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Sharpsburg waterfront no longer drowning in trash

| Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

A former pile of trash now is a community's treasure along the Allegheny River.

Sharpsburg officials Wednesday showed off a revamped waterfront area and new boat ramp at a former dump site.

Paid for with money from the state and county, the $300,000 project provides the second public boat launch with free parking along 30 miles of navigable river in the region. The other is in Kilbuck.

"It's going to have a big impact all around," said Scott Bollinger, boating facility coordinator for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. "This is one of the biggest boating areas in the region, and an area that everyone has told us needed something like this."

The project is a work in progress.

With concrete walkways that extend the shore about 50 feet, the development spans 600 feet of riverfront, including kayak and boat-launch ramps, said Larry Stelitann, a Sharpsburg councilman who spearheaded the project.

The next step is to create a large, handicapped-accessible fishing pier into the Allegheny River. Lighting and benches will be installed in coming weeks along the walkway, making the area more appealing for evening relaxation, Stelitann said. The borough hopes to erect a gazebo near the kayak ramp.

"You come out here and you'll find beavers, geese, ducks," said Stelitann, 61, a lifelong resident of Sharpsburg. "It's just a nice place to come and get away from all the craziness you'll find up on the streets."

The Keystone Paralyzed Veterans of America and Friends of the Riverfront contributed to the project, funded by the Fish and Boat Commission, county Department of Economic Development and state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Much of the construction work was completed by trainees from the Pittsburgh Job Corps Center and Duquesne Light. The agreement helped save the borough hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Three years ago, the area was a dumping ground for furniture, refrigerators and other trash.

"I think they've done a fantastic job," said Fred Tregaskes, 72, of Templeton, president of the paralyzed-veterans group. "It's going to be well utilized and be a big benefit to the borough."

That's exactly what Stelitann wants the borough to achieve.

"The town is small. We don't have much here," Stelitann said. "This is a shot in the arm. Maybe we can really get something going."

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