In 2011, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council launched the River Town Program in five communities bordering the Monongahela River. PEC has also established River Town Programs in the French Creek Watershed region in northwestern PA and along the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia. PEC contracted with McCollom Development Strategies, LLC (MDS) to formulate the process and procedures as well as direct the River Town Program. MDS principal, Cathy McCollom had launched the Trail Towns initiatives along the Great Allegheny Passage and integrated those successful strategies in this new initiative.
The original Mon River Town communities represented three counties and included Point Marion in Fayette County; Rices Landing and Greensboro (Greene County) and Fredericktown and California (Washington County). In 2012, Brownsville, (Fayette County) asked to join the program and in 2013 West Brownsville, Monongahela and Charleroi (Washington County) also joined the collaborative effort as well as three communities in West Virginia- Morgantown, Star City and Fairmont. In 2014, PEC transitioned the leadership role to local partner National Road Heritage Corridor.
As communities completed the three year River Town Program, civic and municipal leaders wanted to continue working together and urged National Road Heritage Corridor director, Donna Holdorf and River Town Program director, Cathy McCollom, to coordinate a regional coalition.
Over three dozen municipal and civic leaders attended the first Monongahela River Valley Coalition meeting on September 3, 2013 at California University. Participants included members of council and mayors, tourism professionals, representatives from both California and West Virginia universities, county planning directors, Representatives Pam Snyder and Pete Daley, Washington County Commissoners as well as a representative from Senator Solobay’s office.
Following a review of accomplishments and projects underway in the River Towns, participants discussed how to best position the Mon Valley for tourism. Legislators urged the Coalition to prioritize regional projects in an Action Plan for dissemination among legislative leadership to garner future support. Previous planning efforts were reviewed to determine applicable regional priorities and a consensus was reached on collective projects to benefit the region. The results were synthesized and an action plan developed resulting in Capturing the Opportunities in the Mon River Valley – a Five Year Action Agenda.
Although originally intended as a Five Year agenda, most of the priorities have been completed. The Mon River Valley Coalition, under the direction of Holdorf and McCollom, has developed an updated Action Agenda to continue the momentum and success realized through collaboration in the Mon River Valley. This updated Action Agenda can be found HERE