National Park Service to advise Mount Washington’s Emerald View Park

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Mile by mile since 2007, Mount Washington Community Development Corp. has been creating Emerald View Park, Pittsburgh's fifth regional park, which loops around hillsides and links to three other parks and a greenway.

Because it is evolving over so much degraded and steep land and because existing parks will coincide in the chain, the community development corporation applied for and recently received assistance from the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation program.

There is no money in the distinction, but the value of the consultancy "is another pair of experienced hands, which is sometimes worth more than money," said Ilyssa Manspeizer, the Mount Washington CDC's director of park development and conservation. "We hope this [collaboration] will lead us to other funders."

The park service has signed on for one year to help the Mount Washington CDC elicit community ideas on park signs, create a park user's survey, find funding on a national level and establish trails on vulnerable steep slopes "to the highest standards," Ms. Manspeizer said.

Emerald View is one of 11 parks in the state that the park service chose from applications received. Community meetings will start early in 2014, she said.

To form 257 contiguous acres, Emerald View links to Olympia, Grandview and Mount Washington parks and the Duquesne Heights greenway. Its network of 20 miles of trails is half completed.

Since 2007, the Student Conservation Association and, more recently, the CDC's Emerald Trail Corps, have not only created trails but rehabilitated degraded landscapes and removed 250,000 pounds of trash from illegal dumpsites. More than 6,000 new trees include species that will not grow high enough to obstruct the view.

When the city created the park in 2005, it contributed 237 acres and has cleared land and provided other labor. The CDC and the Allegheny Land Trust raised money to buy 20 more acres. If all 257 acres are completed within 20 years, which is the estimated timeline, the investment will equal roughly $8 million in today's dollars.

The National Park Service's rivers and trails program began in the early 1980s as technical assistance. Under President Barack Obama, an initiative to support conservation and recreation included a focus on connecting urban parks to underserved populations, said Peggy Ping, an outdoor recreation planner for the National Parks Service who is also working with the Ohio River Trail Council based in Monaca.

She said she expects to be in Pittsburgh regularly to walk the trails with residents and help plan public input sessions.

"I've hiked all the trails" in Emerald View, she said. "Some trail miles are going to be on city sidewalks. We plan to develop a trail use survey to find out how many people are using it and to come to some consensus for signs that make the most sense to people, both neighbors and visitors."

Ms. Ping, whose territory is West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, said she will work with Emerald View park development through September. Mount Washington can apply for another year by Aug. 1.

First Published December 11, 2013 11:38 PM

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