FestiFall 2016 September 24 & 25 11 am – 5 pm
Free event includes 18th Century Food, Crafts, Music, Children’s Games and a Frontier Wedding, Mountaineer Fife and Drum Corps. Sponsored by the Friendship Hill Association at the Albert Gallatin Home, Friendship Hill.
Details are attached.
One of the most important objectives of the River Town Program is to encourage investment in the Mon River Towns. We are willing to help promote available buildings and commercial opportunities on the web and in our newsletter.
There is a Commercial-Industrial Building now available in Fredericktown. The address is 395 Front and was a bar and grill. If you are interested, contact Frank Hammond, firstname.lastname@example.org. 724-518-6564
We’ve all seen images of grizzled fly fisherman standing in a misty morning river or gap-toothed kids on docks holding up their catch of the day. But fishing is not just a way to while away one’s retirement or pass a childhood afternoon — it’s the third most popular outdoor recreation activity in the U.S., right behind biking and running. It’s also big business in Western Pennsylvania.
Talk to a local fisherman and it’s easy to see why. Chris Toth has been fishing the tributaries of the Monongahela River every day for close to 30 years and calls these waters the “hidden jewel of Western Pennsylvania.” The avid angler stops his truck wherever he sees a creek from the road, wading in for a spell on his way to and from work as a coal miner. He says fishing doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be expensive — he builds his own rods and keeps artificial lures in his truck. That way, he can fish whenever the mood strikes.
“I can stand in ankle deep water and catch quality fish,” he says, mentioning a recently nabbed nine-pound Walleye. “People think they have to travel to Erie or go east to get great fishing in Pennsylvania, but it is right here in their backyard.”
Toth credits the improved water quality of the Mon. The settling ponds and water treatment used by area mines — along with the development of modern sewage treatment plants in riverside communities — has resulted in clean water that supports a wide variety of fish. As the water has improved, more people are fishing, swimming and boating.
Rick Spear of the Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) has also witnessed the change. A marine biologist with the DEP for 14 years, Spear is a Fish and Mussel expert. He explains that the Clean Water Act of 1972 got the ball rolling, “making communities and individuals responsible for what got discharged into waterways.” In the 1970s, the Mon River could only support three species of fish: bluegill, catfish, and carp.
“The Mon now has upwards of 50 species, and they are flourishing,” he adds. “Kayak and canoe rentals in Pittsburgh have grown exponentially as the water has become cleaner and more pleasant to fish and boat in.”
Existing marinas and newly constructed launches make it easy to put a boat into the Mon or Ten Mile Creek, but the area still lacks an outfitter to rent kayaks and canoes or sell fishing gear. Spear believes there is a market for that sort of business.
“People think they have to travel to Erie or go east to get great fishing in Pennsylvania, but it is right here in their backyard.” – Chris Toth
One group helping to grow the sector is the Marianna Outdoorsmen’s Association (MOA) in Washington County. The Association sponsors events such as the “Fall Costume Canoe Race” (happening October 8 in Clarksville on Ten Mile Creek). Their annual Spring Canoe Race launched in 2007 with 17 boats. In 2016, 209 boats competed and over 3000 people attended. For 2017, the event has been expanded to two days and dubbed “Outdoor Fest.” It will feature musical entertainment and vendors in addition to the Saturday race. Proceeds and membership fees will support the Association’s educational work, its trout stocking programs and fishing events for veterans, such as one on October 15 with Project Healing Waters.
Started in 2006 by Jason White and Josh Stepp, MOA promotes fishing as both outdoor recreation and an educational opportunity. An avid fisherman since childhood, White says their work in Washington and Greene counties maximizes the region’s major asset — the Mon River — and improves the life of area residents.
“Fishing is a great activity for kids,” he says. “It gets them into the outdoors to learn about nature and the environment in a positive and fun way. A kid that looks forward to going fishing after school with friends is less likely to turn to drugs and other negative pursuits.”
MOA partners with county and state agencies, local Chambers of Commerce, and organizations like the Mon River Town Coalition to raise awareness of the area’s assets and get courses into local school curricula. Working with MOA, Beth Center School District in Fredericktown has successfully instituted the Fish Commission’s recreational courses into the school day.
It’s working: The sport’s popularity is increasing along with the variety of fish that are biting.
“Fishing is like returning to the days of being a hunter/gatherer,” explains Pittsburgh attorney Bob Koehler, who stayed away from fishing the Mon when it yielded only carp and catfish. But when the Bass Master Classic came to Pittsburgh in 2005, he knew the river had come back to life. He got his fishing gear out of storage.
According to Toth, now is the perfect season to drop a line.
“September and October are a great time to be out on the water,” he says. “The fish are fattening up for winter and eager to bite. Everyone’s preparing for hunting season so I often have the creek to myself. It’s just great fishing. Not to mention, it’s beautiful.”
So if you’re driving through Western PA, watching the leaves turn, and you see a pickup pulled over on the shoulder by a close-running creek, you may have just found Chris Toth at one of his secret spots. Grab a pole and join him.
This story was created in partnership with the Keystone Edge.
Interesting sites and happenings along the Mon River
Let’s start with “cool.” The McTrail (Marion County Trail) is a short stretch of trail (2.2 miles) that packs in a lot of beauty and the ultra-cool Meredith Tunnel. Built in 1914 and put back into use in 2005, the 1,200 foot lighted tunnel in Fairmont, West Virginia, offers a cool respite on a hot summer day.
While in the area, head over to downtown Fairmont and check out Joe ‘N Throw, where coffee shop meets pottery studio. The shop celebrates local arts and culture, hosts pottery classes, and makes for a great little place to rehash your ride.
Just like the north-flowing river, let’s move from south to north.
We could write a list a mile long about things to do in Morgantown. Isn’t it amazing that you can bike to a state park (Prickett’s Fort, via the Mon River Trail) or drive to a state forest (Cooper’s Rock) so effortlessly? In town, there’s the Mountain People’s Co-op and a number of great restaurants (find Thai, Indian, burritos, and more on High Street). But what we really want to tell you about is how Keith McManus, Mayor of Greensboro, Pennsylvania, has been driving down to Morgantown for years to lead Morgantown Brewing Company’s Old Time Appalachian Jam starting at 9:30 on Wednesday nights. We were there last week and loved the atmosphere. Here’s a sneak peek into the experience:
Crossing into Pennsylvania, Point Marion’s most known local institution is Apple Annie’s, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and known for its pies, cakes, and cobblers. You won’t believe the spread! While you’re in the area, drive just outside of town to the Friendship Hill National Historic Site. Two tips here: take your walking shoes if you want to explore over 10 miles of hiking shoes, and go in September for the annual FestiFall event. Festifall will be held September 24-25 this year. Don’t forget to try the bean soup that keeps the locals coming back year after year.
One other thing about Point Marion…have you ever heard of Jordan Motor Cars? They were assembled in Cleveland from 1916-1931, made with parts from other manufacturers. We’re not exactly sure how a collection of them ended up here in Point Marion (other than the fact that they’re housed at Jordan Auto Parts on Main Street), but it’s worth peeking through the windows to see some early twentieth century wheels.
We mentioned Keith McManus’s weekly trips to Morgantown. He’s also doing a lot locally to encourage the arts at home in Greensboro. We recently partnered with Keystone Edge on this story on Greensboro’s arts-driven revitalization efforts. Check it out for more on how the community is embracing the arts. The town’s Art Blast on the Mon, being held September 3 and 4 by the Nathanael Greene Community Development Corporation, is now in its 11th year.
In the Northside of Brownsville, keep an eye out for the occasional ghost walk event. We were there for one in August and were blown away by the turnout (they had a whopping 255 people show up). We couldn’t take the whole guided tour (as we had plans to go to the Brownsville Drive-In), but stopped by one of the sites. The volunteer portraying Jacob Bowman weaved a story of abolition, George Washington, deception, and community values that was absolutely riveting. Also in Brownsville, Nemacolin Castle hosts ghost tours in October and standard mansion tours on weekends throughout the year.
Finally, we cannot write about the Mon River’s “quirk and cool” without mentioning the Donora Smog Museum. The volunteer-run museum commemorates the 1948 smog event that blanketed the town in a toxic wall of smog that killed and sickened community members and was an impetus for creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The museum also pays tribute to local community life. It’s well worth the stop.
We’ve covered only some of the many “quirky, crunchy, cool” spots along the Mon River. Please tell us what we missed in the comments section below.
Amy Camp of Cycle Forward loves the Mon River Valley and the work of the River Town Program so much that she wrote this and several other posts for us this summer.