Project Leader: Elisa Mayes Project Dates: February 13 - December 16, 2011 Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The month of October has been one of phasing out our involvement in projects, and looking ahead to planning some new ones for next year’s corps. Greensboro had their last Farmers’ Market, and we lucked out with GORGEOUS weather and our largest vendor selection yet. The town saw close to 100 people coming through to listen to The Huffs perform, and enjoy some pumpkin painting activities! It was a very bittersweet day for me, though; I realized that I would probably never see most of our vendors/farmers again. Being able to work with them and help to organize the events each week has been my absolute favorite part of the program, and I will definitely miss spending my Saturdays there with such wonderful people. In other Greensboro news, the town is continuing to meet monthly for Elm Street projects, in addition to hosting meetings for the Sprout Fund Seed Award public art piece that will be erected in town next year.
As a corps, we have been engaging in more projects together across the towns. In preparation for our Funders Tour, Ashley, Jeff, and I spent many long hours in all of the towns – putting together planters, brightening up building facades with a fresh coat of paint, and cleaning up the parks and downtown areas. After all of the hard work we've been doing for the program and in our towns, it was nice to have a representative from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and a representative from the R. K. Mellon Foundation join Cathy, Kent, the Vice President of PEC, and Donna Holdorf, along with community members in each town, for our first official funder's tour. I was only with the group as they toured Greensboro, but Darlene was able to show them the Monon Center and old lock power station, and discuss some of her project ideas in moving forward with the community and region. I also participated in an RTOC project update meeting near the end of the month. Among the many topics that were discussed, the highlight was our recent partnership with the National Parks Service (NPS) and their Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program. We discussed how this partnership will unfold in 2012, and what it means for the "towns" and next years' corps.
I have also been continuing to put out our monthly newsletter, which has been both a challenge and an accomplishment for me. This is the first time I’ve ever worked on such a large-scale publication, and I enjoy putting together the articles each month. And, in an evening that was both fun and beneficial, the SCA corps volunteered at a local community brew festival. The first-annual event drew nearly 200 people to Connellsville and supported local organizations, brewers, and several of the local trail groups!
October was a key month for the River Towns, as we have to wrap up lots of projects before the winter hits here in Pennsylvania. We spent several days working outside on a variety of projects. In November and December, we will have to switch back to more office work. Our sponsoring organization, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, graciously gave us $3000 to complete small projects. It was up to each of us to pick projects in our communities to complete. In Fredericktown, since our main focus has been business development, and connecting outdoor recreation to businesses, I began a simple facade restoration program in the downtown area. If a business owner was willing to put in time to help me, than I would provide supplies and help them with a project. I had two property owners agree to help me paint the front of their buildings. I also purchased fall mums and put them out on the main street, near the veteran's memorial. Local community members also helped out on their own projects, including taking down outdated event banners, painting concrete flower beds, and installing some public art sculptures that were recently donated.
These projects were all accomplished prior to a tour of the region by representatives of some major Pittsburgh area foundations. These groups are looking to fund new projects for next year, so we showed them the kind of work we are doing in our communities.
October was also the due date of the Washington County Local Share Account program, which I have been working on for months now. We had to write some last minute letters, make engineering diagrams of the existing public boat docks, and compile all permits, but that application finally was sent in. Now we must wait until the county decides what projects to fund.
The entire River Towns Corps spent one day touring Monessen, a town along the Monongahela River, but located closer to Pittsburgh. We met with a few community groups and saw what kind of work they have been doing. I also worked at the Sustainable Energy Fair in Ohiopyle, and attended a regional trails meeting, hosted by the "Power of 32" group.
Finally, we had several very important meetings in October. The most recent meeting of the Fredericktown Action Team decided on several projects for next year, and local community members stepped up and took on responsibilities. I had meetings with two new partners, that I hope to work with a lot in the future: the Boy Scout Troop in Rices Landing, and the California University's 'Eco Action' Club. Lastly, we had a major meeting with McCollom Development Strategies to decide which projects would be a focus of next year's corps.
In each of our towns it seemed like October was the month for getting things done. We all contributed to each town in some way. It was great getting all of us together to get some important projects done, and having fun while we did them. The month started out by the team visiting Monessen, PA to get a town tour & meet with some local community members to see what the town has been trying to improve on and work that has been completed by the community. It was nice to see other Monongahela River Towns striving to make their communities better.
At the beginning of the month was an important chance for the River Towns to show what we have been up to. We had 2 potential funders come our towns so in order to get prepared for them we had several projects going on in each of the towns. In Fredericktown we helped a few local business owners paint their buildings, as well as one in Point Marion. Point Marion's park also received some lovely planters in the town to help liven things up a bit. It really makes the park look better. Just these small things really help the town!
RTOC has been trying to update our social media more frequently to get people more updated with what is going on. Besides updating facebook with pictures to give more of a visual of what we are getting our hands into, I was recently able to get Point Marion on Urbanspoon. This was a big accomplishment for me! So everyone can now be directed to Point Marion, instead of Uniontown, PA. Now, all of Point Marion's restaurants are included.
There was so fun to be had this month as well. The Izaak Walton League had Peggy Pings lead 2 paddles on Dunkard Creek this past month, which I attended. It was a perfect time of year to see the colors changing and get a different perspective on Dunkard. Each paddle had anywhere from 15-24 people in attendance, from all over WV & PA. It was a great time to get out and meet new people.
I have continued going to the Saturday clean ups at Point Marion Park. We added a few things to our list of things to do as well. Vicki and I transplanted some flowers to an area of the park we are hoping to turn into a nature/wildflower area, instead of just a wild grassy hill. We were also able to clear out some large structures from the woods near the baseball fields. Another morning we headed over to the trail to WV as we heard there was some dumping going on. We found a huge hole that was filled with trash bags. So we went to town and cleared them out, all 15 of them. It was a little sense of pleasure.
Considering our term here is slowly coming to an end it is making for more work to update for next years corps. I have been busy trying to update all of my towns documents and other plans. The Point Marion Action Team met for the last time this month as well. It was great, we were able to delegate some activities and projects to members to work on throughout the winter. We also had a meeting with Peggy Pings about the recent announcement of the RTCA working with RTOC next year. This will be a great connection and fit for both organizations. It will get the corps out on the water more as well, which is always good.
October was probably our busiest month so far with the River Town Outreach Corps. My biggest project of the month was working with California University of Pennsylvania in putting together a day of service where students would do projects around the borough of California. Our focus that day was to do park cleanup and improvements as well as to install mum planters around town to brighten up the business district. Another service project that I was a part of was in Fredericktown where I helped prepare a store front to be painted.
I have also continued to teach my Sociology Service Learning course at Cal U and the students have been really responsive to my lessons about community development and sustainability. The California River Town Action Team also met this past month and we had our best meeting yet as we prioritized our goals for next year. I want to organize one more California community event before my term is over and I am taking care of that right now along with the Cal U Americorp student Lauren Turosik. Time is moving fast but I still have some things I want to get done.
September kicked off with a heat wave, and we were as busy as ever! I spent the first few days of the month making sure everything was lined up for Art Blast, Greensboro’s biggest annual event. This included answering emails, working with Darlene to organize schedules for music, and calling vendors to confirm their participation. Labor Day weekend rolled around, and boy was it a scorcher! We had vendors set up around the gazebo and under tents, as they would be there from 8am to sometime in the mid-afternoon. We had asked our best-selling vendors to consider extending their hours this weekend for Art Blast, and many of them agreed to do so. Unfortunately, the change in set-up and the extremely warm weather might have kept many people away. Thankfully for our second day, we saw some cooler weather - which meant a LOT more people! I was down in Greensboro early in the morning to help reorganize our set-up, since we decided to move everyone who was previously at the gazebo up to the log cabin in the pursuit of a more cohesive arrangement. Despite some clouds and a few rain showers, we definitely had more people come to Day 2 of the event. We also had some vendors who decided not to come for the 2nd day, which ended up being ok because space up at the Log Cabin was more limited than down near the gazebo. We had easily over 200 people today, and next year's event will be even more successful!
After the holiday weekend we had the C&O Canal Towpath town tours! We visited the towns of Paw Paw, WV, Little Orleans and Williamsport, MD, Shepherdstown and Harper's Ferry, WV, Brunswick, and Point of Rocks, MD. Along the way we met with the Two Rivers Heritage/Two Rivers Heritage Partnership, people who work with some of the towns’ Merchants Associations, and local government and city council representatives. While in these towns, we were able to appreciate their many historic buildings, along with some of the struggles they face now, including vacant storefronts and blighted properties. All in all, a wonderful experience!
Throughout the month, Ashley and I worked on the public art for Greensboro and Point Marion, a project that was funded through the Sprout Fund Seed Award program. We are working on putting a committee together that will mix local residents with local artists, so that we can get their input on ideas for a location, and how to use certain mediums (glass & pottery) to tell the "Greensboro story".
I also volunteered at Friendship Hill’s annual Festifall event, which is a celebration of the life & times of Albert Gallatin (the original owner of Friendship Hill). We dressed in period costumes in order to fit in with the theme of the day/event. I worked the tent that had period-style toys and candy for sale. We also had toys for the kids to play with - one of them even asked "How do you turn it on?" We got to see some interesting demonstrations, hear readings from Albert Gallatin's letters to his wife, and saw several military reenactments!
The month wrapped up with a team-building day: both the Connellsville teams and the Green Cities group came together for an SCA bicycle ride/catch up day in Ohiopyle! It was a chilly, overcast fall day, but we warmed up considerably when the sun would peek through. As always, it was great to see the Green Cities team and hear about what they've been up to!
This month flew by, which means we are getting closer, sadly to the end. But that doesn't stop all the activity going on. Since the beginning we have been helping all throughout our towns with community events. I have been keeping up with attending Saturday clean ups at Point Marion Park. I have found my new favorite activity, operating heavy equipment.
The first weekend, we also had the Art Blast on the Mon going on in Greensboro, so I headed over there to assist. I was volunteering wherever I was needed, whether manning a booth or socializing with the community members. It was a good success. They even had some music going on throughout the event as well, which I personally loved. Mid way through the month both teams headed down to the C&O Canal Towpath in West Virginia & Maryland, along the Potomac River. We were not sure whether we were actually going to be able to ride the whole thing, due to flooding in the whole area, so we decided to just make it a driving tour of the towns. We were able to still do a little riding from Sheperdstown, WV to Brunswick, MD, in the pouring rain for most of it. The entire purpose of this adventure was actually for work. We were touring around the Canal Towns & meeting with different community members. It was great seeing how involved these towns are within each of their communities. And many had great volunteer base that makes it happen. We each had our own town to observe and mine was Sheperdstown, WV. This little college community was one of my favorites.
Along with the fun stuff, I also attended a few meetings. One of them being the Fredericktown Action Team Meeting. It is great seeing how other river town communities interact differently. We also had the monthly Point Marion Park Commission meeting were we discussed a variety of different things including weekly schedules, closing areas for the season, beautification projects, etc. I am also continually working on collaborating information about getting a public art piece in Point Marion. We are trying to put together possible locations, local artist, & what the public art will consist of.
Near the end of the month Friendship Hill National Historic Site had their annual Festifall event. The River Town Corps were there volunteering all weekend. Myself, I worked the candy & toy booth, even dressing up in outfits and everything. It was a great turn out & the corps were all very excited to lend a hand.
It seems like every month, I write about how that particular month was the busiest or most important so far. But I guess that means we are building momentum and this project is really getting off the ground. The meetings we held in September were some of the most important so far, and the small projects that we have been planning are now done and on the ground, or moving closer to being finished.
The first thing we did in September was have a meeting with Carl Knoblock, the District Director of the Pittsburgh office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since we are concerned with helping new small businesses open, he was invaluable to us. Carl gave us an overview of what services the SBA can offer, as well as general business advice to pass on to people that come to me with business ideas. He later shipped us many copies of “Small Business Resource” magazines that we can give to small businesses, and he offered to visit any of our towns if we would like him to get an “on the ground” view of what we are doing.
Then, the entire corps took off for West Virginia and Maryland, to tour the C&O Canal Towpath trail, and the towns along it. The original plan had been to ride the entire towpath trail, but due to heavy rains and flooding, we did most of the trip by car. On the second day, however, there was enough of a break in the weather to allow some of us to ride about twenty miles of the trail. We did meet with officials, business people, and representatives from various groups in the towns, who showed us their towns were taking advantage of their natural resources and attractions. We not only enjoyed the entire trip, but found the new ideas and experiences useful in our work back in Pennsylvania.
Back in Pennsylvania, I held or attended many useful meetings. The monthly meeting of our River Towns Action Team was one of the most productive meetings so far. Many partner groups are beginning to become involved, such as GTECH strategies (a Brownfield redevelopment group), and the Izaak Walton League (a conservation group). We continued to work on our proposal for the Local Share Account funds. I have solicited letters of support from various groups, and have also begun to look for alternative sources of funding, to provide a match for any LSA funds. The largest of these matching funds could come from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. I have been actively researching their grant program.
Once these meetings and planning sessions were over, we got our hands dirty and got some projects done in our towns. These included a park clean up day in Rices Landing, in which we removed debris from a concrete retaining wall, volunteering at “FestiFall” at Friendship Hill NHS, volunteering at “Love Local Weekend”, and even appearing as guests on a local radio show to promote the River Towns Program. Finally, I have set up more work days for the beginning of October, in both Fredericktown and Rices Landing.
September has been my busiest month in SCA to date, but I'm happy to say a lot was accomplished. At the end of August I attended the California University of Pennsylvania and borough partnership meeting where I discussed my plans for the month and people were very happy to hear about my work and ideas for town. I also made the transition to creating a River Towns Action Team in California that will meet the third Saturday of each month. That was a big accomplishment for me and the Action Team has been very helpful whenever I had a question about town.
My work has also expanded to another town in the area, Rices Landing. Jeff and I are splitting this project and have already had a clean up day and met with borough council and they seemed supportive. We are putting plans in place to do some projects specifically related to the parks in town and involving the area Boy Scouts.
This month our team also traveled to western Maryland and West Virginia for a tour of the C&O Canal Towpath trail towns. We encountered quite a bit of rain so our biking was limited but the trip was still a great learning experience to see the similarities and differences between our towns and the ones down there.
Another highlight of the month included volunteering at Friendship Hill's Festifall. This was a popular event held in southern Fayette county near our river town of Point Marion. I dressed up in colonial era clothes and assisted handicapped and elderly individuals in driving them up and down from the festivities to the parking lots. This was a good opportunity to talk to new people about my work in the area. It was a month to remember and October is setting up to be a great month as well.
The dog days of summer were upon us this past month! I have been particularly hands-on in Greensboro this month, between the Farmers’ Markets, getting ready for Art Blast over Labor Day weekend, and attending community meetings. Mid-way through the month, I attended a full day of meetings relating to both the Lock Power House brownfields site, and the annual review of Greensboro’s Elm Street plan. In the morning, Darlene had gathered together a power-house of people from important groups to discuss future plans for the Lock Power House that the borough owns. I arrived early to help her set up the Log Cabin with agendas, place cards, and a looped powerpoint presentation. There were people from Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), SPC's Power Smart program, the Army Corps of Engineers, Carnegie Mellon University's Brownfields program, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Penn DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Introductions were made and a brief history of the Lock Building was given, and then potential issues (structural, environmental, and property-wise) were discussed. We then walked down to the building and toured the property, and then came back to the Log Cabin to discuss next steps over lunch. Immediately following the Lock Building meeting, Bill Fontana from the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC) began his annual review of the Elm Street program. Over the course of the afternoon, he met with each Elm Street committee individually: Safe, Clean & Green, Image & Identity, Design Team, and Neighbors & Economy. Bill discussed project timelines, feasibility, and future goals with each committee. Then, after meeting separately with Darlene, Bill met with the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC), which is a group comprised of the chairperson of each committee. They all discussed successes, places where some of the goals need to be re-evaluated, and future steps for Greensboro's Elm Street program. After the last meeting was over, I stayed to help Darlene clean up the Log Cabin. What a long day, but I learned a lot about brownfield sites and got to see how a community development plan works in action!
Greensboro’s Farmers’ Markets were pretty average all month, seeing between 70-100 customers each week and not adding any new vendors. Several of our Saturdays were rainy, which might have resulted in lower customer counts. After one of the first markets of the month, Darlene held a meeting with our current farmers/vendors. We discussed the possibility of continuing the market through October, the feasibility of having a winter market, and any suggestions that they might have for improvements/things that they'd like to see done differently. All of the vendors agreed that they'd like to see the market go through October, so I'll be assisting with that through the end of the month.
Program-wise, we have officially launched the River Towns Program in all five towns! Cathy and I traveled to Rices Landing to meet with the residents of the town, where we discussed projects that would be most beneficial to the community and what residents felt were the highest priority. Also, as part of our marketing plan, we’ve all been responsible for creating day-trip/weekend get-away itineraries for each of our towns/the region (respectfully). I also finished our River Towns newsletter, and our first publication will launch very soon.
As a team, the River Towns Outreach Corps worked together a lot this past month. Earlier in the month, we traveled down to Friendship Hill National Park to assist in some of the planning for their Festifall event in September. From Friendship Hill we headed straight down to West Virginia to ride the Cheat Lake bike trail. It was only about 8 miles total, with beautiful lake-side scenery to take in the whole ride! At the end of the month, we all got together again to ride the Mon River Trail bike. We started in Fairmont, West Virginia, rode our bikes north through Morgantown, and continued on to Point Marion, PA. All in all, we logged about 30 miles on our bikes – not to mention it was a GREAT teambuilding activity!
Lots of projects underway in our River Towns. At the start of the month we had Point Marion's first Action Team Clean Up at the park. About 15 people were in attendance on that bleak, rainy day. But despite the torrential downpour, everyone's motivation was still high. We managed to not only clean up the park, but we also got 4 new grills installed. Each time the Action Team has gotten together, there has been more people showing up. It has been exciting getting new people informed & getting their inputs on what the community needs. Every Saturday I have also been volunteering with the Point Marion Park Commission, assisting with park clean up & maintenance. I have been able to ride some exciting equipment around and work with some great individuals.
During the early part of the month I was trying to organize an event for the park & luckily after discussion with PA Fish & Boat, we were able to determine we are going to be having a Family Fishing Program at the Point Marion Park in October. This will be a great opportunity for families to come out & utilize their park! A few other projects underway in Point Marion are the public art & recycling in the park. These are on ongoing thing & we hope to have some finish products shortly.
As part of what the River Towns goal is to help with economic development, therefore I have completed an inventory of available properties that I am aware of in downtown Point Marion, that would be useful for small business'. This an ongoing project as well, considering I am constantly finding out more information. Hopefully we can make it easier & more attractive to investors by doing smaller projects.
The entire team also attended a planning meeting at Friendship Hill National Historic Site in mid August. It was one of the annual meetings for Friends of FHNHS as well as a chance for members and volunteers to get together & plan for their big Festifall event in mid September. There is going to be all kinds of activities, and this year they are having a lot of the area schools involved too, so it will be great for the whole family. Another event we did as whole team was ride the Mon River Trail from Fairmont, West Virginia to Point Marion, PA, a total of about 30 miles. It was a well maintained trail with lots of nice waterfalls along it as well as amazing views of the Mon. We had a lunch break in Morgantown, at the amphitheater. It was nice seeing active users on this trail!
The month of August started off with some volunteer time at the Fayette County Fair, during which I wore the mascot suit for the Buy Local program. I started to work heavily on the Local Share Proposal for Washington County Gambling funds, in which we are applying for expanded docks and an improved riverfront in Fredericktown. I met with a representative of the Army Corps of Engineers, who explained the necessary permits. We made a presentation to the local municipality, and got the support of the elected officials. I also attended a workshop held by the Washington County Redevelopment Authority, to gain some insight into the application process, and to get some hints. They told us to look for matching funds, instead of asking for all funding from them. Therefore I began to research some other grants that can be applied for to help finance our project. This project will continue to be a priority as we move into September, but thankfully I have many interested community partners who are doing other aspects of it.
In August I also worked on tourism-related projects for the region. We had several more days of field research to find points of interest for the smart phone trail app. Once those attractions were loaded into the software, I sent the app out for proofreading. Hopefully it will be finalized and launched soon. I also wrote a series of one-day itineraries, that in the future can be posted to our website or to other travel publications, to advertise the region.
Economic development projects were a third thing I focused on in August. I compiled a list of available commercial properties in the town. The other corps interns will do the same in their towns. We also began to plan a workshop for property owners, to teach them how to better market their properties. For that workshop, I drafted a sign to hang in the windows of available commercial properties. Finally, we met with a representative from GTECH strategies, a Pittsburgh based group, to tour a brownfield site in Fredericktown. It was for mermine-related structures, and is now a large vacant site. It is hopefully not too polluted, and can be cleared of scrap metal and reused in the future.
July was an important month for work in and around the River Towns Program. We moved past our town assessments and have begun to work on projects that were identified as important in each community. I compiled all of the raw data from our town assessment in Fredericktown. I tallied up community member's answers to determine what projects the town felt was important. I then wrote a report on our findings, which detailed the service gaps in the Fredericktown area, pointed out the problems that a potential visitor would face, yet also highlighted what the strengths of the community are. We used these findings to decide what kinds of projects we would implement in Fredericktown.
Moving past the town assessment, I began to compile a database of available commercial properties. That way, if a person looking to open a business needs a building, they can come to us and we will work with the owners to help establish a new business. I worked on a number of grants to help get projects off the ground. We are applying for a "Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful" grant which will provide paint and supplies to paint a derelict building in town. We are applying for the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, to get the NPS involved with our River Towns project. Finally, I am assisting as we put together a proposal for the "Local Share" fund, a program in which gambling revenue from a casino in Washington County can be used for community development projects. Our idea is a river enhancement package, with upgraded docks, signs, and a public restroom. Last but not least, we held a meeting of the Economic Team, which was formed after the town assessment, to discuss signage, business attraction, and real estate issues.
It has not been a bad summer here in Connellsville as our work has gone forward in the right direction. During most of the month The River Town Team has been discussing having a regional event and have put some plans in place to do that in the fall. The event would bring many people from the towns together to educate them and encourage them to do work in their communities. Each town has formed an action team that consists of community members that will focus on continuing some of our work and the goal for this team is to be active long after our program is finished. We have found great people in each of our towns and we are grateful that they have welcomed us and have cooperated with us and our ideas for each town.
In California right now my work has focused mostly on working with a community member from neighboring Coal Center who owns a lot of undeveloped river front property. I have set him up with an architect to get plans in place and also had a meeting with his banker to see if funds would be available for such a large development along the river. I am also writing an extensive grant to see if I can get funds for a public fishing/boating dock in downtown California. I have also contributed to the River Town smart phone application by taking pictures and notes of attractions in the California area. This will help to promote tourism in the Mon Valley region once completed.
As I have reached more than the halfway point of my service time here I have grown a lot and have learned so much about community development, local government, and the culture of western Pennsylvania. I am glad to be a part of a program like this and I am proud of the work that I have done so far.
Outdoor adventures was the theme of this month & man were we all ready for it. At the beginning we were able to go and explore the little piece of trail that runs from Point Marion to West Virginia. It was great just getting outside and seeing this mile & a 1/2 piece of trail that I hear so much about & then to go on and explore on the West Virginia side, the Mon River trail. Some of us decided to take a few comp days as well to go with some of our fellow coworkers from Trail Town on the Great Allegheny Passage from Rockwood, PA to Cumberland, MD. That little adventure was well worth it. It was a total of about 43 miles and I was surprisingly not as sore as I had thought I was going to be. As part of SCA training we also took a little trip up to Pittsburgh and had a kayak lesson from Exkursions. It was GREAT! I had never paddled in a big city like that, so that experience went down in the books.
For a majority of this month I have been making weekly visits to the borough building to work from there. It has been helpful too to be able to go to the borough manager Art for any questions that I might have, especially ones about the river that came up from our next adventure. For a good portion of the 3rd week in July Laura and myself were assisting an intern from the PA Fish & Boat Commission with project he was working on. We 'had' to go paddling for a few of those days too, man, what a rough job. We were just stoked to finally get out on the Mon and see it from that point of view. We paddled the section from Point Marion to Greensboro and focused on gathering GPS points and points of interest along the river as well.
I have been also been going down to Point Marion every Saturday morning to assist with the Park Commissions volunteers with park maintenance and clean up. There have been about 3-5 of us each time and we usually try and support the local restaurant, the Riverside Diner, each time before we head out to start the hard work. One of the reasons I am working with the park is because it was mentioned at the town assessment that it is one of the towns main interest, since it is going to be the main trail head/entrance to Point Marion once the trails get connected. Another idea mentioned at the town assessment was obtaining some historic photos and blow them up to put on some of the window displays in the downtown area. We are still working on actually finding photos that would be good enough quality to be blown up. Speaking of the town assessment, we are also in the planning of putting together the 2nd get together for the action team for August 6th. We will be discussing the next step & inform them of the projects we have been working on since we last met.
Overall, I am thankful we are trying to overlook this heatwave up here by getting outside and enjoying the outdoors, even if! It makes for a better time had all around!
The month of July has been both our hottest and most hands-on month thus far! In the beginning of the month, Ashley and I walked the Mon River Bike Trail from Point Marion to the West Virginia, and then continued along the trail for a bit into West Virginia. Not only was the West Virginia portion of the trail beautifully maintained, but it’s also easily accessible from Point Marion (1.5 miles from the town’s park). Around the middle of the month Ashley and I became involved in a project through the Fish and Boat Commission: an intern took photos & video along the Mon, recording GPS points, making notes of historical sites, old locks, recent locks, alternate waterways (Dunkard & George’s Creek), launch areas, bathrooms, eating establishments, etc., and we helped him gather all of his data! This will be used for a water trail map that highlights the section of the Mon between Point Marion and Greensboro. I also attended Greensboro’s annual Paddle on the Mon event, hosted by the Fish and Boat Commission in partnership with Nathanael Greene Historical Society. We paddled for about 2 hours on the Mon, heading up towards the lock and dam right above Greensboro (by the Hatfield Power Plant) and then paddling back down towards Mon View Park before finally coming ashore. Despite the fact that it was a very hot and sunny day, there were between 40-50 (mostly middle-aged) participants at the event! It was a great opportunity to engage local residents in recreational opportunities on a river that connects so many aspects of the region. It was also a great experience for us (the outreach corps) to get some feedback about what paddlers found interesting about their Mon River paddling experience.
Greensboro’s 4th of July Farmers’ Market was a great start to a new month! I ran Ice-Cream Making as the Kid’s Activity, and we had red & blue food dye, and 4th of July sprinkles for the kids to put on their finished product. Over 150 people came throughout the day! As the month progressed, we continued to see customer counts above 80 each week, and were even able to add some new vendors to our event. Near the end of the month I ran the Kid’s Activity again, this time to make homemade Play-doh – what a fun project! Other projects in Greensboro have been picking up as we cruise past our half-way point in the program. After the town assessments throughout the month of June, we have all been busy synthesizing the results of the surveys and prioritizing projects to work on for the next few months. I have also been working independently on demographic information for Greene County, obtained via the borough manager, which we will be analyzing and using for marketing purposes.
I’ve also been actively compiling and editing the River Towns marketing plan that Cathy, Lori and I developed. We discussed strategies to attract a variety of demographics to the area, and different ways we could market events and/or packages/itineraries to those groups. One way we will go about doing this through our regional newsletter that will be sent out in August. As we move into August, more projects will be getting underway and we will be actively working with our communities’ action teams to make sure that they are as sustainable as possible!
June was an interesting mix of important projects and some slower times in-between completing our assessments and then outlining how the rest of the year will progress. In the beginning of the month, we all mapped the businesses in our towns onto a Google Maps printout of the towns. This will be helpful for us to visually address key areas in the towns where the most important businesses are, allows us to know where we can direct people for specific services that they might need/be interested in, and provides a reference point for areas where improved signage would be useful. We also had our town assessments throughout the month of June, and at the end of the month the team sat down with PEC’s consultant Cathy and her partner, Kent, to discuss goals for the River Towns program and what directions we will be taking in the next few months. We discussed short term and long term goals for each town, and then larger regional projects that we will be focusing on in the coming months.
We’ve also been busy looking at different ways to promote the River Towns as a regional project, part of which has been developing a smartphone application for region-wide activities along the Mon. As a team we have been putting together places and events that visitors in the area might be interested in checking out. We have our River Towns Facebook profile up and running again, so be sure to check it out! My next big project is working on a monthly regional newsletter, which I’m really excited about – it will definitely start to tie all of our towns together on a more regional level.
I’ve also been lucky enough to be spending at least one full day each week in Greensboro working out of the borough building with their Elm Street manager on several different projects. However, my main responsibility is to organize all of the monetary additions/expenses from the Farmers' Markets. I also wrote an article for the newspaper featuring two of our produce vendors, and put together a kids activity that I will be running at the Farmers' Market over the 4th of July weekend. On the first Saturday of the month we had our most successful Farmers' Market to-date, with almost 200 people coming through between when the market opened (8am) and closing (noon) and three of our vendors selling out before 11:30.
In the middle of the month, the River Towns team got to experience one of the many river recreation opportunities in the region, first hand! Jeff, Brad, Elisa and I explored water recreation and supported local businesses in Ohiopyle when we booked a whitewater rafting trip through Wilderness Voyagers on the Lower Youghiogheny River. Ashley and a member of the Trail Town team took Ashley's canoe out to Yough Lake in Maryland and spent the day paddling around the area there. Later in the month, the team participated in Fayette County’s Wednesday Walks program at Friendship Hill; the program gathers people together each Wednesday for several weeks in the summer, meeting in different towns/at different trails, and walking around for a few hours getting some exercise while learning about the history of the area. At the end of the month Ashley and I rode the bike trail from Fredericktown to Crucible to assess the trail and get a sense of the area around it. We found the trail from Fredericktown to Rices Landing to be really nice and clean, with public art and picnic tables/benches placed along the trail with a nice view of the Mon. It was a great end to a productive month!
After planning, executing, & compiling all the data for the Point Marion Albert Gallatin Memorial Day Parade we were able to cross that project off our list. Next year’s organizer will have it pretty good with contact information, flyers, press releases, & the do's & don'ts of planning a parade. At the beginning of June we were able to knock of California & Point Marion's Town Assessments. Each one had pretty good turn outs, where we were able to come up with corps groups to work with from each town. It was great to get some of the community members to step outside and look at their towns from a visitors perspective and see how their views may change. Also, just hearing the input that a variety of people had on the area was encouraging, considering we are going to be working together to get a lot of these issues addressed. As a group, we are all contributing to a Mon River App through the PEC. This is going to be a great regional project for all of our towns. Giving people the points of interest at the tip of their fingers will be a great asset.
This month was especially great for me considering I was able to finally get my canoe out on the water where it belongs! We actually headed over to Ten Mile Creek, a tributary off the Mon, for a little day paddle. We were on the water for about 4 hours & covered roughly 8 miles. We luckily had a local as our guide, who also provided the kayaks. It was so awesome to finally get out and do something recreational. And our guide was great, passing on river & historic information, as well as his own stories. Another outing I had was a flat water paddle down at Yough Lake along the Maryland/Pennsylvania border.
After the town assessments were all complete we were able to all come together as a team and see what each communities focus as well as more of regional projects as well. Keeping in contact with our corps attendees will be very crucial to the sustainability of this project, which is why I will continue having constant contact with each person.
As part of the assessment on Point Marion, the idea of hanging historic photos of the area in window displays of the main street was brought up. Since then, I have been trying to gather photos from locals, historical societies, & local libraries. I am excited for this project to get started, just being able to see a small change will be good for all.
To finish of a productive month, myself and Laura also took a little bike ride over on the Green River Trail, starting at the trailhead in Millsboro. It was a quick 5 mile bike ride through Rices Landing & ending right outside, near Crucible. We were both impressed with the area, with the wooded fence in some areas, as well as an amazing black raspberry patch in Pumpkin Run Park in Rices Landing! Wonderful way to conclude June!
Summer has kicked into high gear here in Connellsville! This month was another step in creating a presence in our River Towns to build relationships with the people who live and work in these communities. We had all of our town assessments in June including California on June 6. Each assessment welcomed community members to come and walk around their communities to gain a new vision of what is great about their town and what needs improving. Each individual filled out an assessment and we came back after our walk around town to discuss what was needed. When this was finished and our program was introduced I began attending town council meetings in both California and Coal Center and also the monthly Parks and Recreation Committee meetings. My satellite office in town is now located in the Parks and Recreation building and I will be in town for a day at least once a week. This month also included some fun activities on the river which I was very excited about. We kayaked Ten Mile Creek which is a tributary of the Monongahela River near Millsboro, PA and also adventured through the white water rapids in Ohiopyle State Park. Both were great experiences and now I can tell people how much fun it can be to recreate on the river. There are a couple of projects that are just in the beginning stages that I'm working on in California and Coal Center. In California I have begun writing a grant to see if I can get funding to put a fishing/boating dock in the town so there can be more access to the river than there currently is. In Coal Center I am working with an eager business owner who has land and the funds to get started on some business and river front projects that he has always dreamed of doing. Both projects are exciting and I hope to make a lot of progress on them in the coming weeks.
June began with the crew conducting needs assessments in each of the towns. Fredericktown-Millsboro was the first, and we had a great turn out, with lots of locals very excited and brimming with ideas. We listened to everyone’s ideas and have now begun to work on projects. Our first project is an “app” for a smart phone that lists tourist sites throughout the region. I am writing descriptions and taking pictures of sites to include on the app.
I then worked on a couple of economic development projects. First was to compile a list of business resources to give out to potential business owners. Now, when someone has an idea for a business in our region, we can provide them assistance, or at least direct them to the proper source. I also assisted in writing a grant, to provide funding for a brochure about a water trail on Ten Mile Creek, PA. Finally, I attended the Chamber of Commerce meeting in Fredericktown, during which we discussed the signage program in the area, and a banner program for light poles in the downtown area.
There were also lots of good times in June. Several of us on the River Towns Crew went kayaking on Ten Mile Creek. We were guided by a local who wants to open a kayak rental business on the creek, so we also discussed ways we can help him get his business ready. A few days later, as more of a team building activity, we went whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle. In the end of the month, I attended the Outdoor Nation Youth Summit in New York City, where I made some great contacts and learned a lot of potential funding sources. A free pair of hiking shoes wasn’t bad either.
The month ended with a review meeting with the entire River Towns crew. We discussed what projects have been going on, and basically laid out the direction of the program for the next few months.
Throughout the month of May I made great contacts of fellow river enthusiast. It is great seeing other people in different lines of work, dedicated to the same ideas the River towns have. These connections have led to volunteer opportunities throughout the Upper Mon area. One in particular will be assisting with river clean ups around the West Virginia border. I also attended the Mon River Summit in West Virginia where issues and the success of the Mon were discussed and contacts were made.
Another project that continued from April planning was the 32nd Annual Albert Gallatin Memorial Day Parade that River Towns put together. Throughout the month we organized the best we could, and it all paid off this past weekend, when the parade ran with great success. For the first time any of us have ran a parade, I would say it ran pretty smoothly. We will now have a great deal of information to pass on to the future planners of this parade.
A smaller assignment that we are doing is working on an app for the Mon River. I personally have started a document that has all kinds of recreational opportunities to do in or around the Mon and surrounding area. Everything from boating and hiking to driving tours of General Stores & Mail Pouch Barns, which are all great assets to southwest PA. This information will not only help with this app, but also for general information about our areas and how much there is to do within a short drive. It was actually a fun little project for me because I did not realize how close all these things were, so know we will have to actually go out and 'test this out'.
An ongoing event that we have been helping with since the beginning of May is the Greensboro Farmers Market. This has probably been the best part of my weekends throughout May. Every Saturday, from 8-12, right on the river, we have been volunteering wherever needed. It is a great opportunity to just chat it up with the community members & local farmers. I definitely have been enjoying this event for the simple fact it is bringing this community together even more and it creates a great model for others.
|About the Site|
|Map of Site|
|Elisa Mayes, Program Coordinator|
|Laura's October Update|
|Jeff's October Update|
|Ashley's October Update|
|Brad's October Update|
|Laura's September Update|
|Ashley's September Update|
|Jeff's September Update|
|Brad's September Update|
|Laura's August Update|
|Ashley's August Update|
|Jeff's August Update|
|Jeff's July Update|
|Brad's July Update|
|Ashley's July Update|
|Laura's July Update|
|Laura's June Update|
|Ashley's June Update|
|Brad's June Update|
|Jeff's June Update|
|Ashley's May Update|
|Laura's May Update|
|Brad's May Update|
|Jeff's May Update|
|Laura Cole's April Update|
|Jeff Malik's April Update|
|Ashley Gramlich's April Update|
|Brad Bishop's April Update|