There are dozens of communities along the Monongahela River who are working with the Mon River Valley Coalition to revitalize river towns as recreational assets. With dozens of ongoing projects stretching from Monongahela, PA to Fairmont, WV, the passion for the Mon is stronger than ever. Here are just two examples. Read about all of the projects in the MRVC’s Updated Agenda.
When asked about her involvement as a volunteer with the $2 million renovation of the Aquatorium in Monongahela, Claudia Williams quickly replies, “I just love my community and the river and I think there is so much opportunity here.”
She’s not alone in her passion for her community and the river. In 2013, Aquatorium Innovations, a nonprofit corporation that assists the City of Monongahela in the maintenance of the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium, undertook the renovation of the super-sized outdoor auditorium that was originally built in 1969.
A board member of Aquatorium Innovations and a local business owner, Williams is an advocate for developing the Mon River as a regional recreational asset.
“I think it's of the utmost importance, she says. “The river is such a vital aspect for recreation, for business and for enhanced living. We have allowed our river towns to deteriorate into a rust belt, and we're just trying to put a stop to that in Monongahela.”
Williams points out that as a bedroom community, Monongahela didn’t suffer the devastating losses that other river towns did. We still have a nice bedroom community and we have two miles of developable river property,” she adds. “And we have the Aquatorium, so I think we are a step ahead of many communities in the valley.”
Williams says there are more opportunities to develop river front property and that owners are trying to bring in new developments. “A few years ago the city council passed a zoning ordinance and now the riverfront properties have been declared riverfront recreation properties, so the zoning is lending itself to recreational and residential development rather than industrial which it was originally.”
The community is also leveraging the popularity of the Aquatorium, which seats 3,700 and attracts people from all over the region — many who arrive by boat. “Right now we are trying to get watercraft rentals here at the Aquatorium.” Williams says. “We are researching paddle boards and water trikes.”
But it’s not just the riverfront that people are enjoying. Williams says that visitors to the Aquatorium are benefitting the town. Last year’s Dog Dock, a worldwide competitive dog jumping competition brought crowds to town. And the Witchfest this fall had people from 12 states vying for local lodging.
If you haven’t been to the Aquatorium or Monongahela, plan a visit. They promise it “it will be a "fun" place to hang out on the Mon!”
Marianna Outdoorsmen Association
“The word ‘can't’ or ‘won't’ has crumbled homes, blighted our region, created a devastating drug epidemic, and created a modern day exodus of approximately 35% reduction in regional population. We can no longer accept ‘can't’ or ‘won't.’ Be part of the solution.... Don't run from our problems, but draw a line in the sand, redefine, invent, invest, and create a prosperous and thriving future for our region!”
Jason White, a lifetime resident of Marianna, PA, posted these words on his Facebook page just a few weeks ago. The message is passionate and so is White, a co-founder and former president of the Marianna Outdoorsmen Association (M.O.A) and now chief of staff for State Representative Bud Cook. He is also part of the solution.
White’s involvement in M.O.A., which was started in 2006, was fueled by his ambition to improve the quality of life for people in his community. As an avid outdoorsmen, he recognized the value of the Monongahela River as an asset.
“We have a rich heritage in Marianna and a riverfront infrastructure that needs to be developed,” explains White. “We are trying to tackle drug abuse, economic development and quality of life issues from a different vantage point.”
That vantage point is outdoor recreation and the Mon River.
M.O.A. sponsors a wide variety of events including the largest annual canoe race in the state, a catfish derby, trout stocking, golf outings, a flea market, costume kayak and canoe races, ducky races and more.
These events bring people outdoors and help the M.O.A. to support and fund programs, like the Ten Mile Watershed cleanup, a handicapped-accessible water trail project, education programs in local schools, and community development and promotion.
White has found a kindred spirit in Rep. Cook, who he describes as an advocate for recreation and the potential to revitalize the river towns and promote economic development, job creation and improved quality of life. Cook’s office is looking at a number of opportunities to advance recreational assets from trails to parks to baseball fields and golf courses. Rep. Cook’s office is also taking the template for what M.O.A. has accomplished from a charitable aspect and using that as a model for other communities.
As white says in his Facebook post, it’s all about creating a prosperous and thriving future for our region!