LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – A major step to keeping progress flowing along the Mahoning River is underway.

On Friday morning, officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a nearly $3-million restoration project along the river in Lowellville.

“You see our fruits of the labor here and government money that’s really gonna make a big difference in the village of Lowellville and the whole Mahoning and Shenango Valley, really,” said Mayor Jim Iudiciani.

For generations, the Mahoning River was tied to all of the steel mills that sat alongside it, but now, communities along the river are about to see a rebirth.

The work included removing the old concrete dams that restricted water flow for the factories that once lined this river as well as cleaning up some of the pollution that the mills left behind.

“We used to come along this corridor. We smelled flue dust. We saw a river that was superheated. We saw, you know, suds. I have pictures of the river where it was, like, filled with suds and debris and just filthy,” said Roslyn Torella, of Lowellville.

There is now a boat livery for canoes and kayaks — something that the group “Friends of the Mahoning River” have been pushing for years. Eventually, there will even be a new 13-acre park at the location.

Lowellville was the first community in the area to remove its dam along the river. Eight more remain in place between the village and Leavittsburg.

One of those is in Struthers, Work there to remove the dams and clean up polluted sediment started several months ago.

Like the project in Lowellville, this one will eventually include access for recreation.

“It’s coming along very nicely. We’re hoping to be done in the next couple months. I know the kayak ramps will be up here soon. We’re hoping by the end of the year, this is all gonna play into the bigger picture,” said Struthers Mayor Cat Cercone Miller.

The Struthers and Lowellville projects are being paid for, in part, through money from the state EPA and Department of Natural Resources.

The next steps in Lowellville include developing a park along the riverside and attracting new investment, something the mayor and others hope will lead to an economic rebirth for this community