Charleroi, Monongahela join River Town tourism group

Area communities join River Town tourism group

September 26, 2013
Herald and Jodie Heady play with their grandson, Matthew Vasquez, along the Monongahela River in May. - Emily Harger / Observer Reporter

CHARLEROI – Charleroi Borough Manager Donn Henderson envisions a walking trail along the edge of the Monongahela River in the community, where docks would lead boaters to a glass museum and further into the downtown to shop or dine.

And, the Washington County borough is working on downtown study on how to tie the business district to a river that has been overlooked for decades by some communities in the Mid-Mon Valley.

“It would be a major improvement in Charleroi,” said Henderson as Charleroi this year became one of the newest members of the River Towns Program launched three years ago to focus attention on the river and promote tourism.

Nearby Monongahela also this year joined the program organized by Pennsylvania Environmental Council, initially with six communities as members, including Brownsville and four others in Washington and Greene counties.

As the council is set to leave future river promotion planning to the communities at the end of this year, the group this month began meeting at California University of Pennsylvania to keep the momentum going, said Norma Ryan, a former Brownsville mayor and River Town member.

“The big thing is the legislators need know there is some significance in this,” Ryan said Thursday. “It’s time. This river does everything but talk. You have to start somewhere.”

The effort gained speed this year when the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources named the Mon the Pennsylvania River of the Year.

East Bethlehem Township supervisors have been attempting to gain ownership from Washington and Fayette counties of the closed ferryboat Frederick to put the historic ferry in a museum. Monongahela has been investing millions of dollars in improvements to its riverside stage, the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium.

A volunteer group in the small city spent thousands of dollars in start-up costs this year to stage the first concert series in decades at the aquatorium and it ended the summer with a budget surplus to continue holding live entertainment there next year, Monongahela Councilwoman Claudia Williams said.

“I’m just tickled pink,” Williams said. “People raved and raved.”

She said the low-cost entertainment attracted large numbers of boaters, some from a far away as Fox Chapel along the Allegheny River.

Meanwhile, Charleroi wants to meet with the local school district over the future of the closed high school football stadium along the river at Second Street.

“The river is our lifeblood,” Williams added.

The River Town Program, along with the National Road Heritage Corridor, will hold its second meeting to review regional projects and determine priorities from 7:45 to 9:15 a.m. today at the Kara Alumni House at Cal. U.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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