By Dave Zuchowski
Joggers, hikers and bikers familiar with the 7.24 mile stretch of greenway trail that skirts the Monongahela River are in for a pleasant surprise. Greene River Trail users will see two vibrant 8 by 20-feet murals attached to the sides of the trail’s storage and maintenance shed at the Rices Landing entry point.
Bret Moore, director of the Greene County Department of Parks and Recreation department, wanted to brighten up the storage shed and knew various murals Jim Winegar had made for other area communities. Several months ago, he approached Winegar to determine his interest in creating a mural project for the shed to further the public’s interest in the trail.
Deciding to participate in the project, Winegar, a resident of Graysville, began tallying up a budget of construction costs and material, then he and Moore started to look for sponsors. Because the EQT Corporation decided to underwrite the project, Winegar incorporated its logo into the final design.
“When I saw that the shed was made of corrugated metal, I knew I’d have to do something to flatten the surface before attaching the murals,” he said. “To fix the problem, I mounted 4 by 8-foot sheets of plywood to the sides of the shed.”
To come up with the design elements, Winegar said he did some creative thinking and landed on spotlighting the history of the river. Both murals will display a banner that reads “Greene River Trail – Adventures Past, Present and Future.”
One mural, which was installed in late August, shows two Native Americans standing on the banks of the Monongahela, looking out at a canoe with three people paddling by, to celebrate the past.
The scene will also include the forested sides of the river, blooming daylilies and rocks indigenous to the area.
The second mural, still in progress, will show the developed trail with a family – a father, mother and their two children – riding bicycles with a couple of kayakers shown enjoying a day on the river, an homage to the trail in its current form. As a memorial to Dan Davis, the son of Lori Paletta-Davis, who lost his life in a car accident, Winegar will include sunflowers in the design. Dan’s mother has been planting sunflowers at various locations in the county in tribute to her son’s memory, including some along the Greene River Trail.
Winegar said he doesn’t plan to include images of the future because he wants to see how the river will change over time. He also said he submitted digital renderings of the design to Moore and EQT, who both subsequently approved the plan.
Using pigments that are highly resistant to abrasion and ultraviolet light, Winegar is painting the images on a cloth material called polypad on a total of eight panels. When dry, the panels can be rolled up, transported to Rices Landing, then mounted on the plywood, primed with high-grade material.
“The city of Philadelphia has done more than 300 murals of this type,” Winegar said.
Winegar’s wife, Linda, has been helping out with the murals, although Jim said he’d put more time into them because he has the technical experience working on other murals. Even so, he added Linda has been “heavily involved.”
“The murals, which should be up by the end of August, should last at least 25 years,” Winegar said.
In the meantime, people will be able to see the progress of the murals’ construction on Facebook at Facebook.com/JimandLindaWinegar.
The artist, a prolific potter as well as painter, created two murals in Brownsville. One is a historical reference to the town’s landmark Cast Iron Bridge; the other recalls the town’s prowess as a steamboat manufacturer and is mounted on the street that accesses the wharf area. He’s also finished one for the Historical Society of Monessen, which references the city’s role of having the first blast iron furnace on the Monongahela River.
The future may also see some follow-up installation of bump-outs along the Greene River Trail that will include images that showcase the area’s steamboat and pottery-making history.
“We may also include some sculptural items on the trail as well,” Winegar said.