30 Years: Pittsburgh's greenspace grows, becomes more accessible

Part of the 30 Years, 30 Changes series on the Pittsburgh region

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Half a million people flock to Schenley Plaza in Oakland every year, spinning on the carousel, relaxing at outdoor concerts and squeezing into a busy sit-down restaurant -- making it one of the most visited parks in the nation.

It's a far cry from the way that space looked 30 -- or even 10 -- years ago, when it was still busy, but much less scenic as a parking lot.

How Pittsburgh became cool

Parks all over the region are more interactive and more accessible than they were decades ago -- and there's more of them.

"The movement of people being re-interested in urban parks started in the early 1980s," said Meg Cheever, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which was founded in 1996 to partner with the city to care for its biggest parks. "It's reawakened people's recognition that the parks really affect quality of life."

Physical changes to parks in the Pittsburgh region include the construction of Schenley Plaza, as well as the Highland Park Entry Garden, the connection of various green spaces into Emerald View Park on Mount Washington, and riverfront parks on the South Shore and North Shore. Former Mayor Tom Murphy, during the 1990s and 2000s, spearheaded the upgrade of 169 playgrounds across the city.

Spray parks and skate parks are also new, not to mention off-leash dog parks and disc golf. Parks are also used more frequently for events, from Cinema in the Park nights all over the region to "an explosion of road races," said Mary Beth Mueller, a spokeswoman for Citiparks.

Outside the city, developments include major improvements in biking and hiking trails, such as the Montour Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage as a whole, and the development of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden near Settlers Cabin Park.


First Published October 19, 2013 8:00 PM


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