By Sam Bigham
Carnegie has decided to build a boat launch for small non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks that use the Chartiers Creek.
The launch will be built near the corner of Mansfield Boulevard and Chartiers Avenue.
“Especially since the pandemic, park usage has increased and residents of all ages are looking for opportunities for outdoor activity including along Chartiers Creek. Kayakers and canoeists who exit or enter at the future location of the path currently encounter obstacles in accessing the waterway,” said Steve Beuter, Borough Manager of Carnegie.
The launch, funded by grant money, will be a crushed limestone path to the creek so boaters would no longer have to climb over large rocks.
The grant is being offered through the Ohio Basin Access for Canoes and Kayaks Mini Grant Program.
The program is a partnership of several organizations led by the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR).
Chartiers Creek is an almost 50 mile long tributary beginning in Washington County and ending at the Ohio River in McKees Rocks, just three miles from Point State Park. The creek has had a long history with pollution.
Runoff from mines, industry and agriculture severely polluted the creek, even turning the water orange. Years of work cleaning up the creek paid off as the fish population slowly rebounded.
Mass fish death
On July 14, 2021, however, Chartiers Creek tested positive for the presence of fungicide resulting in a mass death of the fish population.
Valley Brook Country Club was found liable for using the fungicide on its golf course which contaminated the creek. The club was fined $37,500.
The grant application, written by Deneen Underwood who is coordinating the project, lists this event as one of the reasons for building the boat path as the borough believes it “will draw positive attention to Chartiers Creek” and encourage further rehabilitation of the waterway.
The project is expected to take about four weeks to complete and will begin sometime this summer. In the first two weeks, the boat path will be designed and permits will be acquired. The site will be cleared in the third week and then construction will begin.
From that point on, the launch will be highlighted on the website and the borough will plan recreation events at the site. Regular assessments and studies on the boat path’s use will also be conducted.
The project will cost $4,967 in total with the grant covering $2,425 and Carnegie paying for the rest.
“We have already received positive feedback from community members who participate in sojourns each summer. Our goal with this project is to provide a safer access point to the waterway for residents and visitors of Carnegie to experience the scenery and wildlife habitat along Chartiers Creek,” Beuter said.
At one time, the Chartiers Nature Conservancy (CNC) hosted boating trips on the creek. The first so-called Sojourn was hosted 20 years ago. At its peak, the Sojourn trips would attract between 40 and 50 people. The CNC no longer hosts these events, but one of the former organizers continues to host smaller excursions with less than 10 participants.
“I like the outdoors,” said Tim Volk, who added that he enjoys the conversations he has with new people.
Volk is the former president and treasurer of the CNC.
“Anybody that’s gone down [Chartiers Creek] loves it,” said Volk.
“It’s better than Ohiopyle."
Volk supports the new boat path being put in and would “love to see more interest” in kayaking and canoeing.
Canoes and kayaks are an easy way to enjoy the local environment individually or as part of a larger group, said Volk, who adds the sport is easy for people to learn.
Licenses for non-motor watercraft are between $10 and $12 per year for residents of Pennsylvania.