Leadership Warren County envisions floating river dock

Five members of the Leadership Warren County class are working on building a floating dock for the Allegheny River in downtown Warren

Todd Bowersox, Mary Hagan-Double, Michelle Williams, Steve Sigmund and William “Buzzy” Bussoletti traveled to Kittanning, Pa. with Program Director Gary Lester recently to speak with officials there who completed a similar, albeit large dock system.

“We met with the president of the Allegheny River Development Corporation and the executive director of the Arts on the Allegheny to develop ideas. They kind of alleviated our anxiety when they said, ‘Your idea is a slam dunk’,” Bussoletti said.

He explained that Kittanning’s dock system, which they began in 2008, faces a large amphitheater and boats dock for performances. It is a much larger system than the one proposed for Warren, and therefore more complicated.

Sigmund said, “They were charming hosts and were so kind to us. They can’t wait to come up here.”

He added, “Kittanning was ‘a toe in the water’; we got oriented. The next thing will be public input.”

Williams and Hagan-Double will handle the next phase. “We’ll pull together information and visually present the plan for a public forum,” Williams said. “We will connect emotionally so they can see why we are so passionate about it.”

Sigmund said they are looking at three possible sites, all on the north bank of the Allegheny River. He said one is just downstream of the Hickory Street Bridge and is considered historical because wooden rafts tied up there when logs were transported by river to Pittsburgh. The downside is the steep bank.

The second site is just upstream of the bridge, below where Music in the Park is held, but Sigmund said he didn’t like the proximity of the high-tension electrical lines overhead.

He said his personal choice would be at the foot of Liberty Street for a number of reasons, including the public restrooms in proximity, and an existing ramp that would allow pedestrian traffic from the docks to street level.

The dock would be removed from the river and stored during the off-season, as is the one in Kittanning.

Additionally, the city had tentative plans for the area in the original Impact Warren project, including a boat launch, he added.

“Future plans could include a streetscape project, and a 3-D map of downtown, perhaps color-coded for restaurants, pharmacies and other businesses or downtown events,” he said.

Bowersox said of the Kittanning trip, “We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel.”

“We are in the second month of planning now, and the most exciting thing about the visit for me is the construction. I’m a nuts and bolts kind of guy,” he said.

A press release from the committee explains that the project would build a dock to attract people boating on the river into downtown Warren. Their mission statement is, “to simply, Let it happen!”

Bussoletti said that Piper VanOrd of Allegheny Outfitters estimated that 12,000 people a year pass through Warren on the river.

“The plan is to give those folks the opportunity to ‘stop and dock’ and access downtown Warren for whatever their needs might mandate… shopping, going to restaurants, taverns, drugstore(s) sporting goods stores or whatever,” he said.

“The River Landing at Warren is fast gaining momentum. Really, it’s a no-brainer. We have a beautiful river that flows right through downtown Warren. Now is the time to market our beautiful, historic community and give an untold number of people the opportunity to designate Warren as a must-see area,” he said.

Bussoletti outlined the steps the committee had decided upon.”First, file with the court articles of incorporation. Second, apply for a 501(c)3 status which allows persons, businesses or corporations to make a financial donation… and qualify for a tax write-off.”

The next two steps, which have already been accomplished, are writing a plan for approval by the Warren County Leadership board of directors, and adopting a mission statement and title for the project.

As already noted, the next step is to build public support and set up a public forum to explain the rationale and goals.

The committee also intends to reach out to other communities with similar projects, as has been done with the Kittanning trip.

Next, the committee will begin fund-raising for the materials and solicit other in-kind services, retain an attorney to navigate the legal requirements, and finally seek assistance from municipal, local and state government officials.

For more information, call Bowersox, the committee chairman, at 610-6333 or Sigmund at 779-1070.