November has come and went. The month started with The River Town Outreach Corps heading to Georgia for a fun filled weekend at the Outdoor Nation Atlanta Summit. Fellow Green Cities Interns came along for the trip from Pittsburgh as well.
The weekend was full of activities, trainings, and camping. I met people from all over the country who were all connected by one common value: the outdoors.
One morning after camping on the lake in Stone Mountain Park, we woke up before daybreak to summit Stone Mountain. It was beautiful to watch the sunrise from the quartz peak. On the final day of the conference, we were to present the projects we had been working on all weekend. The group I chose to work with consisted of Ryan and three other friends we met from Georgia. Our group was one of five to win a $1,000 grant to continue on with the projects we proposed. Go us!
Ryan, Sam and myself spent an extra few days in Georgia after the conference to visit the Fielden family, during which we went to the big Georgia aquarium. Neat!
Upon returning to Pennsylvania, it was time to squeeze in a bunch of work before the turkey-eating holiday commenced. We had two trainings on resume building and the basics of how to use LinkedIn, which were very helpful for what soon awaits us in December: applying for new jobs! Other events for this month included wrapping up loose ends of projects, attending meetings, and a fun hike in the Laurel Highlands and a Climbing Party at REI in Pittsburgh with TTOC to get out of the office and enjoy some of our last days together. Here is to one more month with the River Town Program
The past two months have been great! I started October on vacation in the northeast. Marah and I camped and hiked throughout the beautiful fall foliage in places such as Green Mountain National Forest, Acadia National Park, and Baxter State Park. Climbing Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine, was a fantastic experience. I highly recommend it to everyone who has a chance to visit Maine.
Upon returning to work we had quite a few days in the field to get some things done before the weather got too cold. We were at Rices Landing to finish cleaning up the lock wall. It is now all weeded and swept up. Pt. Marion also needed some more work done at the park, so we finished up cleaning around the public docks.
I was on the radio for the first time in my life with Jeff on the Buy Local Radio Show. It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience to be live on the air, but I ended up having a blast. We talked about some of the projects we completed this year and some upcoming events that were happening in our towns.
There was a large amount of painting going on in October. We sanded down and painted the wooden fence and benches in Brownsville Central Park a dark red color. The RTOC crew also sanded down and started to paint the black cast iron fence at the park. Our group also painted the back of the Fredericktown borough building. It's amazing how just a couple coats of paint can really improve a fence or the side of a building and make the whole area look better.
The Pt. Marion public art project is now complete! We helped grout and clean the piece of art a couple days this month. While in Pt. Marion, we painted window displays to place in windows along the bike trail on our breaks from grouting.
Our Fall Paddle on the Mon at the end of the month was a fantastic time. We had around twenty paddlers join us for our final canoe/kayak trip of the year. The trip started in Pt. Marion, we had lunch at Two Rivers Restaurant and Marina in Dilliner, and our voyage ended at the boat ramp in Greensboro. We weathered a little bit of rain and chilly weather, but all enjoyed their time out on the water.
RTOC attended the Outdoor Nation Summit in Atlanta at the beginning of November. The summit consisted of several aspects including leadership training, grant writing, project planning, Leave No Trace principles, and professional development. We all had an amazing two days meeting new people and learning great tools that will be sure to benefit us in our careers in the future. After the summit, Sam, Marah, and I visited my parents in Georgia for a relaxing vacation.
Later in the month, we all went climbing on the rock wall at REI in Pittsburgh. This was a superb team building experience. We spent three hours together with our fellow Trail Town corps members climbing, having fun, and getting a great workout in the process.
Sam, Marah, and I attended the Water Test Interpretation Workshop put on by the Washington County Conservation District at the end of November. This presentation was very informative in teaching us how to interpret and understand the results of water testing that has been done by a lab whether for pre-gas well drilling or from routine testing of private water supplies.
The first half of October was full of hiking and camping in the woods, as Ryan and I took a vacation to Vermont and Maine for multiple days. When we returned we had a bunch of work days scheduled and our final paddling trip of the season. There was a lot to get done in October before the weather takes a turn for the cold!
One of our first missions was to further fix up Central Park in Brownsville. The wooden fencing and benches throughout the park needed a good scrubbing and fresh coat of paint. Now they are a nice red color, and when people walk by they can sit by the wharf instead of passing it by. There were a few community members that came by to thank us too which was really rewarding.
We had another day of painting in Fredericktown too. The building that sits right on the shore of their public docks needed a fresh coat of white paint to spruce up the dull concrete block color. Now when people pass by on the river it will make the town look much more inviting. Some community members are going to continue work in the park that is located right on the water as well.
We had another workday in Rices Landing to make some final touches to the old lock wall. There was quite a bit of weeds and overgrowth we didn’t have time to tend to last time. We also did a trash pick-up of the park and lock wall area.
Point Marion saw a lot of the Corps this month. October was the final stretch for the public art project we have all been helping with this year. After our last few workdays there, the seven-panel glass mosaic is ready to be hung on the side of a building in town soon for all to see. It looks incredible.
One of our final missions was to clear overgrowth and other vegetation from the public boat ramp in Point Marion in preparation for the launch of our Fall Paddle on the Mon trip. We had just fewer than 20 people in attendance so it made for a nice, close group of people out on the water. The weather held up right to the end, and it was really great to see all the trees and changing leaves from the big river.
After returning from a trip to visit family, I spent a few days in Greensboro working with their Elm Street Manager to start planning for some exciting events in the winter and for next spring. Greensboro will be holding their annual “Light up the Mon” the first weekend of December which will include some great holiday food and decorated trees sponsored by local businesses. There will also be special extended holiday hours and some great deals provided by the local businesses. Stay tuned for more details! It’s been a beautiful time for foliage in the Laurel Highlands and hard to believe that the winter is right around the corner!
We have been in the field quite a bit doing a little bit of everything in our last big push before the weather turns. We have been helping to finish the public art in Point Marion, which is going to be a very large glass mosaic mural mounted on a wall right in the center of town. I absolutely love this mural. It captures so well what this area has to offer. It shows kayakers, wildlife, mountains, trees, rivers, bridges, and of course a beautiful sunset. I was able to cut the tiny pieces of glass that make up the sky when I first arrived in August and this month was grouting them to their permanent home. I can’t wait to see everything in place. I think this mural is going to be an exceptional asset to the community.
This month was also our big “Fall Paddle on the Mon,” beginning in Point Marion and ending in Greensboro. The weather seemed a bit dicey but as soon as our guide from Wilderness Voyagers and Lindsey from PEC finished their welcomes and safety speeches, the sun came out from behind the clouds as if to say, “Let’s go!” It was a really great way to see the Mon and really see what it means to have communities connected by the river. The best part of the trip was seeing two bald eagles hunting for fish in the river! It was amazing! I know that normally this eagle is a solitary hunter but it looks like this must have been a desirable enough hunting spot that they did not mind sharing! They were amazing to watch, definitely not something I had seen before and most likely would not have seen if I had not been on the water.
I really enjoyed myself on the trip and was able to power through some rough parts, I had never kayaked that far or that long before, and felt pretty accomplished when I was done. It was great opportunity to meet new folks and talk about the outdoors and what we as a program are working towards in our communities.
This month we also attended what I thought was a super helpful training on grant writing at the SCA office in Pittsburgh. I am looking forward to utilizing my new skills and knowledge here and in the future. Finally, we were planning on attending the Conservation Landscape Summit in Harrisburg, but were prevented from doing so by hurricane Sandy. Luckily we did not see a great deal of severe weather in this area and are right on schedule for our trip to the Outdoor Nation Conference in Atlanta, GA. More on that coming soon!
Summer ended with a full work schedule in the month of September! I worked with my fellow River Town Outreach Corps members tackle invasive and messy plant life along the 5.5 miles of the Greene River Trail between Rices Landing and Fredericktown. We also spent an afternoon on the Lock Wall in Rices Landing, scraping and re-painting the stage building in preparation for the 2013 RiverFest. With my freshly refined painting skills, I helped Marah in California for a of couple days, prepping and painting the caboose near the library. I met with the new Fredericktown Landscape Subcommittee to discuss project ideas for the funds of the Port of Pittsburgh grant. A lot of great ideas were discussed for the area between the township building and the Mon; we hope to begin the project in October! For our September regional meeting, we hosted a speaker to educate business owners on using social media as a way to connect with customers and promote their business. I learned some neat and creative ideas for promoting the River Town Program newsletter and Facebook page! After our Trail Town co-worker encountered a bear on the GAP, we all decided to take a Wildlife Safety Training class in Ohiopyle from our friends at the DCNR; we learned some useful information while spending time in the great outdoors of Pennsylvania! Marah, Ryan, and I led guided hikes through the grounds of Friendship Hill during Festifall. Later that evening, the Rices Landing Concert Series came to a close with The Split playing at the gazebo. Bly from Rivers of Steel, kindly gave guided tours and demos of the W.A. Sons Machine Shop and Foundry, the Lock #6 Museum was open for self-guided tours, and Kyle from the Greene Co. food bank set up a table to give residents important information. I attended the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, where I learned some valuable information about sustainable living practices from gardening to raising ducks! Ted and Linda from the SCA came down to our Connellsville office for a day of training on volunteer project management and Excel spreadsheet making. I spent a day visiting local businesses in the Fredericktown area looking for sponsors for our fall paddle trip. The Izaak Walton League of America invited me to an event called Is Ten Mile Creek Clean? in Amity, which I attended and learned some valuable information about the environment in our region. I ended the month by going on the Ohio River Water Networker Cruise in Pittsburgh. I met a great deal of people who care about the environment as much as I do and heard some great talks by the invited speakers. September also called for some last minute summer fun including a camping trip on Lake Michigan, attending a college friends’ wedding, watching my brother participate in marching band for the first time, and I also became the Godmother of my sister’s three daughters. Although September was a lot of fun, I hope to catch my breath in October!
This month started off with a real Blast. September 1 & 2 were the dates of Greensboro’s Seventh Annual Art Blast on the Mon. It is a two day arts and music festival and a really great opportunity to mix art, music, and history. There were artists of all stripes present, from professionals to school age children, and everyone in between. The highlight of my weekend was button making with a very enthusiastic three year old. Artist Kyle Hallam was on hand to demonstrate his process of turning recyclable materials into sculpture. Festival goers had the opportunity to create all sorts of art during the event. There was an interactive paper making station with a CalU art student, they could make art with Kyle using recycled cardboard, and creative crafts projects like button making, spin art, and jewelry making. There was a wonderful amount of local fresh produce available for sale at the weekly farmer’s market on Saturday morning, and great Labor Day favorites cooked up by the Greensboro/Monongahela Volunteer Fire Department. Musicians performed all weekend in our large outdoor tent and inside at the Everyone’s Art Show. This year there was a special exhibit mixing the area’s history and crafts industries to tell the story of several of the upper Mon towns. It featured historical documents, photos, books, and artifacts. There was a great lecture given by local pottery historian Fuzzy Randolph and a special collection of Point Marion glass from the Houze Glass Museum.
It was such a great event we even had participants weather a pretty rough thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon and by Sunday all the inclement weather was on its way out of town. This is the “biggest” event Greensboro has all year and I was a little intimidated starting the project in August and only having three weeks to prepare, but it was a great success and I look forward to helping next year’s be even better!
This month was super busy, so it definitely flew by! I attended the Connellsville Sustainability Fest, bear and wildlife training in Ohiopyle State Park, Mother Earth News Fair, the Ohio River Watershed Association Boat Cruise, and an organized ride at Ohiopyle with SCA Pittsburgh’s Green Cities Fellows. Tonight I am going to be heading to Greensburgh to catch a showing of short films called “Radical Reels” from the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It’s a collection of films highlighting outdoor sports.
Speaking of outdoor sports, one of our next big upcoming events in Greensboro will be happening on October 20th. It will be a paddling trip from Point Marion to Greensboro! This should be a great way to see the Mon and take in the foliage.
Most of our month was spent working on trails or out in the field helping prepare for a lot of really great events. It was great to experience a lot of these trails myself and get a better idea of the amenities these communities have. One of my favorite work days was working on the Greene River Trail that connects Rices Landing to Fredericktown. There were so many people on the trail all day! I got to cut down some seriously large invasive species called “Tree of Heaven.” It was the first time I cut down a tree during trail work, thanks to some help from my team members.
This month in California I was able to help Marah and her crew of volunteers restore the town’s old caboose. I spent the day helping to scrub rust and smooth out the surface of the caboose for a fresh coat of paint. The before and after are amazing. It looks so great now! It was a pretty big undertaking and I am really proud to say that I was a part of the process.
Our toughest work day was on the Warrior Trail in Greensboro. It’s a beautiful trail that needed re-blazing and a lot of love. The first several miles of the trail starting in Greensboro are the most in need of work and I think we made a good dent in the work that needs to be done. This is going to be something I want to work quite a bit on before I finish the program next year. I would like to maybe even have a group hike in the spring or early summer once it’s well marked and we install some water bars and do some erosion control.
Another project we have going that’s really exciting is a collaborative workshop with the Pittsburgh Film Makers/ Pittsburgh Center for the arts’ artist Becky Keck (from Greensboro) and a group of community members from Rices Landing. We are in the midst of creating a 52’ mural that will be displayed in town. Rices landing has a great waterfront park called Pumpkin Run where we have been working. I really enjoyed seeing the kids in attendance drawing and working together. As someone who always loved art and art making, especially as a kid, I think this is a really great opportunity.
October promises to be a super awesome month. I’m going to be doing some traveling on the West Coast in the beginning of the month and I’ll be attending the Conservation Landscape Summit in Harrisburg, PA at the end of the month!
September has been a very busy month with the River Town Outreach Corps. We had Art Blast in Greensboro at the beginning of the month. This was a fun event. I was in charge of manning the log cabin where we had historical items from all of our towns on display. I got to talk to people about the history of the river and the different towns, and I learned a lot from people who came in and would tell me stories about how things used to be in each of the towns. It was very educational. We spent time doing trail work on the Green River Trail, the Warrior Trail, and trails at Friendship Hill National Historic Site. It was a lot of work, but it was fun to be in the field clearing broken branches, overgrown grass, and trimming back trees and bushes that were impeding on the path. We went to Rices Landing and cleaned up around their stage. We took out poison ivy, filed off chipped paint, and painted their stage building. Sam and I were covered in paint by the end, and I still have white specks all over my SCA t-shirt!
We had training in Ohiopyle with the rangers that work there. They trained us on how to avoid potentially dangerous wildlife when we are out in the field and what you should always carry in your pack during different times of year. FestiFall and Mother Earth News were also this month. For FestiFall we led hikes on the trails through the grounds. We talked to people about Albert Gallatin’s history, and in prepping for the event I learned a lot that I didn’t already know about him. The Friendship Hill Association said that this was the most successful FestiFall in 30 years. There were around 3700 people who visited the park for this event during the 2 days it was going on. They sold out of food by 3pm on Sunday! Mother Earth News was a fun and educational event. I went to seminars that taught a lot about gardening and using green energy.
During the last weekend of the month I was able to paddle from Point Marion to Greensboro with my Project Leader, Jeff. This was an important trip as I am currently planning a paddling trip for October that goes this route. That section of the river is beautiful and quiet. There are basically no houses along the way except for in the towns. There are a lot of old landmarks from past damns, mining, and barges. It was a lot of fun, and it was a good day to do it. We stopped at Two Rivers Marina to talk to the owner about using his space on the day of the big “Fall Paddle on the Mon”. When we arrived in Greensboro we attended and helped with their public art unveiling. There were three beautiful and unique pieces given to the community, two were donated and one was funded by the Sprout Fund.
This month started off with Art Blast on Labor Day weekend in Greensboro an ended with FestiFall in Point Marion. At Art Blast Ryan and I helped to man one of the craft tables for kids and at FestiFall we gave guided hikes throughout the grounds of Friendship Hill National Park. Everything in between involved trail workdays all over the region and Paint Days in California.
In Rices Landing we cleaned up sections of the Greene River Trail in preparation for a 5k that would be occurring later in the month there. We also fixed up the stage down at the Rices Landing lock wall by giving it a fresh coat of white paint in preparation for events that they would be holding there at a later time.
We also had a workday on the Warrior Trail in Greensboro to help out the Warrior Trail Association who typically handles most of the maintenance with that historic trail. Cat and I painted blazes for the first half of a mile and then got to work with Jenna and Ryan on clearing brush and other vegetation that was over growing portions of the trail. Our other trail day was dedicated to the ones at Friendship Hill in Point Marion to prepare for the guided hikes we gave during FestiFall.
My major project this month however was the Paint Days in California. I received word that a grant I submitted earlier in the summer was funded and I had only the month of September to complete the project. Every day that we were not out on a trail I was in California with volunteers restoring the historic caboose next to the California Public Library which is housed in an old train station.
Throughout the weeks we had over 20 volunteers come out to prepare the caboose by scraping off all the old paint and rust and to give it a fresh coat of paint. The library board was super excited to have us giving them a helping hand and the project was even covered by the local universities TV station and the local paper.
At the end of the month all of the RTOC crew got to go to the Mother Earth News Fair for a weekend to learn about a whole variety of environmentally related topics by attending a bunch of workshops and listening to speakers. It was the perfect end to a busy month. We got a lot accomplished.
September came and went very quickly. The River Town Outreach Corps has been out in the field quite a lot this month maintaining trails and helping out at events. We spent a day clearing low hanging branches, removing trees of heaven, and picking up trash along the Greene River Trail between Fredericktown and Rices Landing. The corps also spent a day on the first mile of the Warrior Trail in Greensboro. Our team repainted all the trail blazes that we saw, making it easier for hikers to follow the trail. We also trimmed any low branches and removed all impeding debris from the trail.
Friendship Hill National Historic Site near Point Marion saw our crew a few times in September. We were there for a full day of trail maintenance to cut branches that were in the way of the path. This prepared the trails for FestiFall, a celebration of the life and times of Albert Gallatin at Friendship Hill National Historic Site. We took those who were interested on guided hikes through the trails that we cleared during the festivities.
Our corps spent many days painting this month. We all painted the stage building in Rices Landing, pulled poison ivy off the building, and hammered in nails that were starting to come out of the stage. The new white paint looks really great now. We also repainted the caboose in California next to the public library. Thanks to Marah receiving the Fresh Paint Days grant we were able to get all the paint and supplies for free for this project. I spent a couple days helping out painting the caboose, and it looks amazing now compared to what it looked like before.
The Buy Local Summit was this month in Connellsville. Rachael from the Trail Town Outreach Corps and I gave two hour long presentations on outdoor recreation opportunities in the area. I covered some fishing tips, where to canoe and kayak, Leave No Trace principles, and some local outfitters. Rachael went over hiking and biking trails and State Parks around the area.
I spent one day this month driving along the Monongahela River for the Mid Mon mapping project. I am helping out the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation with confirming public ramps and docks on the Mon and taking pictures for the map. The new map will be available for boaters next spring.
The Mother Earth News Fair was at the end of the month, and I had a great time learning about gardening and farming techniques, how to pickle vegetables, how to prepare when disaster strikes, and much more. There was also tons of delicious food and amazing display tents with some really original crafts and supplies for sale.
August brought a variety of projects that kept me quite busy. I spent a bit of time in our towns both promoting the program and getting dirty cleaning up parks! In California, I helped Marah with the Riverfest that she spent a great deal of time planning. In preparation for the big event, we spent a day cleaning up trash in Wyatt park, along the Mon. I suited up in my waders and pulled out all sorts of goodies from the river including a metal sign post and a leather chair! It was inspiring to see people enjoying the new river views in Wyatt Park during the festival. While helping out at the event, I met a lot of contacts to keep in mind for planning the Rices Landing River Fest for 2013! Brownsville Community Days brought in a large crowd to Market Street; Jenna and I were there to document it by taking lots of photos. We also stopped in Fredericktown to check out the Dock Dogs event at Greene Cove Marina. Rices Landing saw two more great bands play at the gazebo as part of the Summer Concert Series. I’ve already begun looking into funding the concerts for a second season! In Greensboro, I took down a jungle of brush, exposing views of the Monongahela River. In Point Marion, I cut down trees and shrubs along the park trail. I spent a few days cutting glass and laying out/gluing the Mon River and bridge for the Point Marion Public Art Project. I’m excited to see the mural completed and on the wall soon! I ended the month in Pittsburgh, where I attended a sustainable agriculture training session with the Green Cities fellows. I went camping in Ohiopyle and Laurel Ridge and even made it out to a bluegrass concert in Pittsburgh. I made friends with some great people this month including a new coworker and housemate!
It seemed like August came and went in the blink of an eye. Cat, our new RTOC member, got settled in, and work is going much smoother now that we are at full strength again. The month was filled with work days in our towns and volunteering at local festivals and events. One of these was the Fayette County Fair. Sam, Marah, and I sat at the RTOC information table, and afterwards we had a great time petting the fair animals and gorging on fried food.
We were in Point Marion quite a lot this month. Our crew cleared view corridors and removed invasive species so that visitors to the park could see the river better. There were many invasive trees of heaven and Japanese knotweed to cut and pull out that day. Point Marion also needed help with their public art piece. We went three times during the month to cut glass and glue the pieces on the mural. The artwork is looking great, and it is getting very close to being ready to grout!
Greensboro was in need of some assistance in their park with clearing view corridors and invasive species removal as well. We thought it would be nice to do this before Art Blast, Greensboro's biggest event of the year, so that attendees to the festival would be able to appreciate the river just that much more. I volunteered at Art Blast by helping kids make their own pins and by manning the voting station for the People's Choice Award for their favorite piece of art in the art show that weekend.
In California, Wyatt Park was overdue for a riverside trash pickup. Jenna and Sam brought their waders and fished out debris from the river while the rest of us picked up trash from the bank and adjacent hillside. River Fest was the following weekend, which was located across the railroad tracks from the park. This was the first annual River Fest in California and was organized by Marah of RTOC. I helped out at the festival by moving tables and chairs, helping vendors set up and take down, emptying trash, and tabling at our RTOC information tent. The festival went very well, and local residents are planning to continue the event next year.
In my few days of free time this month of August, I managed to see Old Crow Medicine Show play with The Lumineers in Pittsburgh. That was a fantastic show; Sam, Marah, and I had a blast enjoying some great live folk/ bluegrass music. I also went camping a couple times, once at Ohiopyle State Park and the other at Laurel Ridge State Park.
August started with us finally getting our fifth and final RTOC member, Cat! After getting her acquainted with our house and our office, one of the first fun, work-related tasks we did together was Point Marion public art. The public art project is one of the first projects we did as a Corps back in February, and it was fun to be back there again with the mural almost now complete and with our team complete.
August also played host to the River Fest I have been planning for the past couple of months in California. In order to get ready for the event, we spent a day in Wyatt Park again, but this time doing a river clean up. After all the view corridor clearing we did in the past, much trash was unveiled along the shoreline and around the park. River Fest was an effort to show people that there is a beautiful park right in town that they can sit by the river and enjoy the outdoors, but no one would see that with all the glass and tires around. It was a very productive day and our work truck was full of trash by the time we left.
Two days later was River Fest. In many ways I was anxious to get the event over with, I have never planned a big fundraiser like this, or any type of fundraiser for that matter. From finding bands that would dedicate their time to play, and finding a whole mass of vendors to fill up the streets, along with all the other tiny things that someone usually doesn’t think of right off the bat when planning an outdoor festival, it was quite the adventure. The weather miraculously held up for the weekend, not a rain cloud in the sky, for which I was very grateful. Everything ran smoothly for the most part, and at the end of the weekend I took a deep breath. It was totally worth it. The press came out to cover the event and I was even interviewed for the local paper. People were in and out of Wyatt Park all day; many folks just took a walk around and gazed at the river which you couldn’t see before all the view corridors were cleared; others sat at the picnic benches and ate food while listening to the music. The town was so happy with River Fest they even plan to continue it annually as a fundraiser to carry on the park enhancement projects in the California area.
As the month as August wrapped up, and with River Fest complete, I thought work would slow down a bit. I spoke too soon. A few months ago I wrote a grant for the PA Fresh Paint Days and just found out that we were one of 8 chosen throughout the state. I originally wanted to fix up the historic caboose in town, for it could definitely use a little TLC. The caboose sits right next to the public library, which is an old rail station. In next month's blog I'll attach before and after photos of the caboose.
This was another busy month for the River Town Outreach Corps. We spent three full days working on the Point Marion Public Art Project, working on laying the Monongahela River and the Route 88 Bridge out in glass, cutting glass for the sky, filling in areas that had gaps, and fixing other areas where necessary. That’s not the only thing we did in Point Marion this month. We also worked in the park, clearing view corridors and removing invasive species.
This month was the first time I was on the radio with Buy Local Radio, and got to promote our towns and the activities going on within them. One of the biggest activities we had this month was California’s River Fest. To prepare for this day Samantha and I got to put on our waders and walk along the water cleaning up trash. At River Fest we had our own table to talk about our program, and we had time to listen to the bands and explore the other vendors that Marah brought into town for the event.
I worked two farmers markets in Scottdale with Buy Local. It was fun to see how they do their farmers markets and participate in the event. Plus, at the end I got to take home some fresh produce that was grown locally at a farm in Brownsville.
I was lucky enough to go home for a week this month as well. It was nice to go to the beach and catch up with friends and family. I spent time moving things at my parents house to make space for my sister to move back home, and got to reminisce about memories from my childhood and high school.
Now, as September starts our schedule barely has any free days in it. It will be the busiest month that we’ve had yet and I’m excited about the work we are doing.
I can’t believe I’ve been here for a month already! There has been so much to do and so much to learn, but I have been enjoying getting to know the area and starting to get my hands dirty. Coming in at the height of the busy season I really hit the ground running. On my first day I attended an action team meeting in California with Marah and Sam, which was an adventure in itself. I had no idea how MANY hills there were in southwest PA until I drove to California! I had an even more adventurous second day when we got to attend a Pirates game after work in Pittsburgh! It was my first ever real life professional baseball game, and it was great!
In my first two weeks here I rode 15 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage! I was really happy there was such a great rail trail right in my backyard. Living in upstate NY there was one right across the street from my house so it feels a little bit like I brought some of home with me. Even better, this trail is a LOT smoother of a ride which is great for me since I have a road bike. I also took a couple trips out to Ohiopyle State Park and got to see a really beautiful waterfall. I’m hoping to plan a ride with friends on the GAP trail from Connellvsille to Ohiopyle and back soon.
The following weekend I went with Jenna to the Friends of Friendship Hill meeting in Point Marion. Fun Fact: I think that might count as my first visit to a National Historic Site in Pennsylvania. That same week, we had a clean up at the river front parks in California in preparation for the first Annual “River Fest” and in my town of Greensboro in preparation for its “Annual Art Blast on the Mon.”
River Fest was my first big event with the team. It was absolutely perfect weather and the residents were really excited about the waterfront being cleared and ready to enjoy! Every time I’ve been back to California since, I always see people using the picnic tables along the River. It’s really great to see people enjoying the views, the best things in life are free!
I also participated in some workdays in Point Marion for their glass mosaic mural. Since I have a degree in Fine Art it was definitely right up my alley, and brought back a lot of memories. We spent the days gluing on pieces and cutting glass into small chips for the sky. It’s going to be really exceptional when it’s done. The whole scene is the Mon running through the town with wildlife and people enjoying the outdoors. I can’t wait to see everything completed.
The biggest event of the year in Greensboro (which is my town) happens on Labor Day weekend, just 3 short weeks from when I arrived. I have become a promotional machine. I have been writing press releases, contacting newspapers, putting up flyers, and collecting items for a special exhibit at Art Blast. This exhibit focused on historical documents, pictures, as well art and crafts to represent the upper Mon River towns. We even had local historian Fuzzy Randolph present a lecture on the history of the pottery industry. There was also a special table from Houze Glass Museum showing examples of some of the glass produced in Point Marion.
This year I am happy to report that Art Blast was a success and even though we did have a pretty bad thunderstorm on Saturday, people stuck around and enjoyed themselves. There was great music all weekend, art at the Everyone’s Art Show, food (the fire Hall was grilling and even frying up shrimp!) and a fantastic farmer’s market. I bought a HUGE zucchini that I cut up and froze so I can make zucchini bread and enjoy local veggies even in the winter! Which, at the rate time is passing now, will be here before I know it!
The month of July was a blur. Between planning our River Fest in California, cleaning up the parks in California, Point Marion and Rices Landing, and organizing our regional meeting, I feel like there was little time to think of anything else. Luckily Ryan, Jenna, and myself got to attend a four-day music festival in Ohio half way through the month to break up all the madness. August was here in no time, and sadly we realized that our position with the Corps and our towns is halfway over.
My progress made on River Fest has brought on a sense of relief as it gets closer. After panicking to plan this fundraiser in only a few short months and having no experience in this type of event planning before, I’ve completed a lot of the tasks that I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish on my own. I was able to book several local bands from the area to play back to back for both days of the festival, obtain a stage that was donated from a club in town, and also locate a sound guy to help make things run smoothly. We have a few food vendors as well as craft vendors coming to fill the streets too. There will also be a firework show and a car show for community members to come and enjoy during River Fest. I’ll let you know how it went in next month’s blog. Fingers crossed!
As I mentioned above, we had workdays in three of our towns to help open up view corridors, clear trash and other debris, and remove invasive species. We spent more time in California creating view corridors by cutting down small invasive trees and other vines so that at River Fest people will be able to sit at the benches in Wyatt Park and be able to see the river. After seeing what we as a Corps did to improve the park, the Recreation Authority donated monies to hire a tree service company to get the stuff that we couldn’t. The park looks incredible now compared to what it used to. In Rices Landing there was quite a bit of trash in and around the water that we cleared out and also pulled bags upon bags of weeds from the old lock wall where people now park their trailers and trucks when they go out on the water. We spent another day in Point Marion working on the Sheepskin Trail, helping to move down trees from a storm as well as other brush and trash debris.
Towards the end of the month we all got to go to Point Marion for a public art workday. When we first started the program, one of the first things we did was help with the public art project by making mosaic leaves for the mural. Now it’s finally almost done, all seven panels, to be hung on the side of a building in town as a beautiful representation of Point Marion. Recently we helped to complete the mosaic image of the Monongahela River and the bridge that crosses it. One of my tasks in helping with the mural was to design a barge (pictured below). I’m sure Jenna will post a photo of it once the mural is complete later in the year. We will be going again at the end of August to finish up.
Until next month…!
July has been a month for traveling and public art. While the month started with a clean-up of the unfinished portion of the Sheepskin Trail from Point Marion to the West Virginia border, most of this month in Point Marion has been volunteering time on their public art project. While working on the project this month I have been asked to make glass mosaic flowers, kayakers, and the Monongahela River. The river has been the hardest to work on, and all of RTOC has been working together to get the glass to flow and blend the way a river would. It’s been a fun project to work on, and we will continue to help until the last piece of glass is glued down.
I’ve had the opportunity to go home this month, and had a busy weekend with friends. It was nice to spend a day with my girlfriends trying on and purchasing bridesmaids dresses for our friends wedding. I got to go waterskiing with my aunt and grandparents, spend time in my parents garden, and even bring some of my friends on TTOC down to meet my parents and spend a night at my house. All in all it was a successful trip home.
Coming back to Connellsville I immediately had to get in the work truck and head to our Regional Action Town Meeting in Greensboro. This meeting focused on River Town Program’s 4 key strategic plans for the next 18 months and started the conversation with all the towns about possibly pursuing a regional non-profit that will continue to exist and be a source for finding funds after the River Town Program leaves. I know this made the members of my town that were there happy. They have been talking about this for a while and it is good that the conversation has now expanded out of just one community and into all of them.
I also attended All Good Music Festival in Ohio this month with 4 other interns, a few from both corps. It was my first music festival and I LOVED it. I love to camp and I love live music, so being able to camp and just walk over to a stage and watch live music was really awesome. I got to hear bands that I’d never heard of before, some I barely knew, and some I know very well and love. I have to say that I will definitely be attending more music festivals in the future.
The last week and a half of the month we spent going to public art workshops in Point Marion, clearing view corridors and removing invasive species in California, and cleaning and weeding the lock wall in Rice’s Landing. This month was full of trips and work days in our towns, so I think it was a very successful and fun month!
I started the month of July in Michigan. For the fourth of July, I spent a week camping in the woods and swimming in a nearby river. I even tried my hand at spear fishing and speared 6 fish! My mom and brother drove me back to Pennsylvania and spent a few days in the area, exploring Pittsburgh, checking out the coke ovens along the G.A.P. near Adelaide, and meeting my co-workers/new friends. After taking a long trip home to Michigan, I returned to the office in Connellsville to dive back into my town and regional projects.
I continued promoting the Rices Landing concert series and even had help from Chip and Evan with SWPA Rural Exploration (Chip’s band played on July 14th, at our most successful concert yet with over 125 in attendance!). Since Rices Landing doesn’t have a recycling program, I began a recycling initiative at the concerts so people can recycle plastic, glass, and metal cans, instead of throwing them away. With half of the concert series behind us, I’ve been looking for funding for 2013 and additional advertisement such as banners.
I spent a weekend in Boston, MA for the Outdoor Nation Summit. The SCA hosted a volunteer service project on Friday afternoon; we took a ferry to Peddocks Island, where we worked with rangers from the National Park Service on various clean-up projects for the afternoon. I met a lot of interesting people and had a great first time seeing the Boston Harbor Islands. At the Summit, I met up with SCA Green Cities fellow, Zach! Our team sat on the bike trail near the water, watching sail boats and brainstorming for our project proposal, Deals for Wheels (an incentives program giving people discounts at various businesses in Pittsburgh who use active transportation to get to their destination). We spent the night, camping on Georges Island (which was a rare treat as there is no public camping on the island!). On Sunday, we presented our proposal to the other 16 groups, and received $750 in grant money for our project! Zach and I explored Boston after the Summit, taking lots of pictures of the beautiful city!
RTOC spent a day in Pt. Marion working on the public art project, a glass and ceramic mural. I worked with Ryan cutting and fitting glass to create the Mon River in the mural. We also spent a day pulling out 27 bags of weeds from the Lock Wall in Rices Landing! Marah and I spent an evening at the Fayette County Fair, telling people about the River Town Program and other river/environmental programs in the area.
Cathy (from McCollom Development Strategies) and I visited Fredericktown, speaking to business owners about our program and a few new projects we will be starting in August, including signage and façade improvement initiatives. I met some great new contacts in Fredericktown and was really inspired to accomplish as much as I can in Fredericktown over the next five months!
The month of July was another fun-filled four weeks with the SCA. The RTOC crew walked along the Sheepskin Trail in Point Marion with the purpose of cleaning up the popular biking and hiking trail. We cleared the trail of large branches, downed trees, and any trash we could find, including quite a few abandoned car tires. A day was also spent at Wyatt Park in California opening up view corridors and removing invasive species. Marah, Jenna, and I were able to clear the view to the Monongahela River, allowing those who visit the quaint, little park to actually have a nice view when they come to visit.
Sam, Jenna, Marah, and I cleaned up the lock wall and Min-Love Park in Rices Landing by picking up trash and pulling weeds from the lock wall and parking lot one day this month. The area looks much cleaner and is now more approachable for attendees of the two Rices Landing gazebo concerts that Sam organized for July. Hit 'n Run and Jaguar Mountain Rundown were two great bands that captured the attention of boaters and visitors in the area by providing family-friendly music that was enjoyable for all. I was lucky enough to go to both of the concerts this month, and I highly recommend that you attend one if you are in the area.
Our team went to Point Marion twice in July to help the community complete their public art project. The piece of art is a glass mosaic mural. We were able to help out by cutting glass and gluing the glass pieces to the backdrop. The mural is coming along very well and should be complete by the end of the year.
Mitchell's Café opened at the end of this month in Brownsville. They serve Starbucks coffee and blended drinks, bakery goods, sandwiches, ice cream, and more delicious items. I had the pleasure of visiting the café the first week they were open and found everything to be very delicious. Brownsville is also well underway in their renovation of Snowdon Square on Market Street. Demolition of several old, unsalvageable buildings has been going on, and a park with a beautiful gazebo is expected to be installed when all the debris is cleared away.
In closing, I was fortunate enough to attend the All Good music festival and campout in Thornville, Ohio with several coworkers and friends. This was a four day affair filled with amazing music and great camaraderie. My favorite artists that I had the pleasure of seeing include the Allman Brothers Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, Lotus, Big Gigantic, Shpongle, Trampled by Turtles, The Werks, Papadosio, and Tea Leaf Green.
In the beginning of May, most of my time was concentrated on planning the Rices Landing Summer Concert Series. I spent a lot of time on the phone talking with bands, writing contracts, and promoting the events. Local bands play each second and fourth Saturday of the month, May through September at the Gazebo on the Lock Wall in Rices Landing. With each concert, more local vendors asked to participate, selling food, smoothies, and their artwork. Residents walked down to the park and boaters anchored in at the lock wall to enjoy music along the Monongahela River; attendance increasing with each concert.
I spent a great deal of time promoting events in the River Towns using social media such as Facebook and our River Town Program Newsletter that goes out monthly. I also made my radio debut on the Buy Local radio show on WMBS in Uniontown, PA, promoting River Town events.
I spent time in Fredericktown, Brownsville, and Point Marion doing park improvements including planting flowers, cleaning off public docks, and maintaining park trails. In the Point Marion park, we found a dog that a friend of ours adopted and named Bill! Fredericktown has a lot of signs through the business district, so I did a walk through with the police chief, recording a list of signs that should be updated or even removed. The township started working on the list already, clearing up some of the clutter. In Point Marion, I directed the Memorial Day parade that Jenna planned, then tabled at the Regatta festival with Ryan and Jenna. Rices Landing received a grant from Alpha Natural Resources to bring back the River Fest in 2013. The American Legion, area Boy Scouts, Volunteer Fire Department, Rices Landing Borough, and local residents are all excited to help me in planning the festival over the next year!
I explored the Warrior Trail, with the rest of the River Town Outreach Corps (RTOC), starting in Greensboro and hiking about three miles in and back. The trail varied from walking through farmer’s fields, along the highway, and through a cow pasture! I also got to explore my two towns (Rices Landing and Fredericktown) via the river on the Mon River Sojourn, in which I was a safety boater for the 60+ participants.
I attended several town meetings in Rices Landing, Fredericktown and Greensboro, discussing town projects. I also attended a few training sessions including sustainability assessment and CPR/first aid.
Going into this internship, I decided I wanted to explore the area as much as possible. Ryan, Marah, and I went to Presque Isle for a weekend, where I swam in my fourth Great Lake, Lake Erie! I also participated in the Oyster Race in Pittsburgh with the rest of RTOC. I had a great time biking through the city, running through the Pittsburgh zoo, and boxing in the ring with a trainer!