FREDERICKTOWN – Fredericktown had a head start on efforts to refocus attention on the Monongahela River when conservationists came calling last year while searching for towns willing to make better use of the waterway to rebuild their economies.
Local leaders had already formed the Maxwell Basin Recreation Area to hold events to draw visitors off a major highway that bypasses Fredericktown and Millsboro about a year before the Pennsylvania Environmental Council decided to expand its River Town Program, said Fredericktown businessman Dennis Slagle.
“We were ahead of the game,” Slagle said Friday, a day before Three Rivers Dock Dogs would hold a weekend of competitions at a local marina.
“We have more to work with,” he said.
Fredericktown is further along in terms of holding festivals than the five other towns in Washington, Fayette and Greene counties that signed onto the program, said Lindsay Baxter, a council project manager.
“It’s an interesting town because so many people go there to the marinas, but not so many of them were taking advantage of the (other) businesses,” Baxter said.
That has improved, Slagle said, because the Mon River Towns program is working.
“It’s been a good summer,” said Mike Starkey, meat manager at Fredericktown Butcher Shop along Route 88 at the gateway to a string of marinas along Ten Mile Creek, which spills into the Mon.
“It’s the boaters, most definitely,” Starkey said.
Morgan Boyle, co-owner of Greene Cove Yacht Club along Ten Mile in nearby Jefferson Township, said he can tell business has grown by the number of “different faces” he’s been seeing at the marina with 230 boat slips.
“It’s good for the area,” Boyle said of the River Towns program.
Funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation of Pittsburgh, the program was launched a few years ago among several communities along the Allegheny River. The second generation was begun in February 2011 along Pennsylvania’s upper Mon Valley, Baxter said.
She said River Towns focuses on helping communities recognize the rivers are assets that need to be protected.
“It’s part of their economy, way of life,” she said.
The project begins with forming a business action team to take a walk through each town and look at everything with a “fresh set of eyes,” Baxter said.
The short-term goals include improving the landscape and then the team works on adding road signs to connect the towns. A new $200,000 grant will be used for business facade improvements that require a financial contribution from the building owners.
The other Washington County town in the program, California, is working to create a river trail as railroad tracks hug the riverbank there, Baxter said. Rices Landing and Greensboro have signed onto the program in Greene County and Brownsville and Point Marion are the Fayette County members.
Another indication that business has improved in the Fredericktown area is construction of a new Dollar General store near the marinas, said Slagle, owner of Beegraphix, a creative apparel company.
“The atmosphere in the area is better than it’s ever been,” he said.
The Three Rivers Dock Dogs event, which involves measuring the distance dogs can jump into the water, will be held at Greene Cove from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information on local events, visit www.maxwellbasin.com.