The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) continues its work to strengthen communities through their connections to rivers and riverfronts. In this ongoing effort, PEC is happy to partner again with Millvale, Etna, and Blawnox as part of the Allegheny River Town Program.
Funded by the Hillman Foundation, the two-year project will build stewardship of the Allegheny River through education and engagement while assisting the communities in community development projects. The towns will have direct technical assistance in community development work with a focus on greater use and connections to the riverfront.
The economic benefits of a growing outdoor recreational market give towns with riverfront access greater opportunities to attract both visitors and business investment. Building on this, PEC launched the River Town Program in 2010 in Sharpsburg, Blawnox, Aspinwall, O’Hara Township, Etna, and Millvale. At that time, the program introduced municipalities to the value of the outdoor recreation market and worked closely with the business community to offer services and products to attract growing numbers of visitors.
“We are excited to continue this conversation and program, which began as a strategic planning process within our communities and now those seeds have begun to grow,” Etna Borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage said. “It is an exciting time for this renewal in our communities.”
PEC and McCollom Development Strategies (MDS) will work with the communities to identify and launch priority projects to take advantage of increased recreational uses. There are significant investments already being made in some of the individual communities, and the River Town Program will seek to leverage these investments with a regional approach that emphasizes strength in numbers.
“These are communities that continue to transform themselves, and their participation in the program, along with the funding from the Hillman Foundation, allow all the partners to build on what they have already accomplished,” PEC President Davitt Woodwell said. “Efforts like this are happening across the Commonwealth, and we are very happy to have the chance to work with communities like Millvale, Etna, and Blawnox.”
As a result of work by the communities, many engaged citizens in the region’s riverfront communities are already working hard on projects they identified as priorities for improving their towns. Projects range from removing invasive plant species to building river access infrastructure, gateway and urban gardens, engaging local artists to create public art, and integrating a comprehensive wayfinding system.
Over the next two years, PEC and MDS will work with these communities on river and trail connection projects, taking the lead and direction from local leadership and community priorities.