Greenways, trails could enhance Hill District

Scenic green ribbon could traverse northern edge of community

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An agreement this week between the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Find the Rivers! means planning can begin on parks and other green space in the Hill District, including scenic overlooks and trails.

   

Graphic: In the Hill District

   

Find the Rivers! has also received a Community Design Center grant of $15,000 to begin planning a greenway component on Herron Avenue that would connect to a scenic green ribbon running the length of the neighborhood's northern ridge line, behind Bedford Avenue.

"We have focused primarily on the four largest parks in the city," said Meg Cheever, director of the parks conservancy who joined Find the Rivers! advisory board last year, "but my board chair and I have spoken with the mayor, and we are very interested in expanding our work, as resources and time permit, to be active in any park in city.

"We'd have to go out and look for money," she said, "but the beauty of this situation is that there's been so much community involvement already."

Denys Candy, founder Find of the Rivers!, is one of many collaborators trying to redirect the flow of people through the Hill. He has cautioned against the kind of results that displace anyone, either because of construction or gentrification.

Brenda Tate, a lifelong resident, got involved, concerned about the "lost pieces of history," she said.

"Find the Rivers! is identifying some areas that have been grown over," she said. "Most were, when I was a child, places we played."

She and Mr. Candy found remnants of a cobblestone street behind Ammons Pool that had been destroyed by new housing.

"We hope to connect pieces of the Hill, to pull together a vision of the Hill as one place," she said.

Mr. Candy said the groups have discussed with city officials the possibility of having some city land designated as permanent greenway.

"A lot of it would be hillside land and some existing vacant lots that don't fit into any development plan," he said. "We could have greenways and trails that sweep all the way across the northern boundary of the Hill and even going across Herron and up around to the reservoir."

Neighborhood partners and organizations will be encouraged to join the discussion "to find potential river overlooks and connected trails," he said. "Another piece would be a green mass of land within the Hill."

Hill House, along with the Hill District Consensus Group, the Riverlife Task Force and the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University's Urban Lab, are also partners in the collaboration.

A long-term goal is to inventory underground springs and free them from their culverts as neighborhood water-features, said Mr. Candy.

Rivers! has been planning green strategies with Wesley A.M.E. Charities as well.

Chuck Williamson, a project manager for the charities, said a Kirkpatrick Street overlook park would be a focal point of a greenway along the bluff overlooking the Strip.

Wesley Charities also wants to use underground mine water to heat and cool Hill District properties via geothermal pumps. There are more than a trillion gallons of mine water in the larger area, according to George Wazlaff at the state Department of Energy.

Mr. Candy, a community-development consultant, established Find the Rivers! in 2002 to seek remedies for the severed ties the Hill suffered when highways and the Mellon Arena were built, displacing thousands of Lower Hill residents. He was inspired to action, he said, by French urban designer Michel Cantal-DuPart and author Mindy Fullilove, whose book "Root Shock" dealt in part with the Hill District diaspora.

"The Hill has fantastic geographic assets," said Ms. Cheever, "and the view from all sides is phenomenal. The goal of reknitting the neighborhood back into the city is the only thing that makes sense."


Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626.


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