City Looks at Outdoor Economy
Program Promotes Recreation on River
Morgantown Dominion Post
24 August 2013
By Ben Conley
From riverside sawmills to hydro-electric dams, flowing water has
been used as a power source countless ways as civilization has
Tuesday, Morgantown City Council got a glimpse of how the
Monongahela River could be harnessed as a powerful engine for the
Cathy McCollom and Kent Edwards, representing the River Town
Program, asked council members to bless what would initially be a
It would allow Morgantown to tap into an outdoor recreation
industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue
annually — at no cost to the city.
The program is funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum
Foundation, a philanthropy focusing on West Virginia and
“The program began in Pennsylvania along trails and now it focuses
on recreational, navigable rivers,” McCollom said. “The core
component of the program is the outstanding increase in users of
outdoor recreational pursuits.”
McCollom used her hometown of Confluence, Pa., as an example of
what the program can accomplish.
She said the town of about 667 people was traditionally focused on
coal mining and industry, but transitioned into a hub of outdoor
“That town of 667 now has 13 bed and breakfasts, eight guest
houses, six restaurants, two grocery stores, a gas station that
does $1 million-plus in gross receipts, a bike shop, kayak, bike
and canoe rental and an antique shop. Obviously, the local
population could not support that, so it’s visitor strat- egy
that’s made Confluence see that kind of growth.”
Step one of the process is to get council’s approval — which will
likely come at the next council meeting, on Sept. 3.
City Manager Jeff Mikorski was asked to draft a letter of approval
on which council could vote.
The second step is the formation of an action team made up of
representatives from local groups and engaged citizens that will
identify, organize and spearhead short-term, mid-term and
“We need your ideas. We don’t decide what those projects are. We
don’t come up with the ideas. The people decide. The action team
decides. It doesn’t work any other way,” Edwards said.
Edwards explained that the projects could be as small as placing
signs along the river and trails alerting passers-by to downtown
offerings or as large as expanding trails to connect with other
Council member Bill Kawecki asked how the group keeps from
stepping on local toes.
“We have a very active community. How do you deal with
organizations that are already committed to doing some of these
McCollom said active local groups create “the best situation for
“Then what we do is go to the organization that is most strongly
aligned with what we aim to do and say ‘What can we do to help
you? Can we participate? You now have access to us as added
Both McCollom and Edwards made clear that the outdoor recreation
industry is well worth the city’s attention.
“This is not small potatoes. These are not little visitors that
are wearing spandex that come for a couple hours and leave,”
McCollom said. “They do that, but they leave behind significant
amounts of money.
“It is a huge employer and can have a huge impact,” she said,
adding that the outdoor recreation industry employs five times as
many people as Wal-Mart, the largest commercial enterprise in the
McCollom said Star City was already on board. The program will be
presented to Granville next week.
She said Westover has not responded to the group’s requests.