Editorials, Opinion

A highway river and a whitewater rollercoaster

A throwback to when ‘shipping’ meant ‘by ship’  

The City of Morgantown and the Port of Pittsburgh — with the sponsorship of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization — have submitted a joint application to have the Monongahela River designated as   one of the nation’s marine highways (“M79” instead of I-79).     

We like this idea for a few reasons. First, it could help greatly reduce truck traffic on the interstate and on local roads. That’s one of the advantages of Morgantown: It can be reached by river, rail or road. But the “river” option has been neglected as “road” became the primary method for transporting goods.  

Second, reduced truck traffic also means reduced truck emissions and less fossil fuel use, both of which are good for the environment. That said, increased barge usage on the Mon River will probably have some downsides for the river itself. We encourage local environmental groups to study the potential impacts of increased shipping on the Mon itself.   

And third, the M79 designation isn’t just for commercial shipping; it will also open the Monongahela for recreational transport between Morgantown and Pittsburgh. We’re thinking a day-trip on a water taxi to and from Pittsburgh (and vice-versa) with the opportunity to go ashore for a few hours sounds like fun. 

Whitewater park coming to a creek near you?  

Imagine a portion of Deckers Creek turned into the water equivalent of a rollercoaster: twisting turns, careening rapids and a breath-stealing drop-off that lands you back in the creek with a splash. 

Whitewater parks are fairly common in the western United States. The parks closest to Morgantown are Adventure Sports Center International in McHenry, Md. — a self-contained, manmade simulated river section — and Stoneycreek Whitewater Park, in Johnstown, Pa. — a 300-yard water park within the banks of the Stoneycreek River. If Deckers Creek were to add a whitewater park, it would be akin to the one in Stoneycreek. 

Everything is in the preliminary stage. Friends of Deckers Creek is still trying to raise enough money for a feasibility study to see if whitewater rafting could be added. The study is expected to cost $17,000. Delegate Evan Hansen has already secured $5,000 in state funds, and a request has gone to the Monongalia County Commission for a matching $5,000.  

We’d like to see the City of Morgantown and maybe even BOPARC contribute to the project, because it would be an amazing economic opportunity. Right now, local thrill-seekers have to travel up to two hours away for the experience. Instead, they (and their money) could stay here. Plus, it could draw additional visitors from surrounding areas who would have otherwise made the trip to Maryland or Pennsylvania. 

It would also be a perfect opportunity to show off all the work FODC has done to revitalize Deckers Creek and maybe even garner additional support for future efforts. If people use Deckers Creek for recreation, hopefully they’ll be more invested in taking care of the waterway.