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River landing to anchor in Natrona

| Thursday, July 26, 2012, 1:16 a.m.

Harrison

Area residents who prefer navigating the Allegheny River using muscles instead of motors are getting a new facility in Harrison.

Earlier this week, township commissioners approved a plan from the Friends of the Riverfront to build a Three Rivers Water Trail landing in the township's Natrona section.“People use them for swimming, fishing ADA (handicapped) access to the riverfronts and non-motorized boat launching — canoes, kayaks,” said Tom Baxter, Friends executive director.Friends is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization that works to promote public access to and appreciation of the region's river resources.

It will be the 18th such landing built by Friends of the Riverfront, on the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio and Youghiogheny rivers, Baxter said. One third of them are along the Allegheny — the most of all the waterways, he said.

The landings are an integral part of the Three Rivers Water Trail the organization is trying to create. When completed, the trail will stretch from Point State Park in Pittsburgh to Schenley where the Kiskiminetas River meets the Allegheny, linking 73 communities along the river in Allegheny, Armstrong and Westmoreland counties, he said.

“This one I think, is going to cost several hundred thousand dollars,” Baxter said of the landing. “We build them so they will last and be a part of the community for a very, very long time. We want to make sure they can withstand the ups and downs of the rivers and anything people can throw at them.”

“I think it's a good thing,” said George Conroy, Harrison commissioners chairman. “The thing of it is they're going to build it. They are going to maintain it, and they took out a liability insurance policy. I don't see anything that is going to be a problem for the township except that, when they go down to launch their kayaks, there's nowhere to park.”

The Natrona landing is located off an alleyway that branches off River Avenue near the foot of Linden Street and runs down to Lock and Dam No. 4. It will be on a strip of riverbank property owned by the township, downstream from the dam.

“There will be a very large concrete pathway down to the river,” Baxter said. “There will be signage and there will be a canoe/kayak rack so that for people who do not live near there, they can store their canoe or kayak. It's kind of like a bike rack.”He said the racks generally hold about six canoes or kayaks, but he said some communities have asked for additional racks, such as O'Hara for its Chapel Harbor landing.

As for why Friends chose Natrona, Baxter said, “We strategically look at the riverfront areas, and we try to find access points that are within five miles of one another and we look at communities that have active community groups to provide support.”

He said the township commissioners and the grassroots improvement group Natrona Comes Together were very supportive of the proposal.

Conroy believes the landing will be an asset to the community and thinks it is possible it could spur at least some business, such as a small store or restaurant, to open nearby.

“I can't see anything but good coming out of it,” Conroy said. “You don't get criminals riding kayaks, normally. These are people you want to have in your community.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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