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Charleroi Divided Over Fate Of Controversial Kayak Launch Ramp

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CHARLEROI (KDKA) -- The waters of the Monongahela River lap at the kayak launching ramp next to the Second Street boat ramp in Charleroi. So new, the dock is hardly soiled by water or muddy feet, and yet, already, it's embroiled in controversy.

A week ago Tuesday a 911 call came in to Charleroi firefighters.

"It came in as a possible downing call," says Charleroi firefighter Chris McBride. "A gentleman was reported in the water."

McBride was second on the scene right behind his chief, and immediately spotted the man in the water near the dock and plunged into the water without hesitation.

"I walked my way out to where he was at," McBride recalled.

In the waste-to-chest deep water, he says, "I grabbed him by his shirt and jeans and dragged him back over to here," pointing to the edge of the dock.

Once on the dock, the man was treated with Narcan and revived from an apparent overdose. The man is now fully recovered, but the incident confirmed the concerns of Charleroi Councilman Larry Celaschi.

"The dock sits there in a place that is not a healthy environment. We had concerns that was going to be a liability exposure that the borough did not need," Celaschi said.

He says the rescue "just raised the red flags with council about the dock. We have seen needles, and a number of alcohol bottles around there."

The ramp was installed earlier this summer and Charleroi Police Chief Eric Porter says the kayak ramp has not been a real issue.

"We've had some reports of some vandalism a few months back," Porter says, "And, recently, we had a medical call down there that we treated as an overdose."

Charleroi Fire Chief Bob Whiten says the rescue last week, "Is just the first time we've responded down there."

Charleroi City Council was asked on Thursday evening to approve Celaschi's resolution to have the Kayak ramp removed until the renovation of the adjacent football stadium and park are completed. The ramp would then be returned to the river as part of the park.

But quite a few people in Charleroi on Thursday, before the meeting, told KDKA that removing the dock would be an overreaction.

Or as Dylan McBride put it, "You're punishing everyone else for a few people's issues."

At the meeting, the council decided to take bids to remove and store the dock. They say there is no power in that area preventing the installation of security cameras.

Celaschi says he would like to see the dock put into storage within a week.


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