Listen as you walk through the towns on the Monongahela River. You’ll hear some traffic, an airplane or two, kayak paddles pulling through the water, an occasional motorboat. But what you’ll hear above all those pedestrian sounds is one you might not expect: buzz.
Because there is a buzz in the Mon Valley, one that has been building for the last few years. It’s buzz about water recreation, buzz about growing tourism and expanding businesses, buzz about river festivals and public art. It’s a buzz coming from the riverside communities as they turn their focus towards the natural asset that connects them all together.
Towns built with their backs to the once heavily industrial Mon are now putting the river front and center. As water quality improves, local residents fish and boat in greater numbers. People are visiting these towns for the opportunity to spend a day on the water. As a result, the towns are home to an increasing number of boat launches, festivals, riverside restaurants, and other amenities.
Change comes slowly. And it seems to come even slower to small Pennsylvania towns with limited resources. To that end, in 2013 committed civic and community leaders from 27 Mon Valley communities banded together to form the Mon River Valley Coalition with help from the River Town Program.
Founded in 2010 by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the River Town Program was initially headed by Cathy McCollom of McCollom Development Strategies. In 2011, Donna Holdorf of the National Road Heritage Corridor assumed leadership. McCollom has continued to help local communities apply for and receive grant funding from various public and private partners, including the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the PA Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources…