Connellsville earns ‘scenic achievement’ award from Pittsburgh group
Connellsville’s reputation is that of a post-industrial town, and as the former “coal and coke capital” of the United States.
But city officials looking to pay homage to its history — while also casting an eye to the future — are being recognized for their efforts.
The city will receive the inaugural Community Scenic Achievement Award in October from Scenic Pittsburgh, a local environmental and civic advocacy group. The award is given to a community that has “demonstrated a consistent, long-term and visionary commitment to protecting and promoting their scenic resources,” according to a news release.
For city manager Vern Ohler, it’s the product of a younger council with “millennial ideas.”
“They’ve really marketed the city well. They know what people want, and what can bring them in,” Ohler said.
That group includes Mayor Greg Lincoln.
“I’ve never seen anyone as proactive for this town as he is,” Ohler said.
Lincoln said the award is the result of “a lot of work from residents in the city and different groups who all have the same attitude of making the city better and moving forward in a positive manner.”
“When I became mayor, I wanted to open the city up, have it be inviting and allow anyone interested to be part of that process,” he said.
The city adopted a comprehensive plan in April that focuses on further development of Connellsville’s pedestrian-friendly downtown area.
As for the “scenic” aspects of the award, the city sits along the Youghiogheny River and is situated near the rolling hills that lead southeast toward state game lands, Ohiopyle and the Bear Run Nature Reserve.
The city also has a rich resource in the Great Allegheny Passage trail.
“We’re one of the few towns where the trail actually runs through it,” Ohler said. “Most have it sort of on the outskirts.”
The trail includes Third Street, which brings it near the Italian Independent Social Club, where Pittsburgh artist Jeremy Raymer was busy on Sept. 11 paying homage to the city’s mining history and Italian-American community.
Raymer was commissioned by the Fayette County Cultural Trust to create a 4,000-square-foot mural on three sides of the building. One completed wall shows the Connellsville train station. A second, unfinished wall will show detail of a coal miner hard at work.
Cultural trust executive director Daniel Cocks said collaborations like the one with Raymer “are very important for any community development initiative, and Connellsville has proven that working together produces positive results.”
Lincoln said Raymer’s work is “unbelievable. He’s a very, very talented artist. Plus, that mural is basically in the center of our western downtown area, and everyone who comes by on the trail will be able to see it.”
Mike Dawida, executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh, said the city “is leading the way, and showing how communities in the region can provide economic opportunity and quality of life for their residents by taking advantage of what makes them beautiful and unique.”
Scenic Pittsburgh will present Connellsville officials with the Community Scenic Achievement Award at a 5 p.m. ceremony, Oct. 16 at the Italian Independent Social Club, 400 W. Crawford Ave.
“It’s really, really amazing to be recognized by an organization from Pittsburgh,” Lincoln said. “They discovered us just searching on Google. We started sort of making a name for ourselves, and that reached all the way to Scenic Pittsburgh.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .