What Dreams May Come: Cliffside Artwork Makes Dreams Reality

One of Pittsburgh’s parks will soon make children’s dreams a reality.

Taking inspiration from Cliffside Park’s unique vantage and the dreams of little ones from the community, local artist Leslie Ansley is creating a new art piece to be installed in the renovated park.

art project 5

art project 2

Ms. Ansley has developed designs that celebrate flight and soaring visions – peregrine falcons, kites, butterflies, dandelion fluff, and the like. On a recent Saturday, children from the Hill District put pencil to paper to share their own soaring thoughts and creativity at an open workshop; their contributions will be incorporated into this new piece of art.

art project 4

The work, to be applied to the park’s entry walkway and an adjacent retaining wall, will also reflect the dreams and aspirations of Amon Cashmere Harris, son of community leader and resident Tyian Battle, who died suddenly at a young age. His dreams of traveling to Paris to see the iconic city were the inspiration for the art deco inspired designs that Ms. Ansley has created, which are also evocative of the design vocabulary of the Hill District in its heyday.

Cliffside Park itself is a reality dreamt up by the community, the entire restoration having been driven and informed by neighbors in the Hill. Like art on a fridge, this art piece will give a sense of home to this community space.

Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project. Cliffside Park and play areas are currently under construction and will open in Summer 2016.

art project 3

Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training with our new Greenprint Park Steward

Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training

Unlike most trips I make to REI Southside, I wasn’t here this morning to get a new piece of gear, although I’ll admit I did look. I was here for the Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training. This wasn’t my first time learning to lead crews. In fact, my crew leading experience began right here in Pittsburgh three years ago when I attended the 2010 Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training and became a crew leader that summer. I enjoyed working with volunteer crews so much that I soon journeyed to Southern California to lead volunteers in trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail. It wasn’t long before I was off on my next adventure leading crews of college students throughout the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Wyoming.

Now, I’m happy to be back in the City of Pittsburgh where it all started, working as the new Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Greenprint Park Steward. The Greenprint is a comprehensive plan that aims to build on the natural landscapes throughout the Hill District. These greening projects will add value to the neighborhood by raising property values, providing community gathering spaces, and improving air quality.

Cliffside Park

Even with my extensive crew leading background, I gained a lot from the Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training session. It’s important to review all of the responsibilities and techniques that go into being a crew leader to keep both you and your volunteer’s safe throughout the project. Parks Conservancy education program coordinator, Taiji Nelson, covered how to properly use, carry, and store tools. Joe Divack, Allegheny CleanWays DumpBuster Coordinator, explained how to lead crews through garbage clean-ups and how to handle worksites on steep slopes. Allegheny CleanWays project coordinator Leah Thill wrapped up the day by running us through some real life volunteer day scenarios. This gave us the chance to practice our public speaking and to test some of the skills we had learned throughout the day.

Taiji and Joe showing our current and future crew leaders proper ways to handle tools and worksites.

Taiji and Joe showing our current and future crew leaders proper ways to handle tools and worksites.

All of these skills will be helpful in providing a safe, productive, and fun experience for our Hill District greening projects. We are looking for more leaders to help us implement the projects outlined in the Greenprint for the Hill! If you are interested in becoming a leader, or being involved as a volunteer in the Hill District, please contact Jake Baechle at jbaechle@pittsburghparks.org. You can also stay tuned to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website for future trainings and volunteer days.

The Urban EcoSteward program is a collaboration between  Pittsburgh Parks ConservancyMount Washington Community Development CorporationFrick Environmental Center, Allegheny CleanwaysAllegheny Land Trust, and Nine Mile Run Watershed. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit our Urban EcoSteward webpage.



Jake Baechle is the new Greenprint Park Steward for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. In his role, Jake will lead volunteer coordination and community outreach in the Hill District focusing on Cliffside Park and other Greenprint priorities.

Design Firms Needed!

Frick Environmental Center

Environmental Center interior image by Alexander Denmarsh

Calling all design/architecture firms: we’re releasing two RFPs/RFQs this morning, one for a new design of the Frick Environmental Center in Frick Park, and one for a project management plan for Cliffside Park in the Hill District and McKinley Park in Beltzhoover.  A link to the requests and supporting documents for each project is below.

Frick Environmental Center
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is seeking a consultant(s) to develop designs for a new Environmental Center at Frick Park. This project is a joint endeavor between the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. It will include the development of concept designs, schematic drawings, and construction documents for a new environmental education facility and associated landscape restoration in Frick Park, Pittsburgh, PA. It will involve substantial community engagement and outreach to a diverse group of current and potential users of the new Center.

The deadline for submission is January 12, 2011.

Download the RFQ document and find existing site information here.

Cliffside Park

Cliffside Park

Cliffside and McKinley Parks
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is seeking a consulting team to comprehensively manage a project of improvements to Cliffside and McKinley Parks, including design services, procurement, construction management, and grant compliance.  The consultant will be responsible for complying with Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) – Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of General Services procurement standards, document retention, and audit compliance responsibilities. 

Professional services should include: landscape architecture, engineering (civil, geotechnical, mechanical), lighting design, fountain design, arboriculture, and planting design.  The Consultant will implement this project in coordination with Parks Conservancy staff and partners, including the City of Pittsburgh.   The project is funded through Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) in the amount of $500,000, plus matching funds being raised by the Parks Conservancy.

The deadline for submission is December 17, 2010.

Download the RFP document and find existing site information here.

A Match for the Community

For our first ten years, the Parks Conservancy focused our work exclusively on the four regional parks of Pittsburgh–Frick, Highland, Riverview, and Schenley.  But when Mayor Luke Ravenstahl asked us to broaden our reach to the rest of Pittsburgh’s parks system as time and resources permitted, we were thrilled with the opportunity to spend time in some of the 170+ other beautiful parks in the city.  With one project complete in Shadyside’s Mellon Park and another set to begin in downtown’s Mellon Square, we now have several exciting projects in the works in both the Hill District and Beltzhoover.  And the best part?

Now through October 1, every gift to these projects is matched 100% by Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funds.

Thanks to support from State Representative Jake Wheatley, the Parks Conservancy was awarded $500,000 in state funding for work in Beltzhoover’s McKinley Park and the Hill District’s Cliffside Park.  But in order to access these funds, we must raise half of the required match–$250,000–by October 1.  To do that, we need your help.

You can donate through our website at www.pittsburghparks.org/donate.  Just choose either Cliffside Park or McKinley Park from the Designation menu and your gift will automatically be matched 100%.  It’s that simple!

More information about these parks is below.  To see photo galleries of the parks, click here.

Cliffside Park
Cliffside ParkThis playground on Cliff Street features a striking view of the Allegheny River and the Strip District that has been compromised by lack of maintenance.  Restoring the play space as well as the surrounding area will take advantage of the location’s potential and reintegrate it into the rich outdoor life of the neighborhood.  Cliffside Park is envisioned as a community gathering space that encourages young children’s physical and social development and strengthens their connection to nature.

The project in Cliffside Park will also continue an already-ongoing effort to add vegetation to surrounding streets like Cliff St., Monaca Place, and Bedford Avenue, reinforcing the park’s connection to the wooded areas of the Hill.  A new entrance wall would incorporate lighting and plantings.  Views both into the park and from its vantage point would be improved through removal of debris and invasive species, selective pruning, installation of properly sized slope plantings, and refurbishment of fencing.

McKinley Park
McKinley ParkThis 63-acre community park spanning the Beltzhoover neighborhood offers recreational fields, a skate park, and a system of wooded trails.  Historic stone entryways that once welcomed visitors to McKinley Park are deteriorating, and residents from surrounding neighborhoods are seeking to re-establish connections throughout the park.  A pilot project is expected to restore one of the stone entryways, including the stairs, surrounding landscaping, and a nearby trail segment.   

We’re excited to work with the City of Pittsburgh, Representative Wheatley, and City Council members Bruce Kraus, Daniel Lavelle, and Natalia Rudiak to bring much-needed funds to these vital community parks.  Make your gift today and take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to double your contribution at www.pittsburghparks.org/donate.

A Village in the Woods

For the past several years, the Parks Conservancy has been working with the Find the Rivers! consortium and the Hill District community to develop a “greenprint” for the Hill.  This new way of seeing the Hill District was widely celebrated with the release of the completed Greenprint plan in mid-June.  The Greenprint’s goal is to establish the Hill as a healthy place where ecology and development can work hand-in-hand, creating “the Village in the Woods.” 

Village in the Woods

The Village in the Woods plan is unveiled.

The plan’s June 15 rollout was a daylong demonstration of key ideas.  The project team, residents, and interns moved through the Hill, leaving traces behind to stimulate people’s awareness.  They tied yellow cloths to trees to mark the future Coal Seam Trail, cleared overgrowth from the Chauncey Street Steps, and stenciled historic business names along Centre Avenue.  The day closed with a sidewalk gallery of Greenprint drawings and plans.

What is the Greenprint?
The Greenprint project re-connects both the Hill District to its specific landscape and community members to the greater Pittsburgh area.  It also strengthens social ties through linkages to adjacent neighborhoods.  Fulfilling the plan is expected to attract outside visitors, encourage outdoor activity, provide new venues for public visual and performing arts, increase property value, and attract economic development. 

The Greenprint has three core goals:

  • Establish a healthy place with urban development that works in concert with the natural ecology;
  • Identify projects and opportunities for leadership and innovation in a local economy; and
  • Reframe the identity of the Hill District as A Village in the Woods – an example of urban beauty.
Coal Seam Trail

Tying yellow ribbons to mark a future section of the Coal Seam Trail.

The term “greenprint” adapts “blueprint” to denote the plan’s focus – land use and the identification of a network of public green spaces, overlooks, parks, streets, and trails that connect to key locations in the overall neighborhood and to sites in surrounding neighborhoods.  It has been produced by analyzing green assets and engaging residents in planning ecologically sound development that will promote economic and public health benefits. 

As an ecological framework to guide future development, the Greenprint defines three distinct regions:

  •  The Woods, the Hill’s outer edge, wraps the community with dense vegetation. 
  • The Village is a collection of diverse neighborhoods at the geographic center of the Hill. 
  • Conveyance is the system that moves people, water, and wildlife through the Hill, highlighting historic stream paths. 

A set of project initiatives have been designed to:

  • Expand the web of trees and green space that encircles the Hill District and extend it into the Village core;
  • Construct and improve strategically located steps and nearby pathways that are vital links for  walking routes in the Hill; and
  • Recognize and enliven five blocks of Centre Avenue as the Hill’s core public space, to attract and support community use.

The Greenprint builds upon the Hill’s existing landscape resources to provide a framework for the Hill to retain its identity and capitalize on its geography.  Historically, the community has been plagued by disinvestment and abandonment. That situation raises the question: “If the value of middle-to upper-class communities is directly related to their landscape context, why can’t urban neighborhoods take advantage of their unique landscapes?”  That question is particularly relevant now that densities are reduced and industries have been removed from these natural settings. 

Currently there is great interest in the Hill because of its proximity to downtown, Oakland, and the University.  City government owns large parcels of land. Gentrification is real threat.  How can urban communities, like the Hill, retain their identity and capitalize on their geography?  The Greenprint builds upon the Hill’s existing landscape resources to provide a framework for wrestling with these huge challenges.

Read the Greenprint!
The Greenprint conceptual plan is now online.  You can download a PDF here.  (Please save to your desktop–it’s a large file!)  To learn more about the project and see a timeline at a glance, visit our website.

Cliffside Park
Cliffside Park One of the first priorities in the Hill District Greenprint is the renovation of Cliffside Park, a playground on Cliff Street.  Planning for the project has already begun, with a goal of re-establishing the playground as a gathering place with a stunning view of the Allegheny River.  The project will add vegetation to the surrounding streets to reinforce the connection to the Woods, and will improve recreational and programmed space within the park. 

You can help get this project off the ground!  The Parks Conservancy has been awarded $500,000 in state funding through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).  To access these funds, we must raise an additional $500,000.  So when you donate to Cliffside Park, your gift will be matched 100%.  Visit www.pittsburghparks.org/donate and choose Cliffside Park as your designation to take advantage of this great opportunity to double your gift.

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