This summer, I was talking with the mayor of a small town not far from here. We were talking about Warren and how much I love it here. We talked about everything Warren offers, what our possibilities are, and what I hope to accomplish. He said to me, “one thing that is so important to Warren is the river that flows through the town. That is an asset that every town just does not have.”
People have been drawn to water since the dawn of civilization, but American cities and towns have had a complicated relationship with water. In earlier times, the waterway served as an important part of our local economy. Cities large and small grew around rivers, until railroads, cars and airplanes made cities turn their focus to highways and airports. In recent years communities started to realize that waterfronts were not only underused, but that a key natural, economic and historical feature of the community was being hidden behind any combination of industrial buildings, dying commercial areas, warehouse buildings or abandoned land.
My neighbors and fellow citizens, waterfront development encourages people to come back to the water for entertainment, recreation and quality of life amenities. I believe that a vibrant, inviting and safe water front can happen for all of us. It takes involving the public. The process of waterfront development is like any planning process, it is most successful when the public is actively involved.
I am a believer that Warren can develop our waterfront by making the development plan realistic, but without sacrificing creativity and vision. We can talk with one another and understand what the community wants from this natural asset. We can discover how we can use the land along the riverfront and how the community would like to see it used. Questions to ask each other is what level of access do we desire to the river and is an increase in tourism desired?
It is understandable that developing the waterfront can be expensive depending on the use of waterfront land and preparing it for development. I believe we need to continue to research the various funding channels from public and private partnerships to environmental, and conservation grants.
Our city can create a clear and easily-communicable implementation timeline. It is not a surprise that we know what an asset we have with the Allegheny River.
In the Experience Warren — Our Downtown Strategic Plan, written in October 2017, opportunities for the Allegheny River front were documented and the suggestions include:
“Create better connections to Allegheny River and Conewango Creek:
¯ Provide public access to, and create/enhance public spaces along the river, including a sizeable gathering space that can support large outdoor events – festivals, live music – and be activated with smaller activities such as yoga and Zumba. Include spaces that are kid-friendly and family-friendly such as durable structures that can be climbed, etc.
¯ Expand the downtown canoe launch on the Allegheny – currently in the works;
¯ Attract restaurants that directly face the river
¯ Attract other commercial enterprises that complement the current river activities (including ice cream shops, outdoor recreation stores, etc.). ”
Another summer has come and gone and, as we enter Autumn, think about the possibilities we have before us.
I support waterfront development.