Rices Landing a ‘hidden gem’ on the Mon River

March 2, 2017
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Celeste Van Kirk
Ryan Belski mayor of Rices Landing on the Green Rive Trail on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.
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Mike Jones
The W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop in Rices Landing built in 1900 was designated as a National Historic Landmark in January.
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Mike Jones
A view of the Greene River Trail tunnel that leads to Pumpkin Run Park in Rices Landing.
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Mike Jones
A barge travels south down the Monongahela River as it passes by Rices Landing in Greene County.

When Rices Landing Mayor Ryan Belski looks out at the tiny borough nestled along the Monongahela River in Greene County, he sees potential.

From the expansion of the popular Greene River Trail that runs through town to the upcoming dredging of the boat ramp to allow larger watercraft to enter the Mon, the mayor thinks lots of good things are happening in Rices Landing.

“It’s really a beautiful town,” Belski says. “We hope to grow a little bit and get some investors interested in putting in some shops or cafes along the trail.”

The town received a boost in early January when the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the 109-year-old W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop located in the heart of town as a National Historic Landmark.

The foundry is open on most Sundays, along with other days by special appointment, but Belski says the national designation will put Rices Landing on the map and hopes it will attract visitors from as far away as Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Ohio to explore the other great recreation options in the borough.

“It seems to be a hidden gem,” Belski says of the town.

The key now, he says, is to help more people from across the region to find it.

That’s where Greene County Tourism Director JoAnne Marshall comes in. She thinks the confluence of activities between biking and boating can help boost the town.

“You have a unique setup where you are attracting bikers and kayakers and paddle boarders,” Marshall says. “Just in that one location with the public (boat) launch, you would be able to access the water and trail. It offers more opportunities to families. “

The historic designation for the foundry has already reached people outside the county, Marshall says. She has heard of people from Morgantown, W.Va., who “weren’t aware that it existed” now showing interest in visiting Rices Landing.

“It provides that awareness and an opportunity to bring more people in,” Marshall says.

The foundry is owned by Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp., which took over the operation of the machine shop in 2009 and has worked to rehabilitate the façade and preserve the intricate belts and pulley system inside that once were used to repair riverboats and coal-mining equipment, among other machinery.

The foundry’s caretaker, George “Bly” Blystone, thinks the designation will attract people to the machine shop, but is not sure if it will have the same crossover draw for other recreation activities.

“I just think it’s going to bring a lot more people and probably help itself with the finances,” he says. “There are people who call me every two weeks and say, ‘I’ve never heard of this place. Can I come?’ It’s still hidden.”

The same goes for the rest of the town, he says.

“If they knew all the stuff that was happening, there’s the (annual) Riverfest and a great crowd for that, but I don’t know if everyone knows all the stuff that is going on down there,” Blystone says.

That’s one of the challenges for borough officials, Belski says.

Rices Landing isn’t far from a major intersection in Dry Tavern between Route 88 and Jefferson Road. But visitors have to get off the beaten trail from there to find Rices Landing in the valley.

“They stay on Route 88 and don’t venture down here,” Belski says.

What they need now to attract visitors, he says, is coffee shops, sandwich joints and a few boutique stores that can serve the 5-mile-long Greene River Trail that will be extended a couple more miles south of Crucible. None of those businesses currently exist in the borough.

Until then, the borough is moving forward with a project to dredge silt from the boat launch along Pumpkin Run that feeds into the Mon River. The project is expected to be completed by Memorial Day and will make the launch deep enough for motor boats.

That would be just in time for the popular Riverfest on June 9 and 10 that attracts numerous vendors and caters to boaters that park just off the lockwall and listen to music over the two-day festival. That festival re-launched after a brief hiatus in the mid-2000s, and it has come back more popular than ever.

“The festival has brought in a lot of people from out-of-state,” Belski says. “People are starting to realize what’s here.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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