The project will award three $10,000 grants to the successful business plans to help them open a business in one of the current Mon River Towns.

Applications are due by Oct. 30, and the awards will be made in early January.

More information about the contest can be found online at www.smaartbusiness.com.

Led by Cathy McCollom and Donna Holdorf, executive director of the National Road Heritage Corridor, the Mon River Valley Coalition has completed its second full year of the five-year plan adopted in September 2013 and has successfully addressed all of the plan's “action items.”

The coalition meets quarterly on the Cal U campus.

The five-year plan is about to be updated. The coalition will hold a meeting from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 11 at the Charleroi borough building “to chart a course for the next five year,” McCollom said.

“Each community in the coalition will have the opportunity to list its goals and priorities,” McCollom said. “We're going to look at what we still need to do as far as projects and what to do to move forward.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cbuckley@tribweb.com or 724-684-2642.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmonvalley/yourmonvalleymore/9296363-74/river-coalition-plan#ixzz3pBQy9sSL