The Highland Park Buggy Brigade

March 23, 2011 by Melissa McMasters

One of my most memorable volunteer experiences with the Parks Conservancy was a fall 2008 cleanup in Highland Park of the hillside that runs from behind the Pool Grove shelter down to Washington Boulevard. Working with a big group of University of Pittsburgh students, we removed dozens of tires, bags and bags' worth of cans and bottles, a utility sink, some rusted old box springs, and an enormous blue metal object that was either part of a UFO or some sort of unwanted playground equipment.

But the main theme of the day? Shopping carts. Lots and lots of shopping carts.

I got to repeat this hillside experience this past weekend on another volunteer day. Erin Copeland, our senior restoration ecologist, has been working on this hillside for a while, and it's especially become a priority now that the recently completed trails project has sought to bring more traffic through this area via trail connections. She estimates that these hillside cleanups have been going on since 2004. So given seven years of work, surely there couldn't be any more buggies buried in the Highland Park hillside, right?

Volunteers and shopping carts

At first, it almost looked like we wouldn't have a lot to haul out--just some glass bottles here and there (and one large dilapidated water gun). But after pushing aside some vines, we found a treasure trove of tires and shopping carts, some of which were buried so deeply that it took hours to free them. Along with my friend Cat and the Parks Conservancy's intern Carl, I spent about three hours harassing one cart with a shovel and a pickaxe until we were able to release about 3/4 of it from the ground. It was possibly a fool's errand (given that it turned out to be partially buried in concrete, somehow), but that's the thing about cleaning up a park: you get really invested in what you're doing, and you just want to see things returned to their natural state.

Cat and Carl

Elsewhere, another faction of our group who were pretty confident in their ability to balance on particularly steep terrain were hauling out what looked to be an entire wooden fence.

Tires and fences

Here's a look at some of our haul, including more than 70 tires (and one perfectly preserved baseball).

Trash haul

So after reading this, I KNOW you want to get in on some volunteer action as soon as possible, right? Well, you're in luck: our next volunteer day is at Cliffside Park (a really cool little space in the Hill District, at the corner of Cliff and Cassatt Streets) on Saturday, April 2. If you can't make that, your next opportunity is the not-to-be-missed Panther Hollow Volunteer Extravaganza on April 16, where we'll be tackling projects not just in Schenley Park but throughout Oakland this time around. Following that, we have days scheduled for Riverview and Frick Parks. Get all the info and sign up here!

(Thanks to volunteer Michael Linssen for providing some of the photos!)

Highland Park, Volunteering