Coping with COVID-19

April 9, 2020 by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

April 10, 2020: Kathryn Hunninen, Senior Manager Special Initiatives 

I've been with the Parks Conservancy for nearly four years. One of my main roles is to help people from all parts of #Pittsburgh support their own health and well-being by connecting to parks and nature through the Park Rx program.

I grew up a few blocks from Frick Park. I now live in the Brookline neighborhood.

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the outdoors and noticing what is happening in nature. Whether I'm in my garden, back ally, city park, or traveling, being in nature helps me feel more connected to the world around me.


During this time, when I'm not busy in my home office, I'm lots of walks in my neighborhood and enjoying new signs of #spring each day. Every March, I get really excited when I see the Bloodroot flowers emerge in my garden. It is one of the first wildflowers to emerge as a beacon of spring.

On the weekends, I've been seeking out less-traveled places to hike with my husband and daughter. We head out extra early to avoid people. I've enjoyed soaking up some sun with a good book in my back yard. I've also started playing Yatzee! and other games with my parents, who also live in Pittsburgh, over Zoom--it almost feels like we're in the same room 😉


On the weekends, I've been seeking out less-traveled places to hike with my husband and daughter. We head out extra early to avoid people. I've enjoyed soaking up some sun with a good book in my back yard. I've also started playing Yatzee! and other games with my parents, who also live in Pittsburgh, over Zoom - it almost feels like we're in the same room 😉

April 12, 2020: John Pepper, Communications and Marketing Senior Director 

Reading is an outlet for me as I personally cope with COVID-19.

I love to read and continue pursuing my dream of being a published/famous author. The bookcase in my photo is one of three I have in my apartment. The pillow at the bottom of the bookcase reads, ‘I cannot live without books,’ which was in a note Thomas Jefferson sent to John Adams. Jefferson is my fave historical figure.

My favorite book is on the bottom right, A Civil Action. It is my favorite book from my favorite author, Stephen King.

The Lost World is from Michael Crichton and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is on the upper left.


I live within 800 feet of Dormont Park, known in the region for its pool (once the largest in the state, don’t know if that’s still the case); known in the neighborhood for its large wooden playground and baseball field.

The park is important to me because I live in an apartment and welcome the opportunity (when it’s safe) to walk down to the park and read in the shade on hot summer days.

I love to exercise and benefit from the streets in my neighborhood being very hilly, specifically the streets around the park. My typical route allows me to exercise while keeping the park in almost constant sight. I will also walk down to the park on weeknights and watch baseball/softball games.

The park and surrounding streets provide mental, emotional, and physical health in my life.


I grew up on Long Island, but have lived in #Pittsburgh for more than 20 years after moving from Oklahoma City and enjoy most everything about this city. I'm very happy to be here, although I still root for my New York teams.

I like to travel. San Francisco is my favorite US city. I used to live in Sacramento and I would spend many days driving to San Francisco. I love the cool weather, the wonderful architecture, the cosmopolitan feel to it, and the surrounding region.

My fave spot in the US is a few hours south…a town called Carmel. I also love Sausalito and the towns directly north of SF like Tiburon.

Attachment (1)

April 13, 2020: Alana Wenk, Communications Strategist 

Hi, I'm Alana! I've been with the Parks Conservancy since August 2019 and it's been a breath of fresh air (literally). I love going for long walks in #PittsburghParks with my pup, Sullie.

Sullie and I have found ourselves spending even more time outdoors as the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis.

Being in nature is a way for so many to cope with uncertainty, so Sullie and I are definitely getting our 'Vitamin N' fix these days!


Listening to music is always a place where I can escape - it's been an amazing outlet during #COVID-19.

Andrew McMahon is one of my favorite musicians, so his albums have been on repeat these days, especially when I go for my daily run.

Fun Fact: My husband and I went to see him play live three times in 2019!


I truly believe that we are so fortunate to have 165 parks in #Pittsburgh 💚

If it weren't for our green spaces, I'm fairly certain I would binge watch entirely too much #Netflix during this time to get my mind off of not being able to see my family and friends right now.

Remember, we're all in this together. Let's take this time to appreciate the goodness in nature and love our parks (while practicing #physicaldistancing).


April 15, 2020: Maggie Herrick, Restoration Gardener

Hi, I'm Maggie! I joined the Parks Conservancy in December of last year. I'm originally from Virginia, but moved to #Pittsburgh just over a year ago. Working and exploring in Pittsburgh's parks have helped me get to know the area!

We've been experiencing abnormal times recently in light of COVID-19, so I've been leaning on my garden to help me through this situation.

I love spending time in my garden and being in nature. I especially love growing vegetables and edible flowers, or just sitting in the sunshine admiring the plants and all the critters they attract.


I've been doing my part to help flatten the curve, so I've been spending almost all of my time at home.

I’ve been able to read a lot more than usual. Maybe a bit too much Stephen King lately, but also lots of gardening books, cooking magazines and cookbooks, so I can make lots of tasty food.


My communication with family and friends has definitely increased during COVID-19 and is helping me to feel more connected to others. Saying 'hello' and checking-in on neighbors when I take walks has also been uplifting and heartwarming (while practicing safe physical distancing of course)!

P.S. I've also found myself taking more photos of my cats, which isn't completely out of the norm.

Connecting with Loved Ones

April 17, 2020: Shawn Fertitta, Visitor Experience Director

Hi, Park Friends! It's been quite the experience coping with COVID-19, so I hope everyone is safe and well during this time. Like many of my colleagues, I've been spending a lot of time outdoors in this beautiful weather!

I'm finding joy and comfort in walking our dog, Cody, for fresh air and exercise throughout the day.


This global health emergency has allowed me the time to slow down a bit and spend time with my loved ones. This picture is from brunch with my family a couple weekends ago.

Remember, spending meaningful time with those you love is so important!

Quarantine brunch

We recently reused our holiday lights to show our support and light the night with our neighbors! We're all in this together. Remember to stay safe and healthy during this time of uncertainty.


April 19, 2020: Brandon Riley, Capital Projects Manager

Hi, I’m Brandon! My family and I moved here from Boston a little over 18 months ago, and I joined the Conservancy in November of last year. Parks and open space are what inspired me to become a landscape architect, so this is kind of a match made in heaven!

We live in Regent Square and have been spending A LOT of time in Frick Park getting our nature fix during this crisis (practicing appropriate safety and distancing measures). I’ve been spending part of everyday running, biking, or hiking on my favorite trails. We are fortunate to be so close to one of the City’s best open spaces.


If you’ve been to Frick Park recently, you may have noticed it’s a little busy. If you know where to look, you can still find some peace and solitude! When I am not tramping around Frick Park, I can be found exploring western PA’s wilderness by foot, bike, or paddle with my wife and two-year old son.

Fun Fact: Frick Park is just as beautiful in the rain as it is in the sunshine!


The forest is just as beautiful in the rain as it is in the sunshine! The weather may be temperamental this time of year, but if you wear the right clothing and don’t mind getting a little muddy, it’s worth it to be outside as everything is coming into bloom.


April 20, 2020: Julie Segner, Individual Giving Manager

My husband and I live on the Northside - just steps away from Allegheny Commons Park and a short drive to Riverview Park. Naturally, we spend pretty much every day walking our dogs in the parks.

We've found ourselves spending a lot of time getting outdoors as we cope with COVID-19. We make sure to practice two activities a day (even if it’s raining) like walking our two dogs, fixing up our very small backyard, getting a coffee to-go from a local shop.


Due to the limited amount of outdoor space we have in our yard, and as a way to try to limit the amount of time we are in public, we've been purchasing flowers and garden supplies on our weekly Costco run.

Last year, we converted our backyard to gravel and began planting a container garden! Our first round of plantings include perennials such as, ‘elephant ears’, hosta and ferns.


Gardening has certainly been an escape for me during this time. Even the pups are getting involved!

We will add herbs and annual flowers to our garden later this season. We're also hoping to add a small compost bin to accommodate our minimal yard waste and kitchen food scraps, so that we can have an ongoing supply of fresh compost to use in our containers.

Be well and stay safe!


April 23, 2020: Pam Rollings, Legal Counsel 

Wally and I have been taking many walks together as we cope with COVID. Wally loves walking on a 10-foot leash, which is perfect for physical distancing. That’s also the best way for him to meet new dogs—off leash dogs may be in for a snarl if they come too close too fast!


Wally and I enjoy visiting the many parks that our city has to offer. Wally and I recently visited our local playground. Although it's closed for now, we both understand the importance of doing our part to help flatten the curve.


Wally loves climbing up things and is often seen on laps, tree stumps and tabletops.

He and I enjoy a good adventure together and getting a little fresh air, as we practice physical distancing.


April 25, 2020: Catherine Qureshi, Administrative and Financial Services Senior Director 

My name is Catherine and I live in a little row house on the Pittsburgh's South Side with only a brick courtyard for a backyard. I find myself taking walks along the river with my husband and children as we do our part to practice physical distancing.


Not only do my husband, children and I take a daily walk to get our nature fix, but our cat joins in on the fun too! Valentine, enjoys discovering new places in our beautiful city during our daily walks.


Remember, we all have to do our part to help flatten the curve. This is a photo of my daughter, Keira, practicing physical distancing on the banks of the Monongahela River.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about my family and how we're continuing to enjoy nature together, while being mindful of physical distancing.

Be well and stay safe!


April 27, 2020: Sarah Vernau, Administrative Assistant

I'm Sarah! I'm a part-time administrative assistant with the Parks Conservancy and an Environmental Studies grad student at Point Park University. If the sun is out, I ditch my desk and study outside. My must-have study music during COVID-19 is Rainbow Kitten Surprise.


I live just outside of Carnegie with my husband and dog, Teagan! We love taking walks through our neighborhood while listening to podcasts. The weekly podcast I never miss is Lovett or Leave It.


When stress of COVID-19 really starts to settle in, I head to the kitchen and get to cooking. I love to make cauliflower and sweet potato meatless-balls, soup and BREAD!


April 29, 2020: Hannah Berg, Naturalist Educator 

Hi, I'm Hannah! I'm a naturalist educator and public ally at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. I work with our interns and get students excited about mushrooms and small stream bugs!

I recently created a new daily routine as I cope with COVID. I practice yoga, enjoy breakfast, begin working, and then take long lunch-time walk with my dog, Ginny.


I've always enjoyed riding my bike through Highland Park, but have especially enjoyed giving myself this chance to explore my park even deeper during this time.


Discovering the beauty in nature is always one of my favorite activities.
I'm also really enjoying making new vegan recipes and pressuring my roommate to taste-test them!


May 1, 2020: Jen Schnakenberg, Assistant Director of Education 

I try to get out and take a walk every day as I cope with COVID. I’m lucky to live within walking distance of Frick, Schenley, and Mellon Parks, but I’ve also been observing lots of beautiful spring blooms and sprouts in the neighborhood. I like to photograph my finds and share them on social media.


I’m a lifelong #Pittsburgher, and I live with my husband and two children, and our cat, Godzilla.

In my spare time, I get out my stash of jewelry supplies and play with color, shape, texture, and rhythm until the design clicks. Like many jewelry designers, I tread the line between collecting and hoarding, especially the wonderful charms and beads by other artists, but they’re sure coming in handy now.


Like many of my colleagues, I'm an avid reader during the best of times and during times of uncertainty. Right now, I’m drawn to rereading some favorites of recent years.

May 3, 2020: Susan Rademacher, Parks Curator 

Nature is my lifeline. Always has been, always will be. It calls me to movement, melody, fragrance, beauty, and peace of mind. Whenever I start overthinking -- whether planning, design, or writing -- it's my antidote.

Lately, I've been doing my part to help parkgoers stay safe and listening to woodpeckers and mourning doves!


My love for nature and the outdoors has no end. I've been coping with COVID by delighting in the emerging blossoms in my garden. This is a cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) that I purchase from Tree Pittsburgh last year.


Bringing fresh flowers into my home has always been comforting to me, especially during times of uncertainty. Vibrant colors and fresh scents bring me so much joy.

Stay safe and be well!


May 5, 2020: Zakiyyah Madyun, Marketing Associate 

Hi, I'm Zakiyyah! I've been a marketing associate for the Parks Conservancy since spring of 2019. My favorite park to visit is Mellon! Spring is certainly in bloom. There are so many beautiful parts of the park to see. Even a short walk leaves me feeling peaceful and relaxed.


I'm trying to stay home as often as possible, so I've been planning my recipes before going to the grocery store. My favorite way to reduce stress is by trying something new! I made pierogies for the first time just a couple of weeks ago.

I normally wouldn't have time to make a recipe that's this extensive, but staying home has given me the opportunity to try something new and also clear my mind at the same time.


I really miss going to the gym, so to keep up with my exercises I started running around my neighborhood! It always seems to brighten my mood. I encourage everyone to keep active by safely getting outdoors, while also following state and federal guidelines. Let's do our part to Pittsburgh's beautiful parks safe!

May 7, 2020: Mike (Carya) Cornell, Naturalist Educator 

I live in an intentional community in East Liberty where we collectively share a large garden with veggie beds, wooded areas, an orchard and flowers. Whenever I need a little nature fix, I can just walk out my door and be surrounded by flowers, trees, veggies, and nature. We currently have robins and mourning doves nesting in the garden, and some very well fed squirrels. I feel so lucky to have a wooded space that close to me when it would probably take 15-20 minutes to walk to a wooded city park from my house.


As we continue facing these unprecedented times, I’m doing my best to stay busy, but luckily I have many hobbies! I’ve taken a little break from my other hobbies to dust off my sewing machine and make masks. So far I’ve made about a dozen masks, some for me, some for other people.


Many of my outdoor hobbies lend themselves well to physical distancing, which is really great during this time. I took my kayak down to the river a couple of weeks ago. There were turtles and birds, and it really provided a unique view of the world. The best part? No people!

kayaking with turtles

May 9, 2020: Beth Bodamer, Executive Assistant 

I have been trying to take a walk every day, and really watching spring unfold and trying to capture that in photos. I have never had the ‘luxury’ of watching spring unfold on a daily basis before - it is beautiful and fascinating! My favorite picture from early on during COVID-19 was this resilient plant (in a church parking lot no less) – which I found really uplifting and encouraging. If a tiny plant can push its way back to life through the asphalt, then I have hope that we can all be that strong and determined as well 😊.


Anyone who knows me is well aware, I LOVE a good meme, so I have been in meme heaven this past month. In my humble opinion, it takes just as much energy to laugh at any given situation as it does to cry over it – and I , for one, prefer to take the laughing route. It changes your whole attitude and mood when you can ‘find the funny’ in something. It doesn’t make ‘light’ of a serious situation, but rather, it lessons the anxiety and fear if for at least a brief moment, you can smile or laugh.


In March, when the world suddenly came to a screeching halt, it was as if we all collectively, as the world, were being given a ‘hard re-set’. Sometimes, if something isn’t working quite right, and you turn it off then turn it back on later, the problem resolves itself. Lets hope that is the case now 

Remember, you are not ‘stuck’ at home, you are ‘safe’ at home. One word can change your entire outlook. Use this time wisely 

Stay safe my friends!


May 11, 2020: Patty Himes, Naturalist Educator 

Walking in nature is no small part of my life. While walking I breathe deeply letting the cares of the day drift away. I meander often “waking up” to find myself in a meditative gaze looking at a beautiful blossom, listening to a bird or looking at a sunset.

Spring Beauties

Nature and slow meanders are where I find my peace, serenity, delight and creativity. I owe this joy to my family who spent an abundant amount of time with me exploring the outdoors.


Whether taking a walk, sitting under shade trees, having family picnics in Clear Creek State Park, or swinging on porch swings, these are all precious memories and moments in my life. They shaped me and opened the door to finding peace and well being in nature.


May 15, 2020: Rob Eng, Restoration Gardener 

Oh hello, I’m Robin! I’ve been with the Parks Conservancy since April 2019. I work in the gardens and habitat restoration areas of the park woodlands. I have a background in wildlife and community ecology, and love getting to use that knowledge to improve our park ecosystems for both people and wildlife to enjoy!

Most of my life revolves around ecology and the outdoors. The diversity and resilience of nature has always inspired me, and in these trying time it gives me a lot of solace as well. It might be obvious in my apartment, which I share with somewhere between two and 55 pets - depending on if you count houseplants and propagates of houseplants. Sometimes I think my cats get jealous because they’re outnumbered, but at the end of the day I think they enjoy feeling like jungle animals too.

Taking Pics

Over the past several years gardening has become an increasingly important part of my life. There’s something so gratifying about nurturing new life and seeing the vitality of plants spring back every summer. In my own garden (still pretty dormant here), I like to grow a good mix of flowers, veggies, and herbs. Sometimes I like to guerrilla garden – planting spring bulbs in abandoned tree pits or scattering native wildflower seeds over the weedy edges along an alley. A few flowers in an unlikely place can brighten someone's day, and it makes me feel like a secret springtime Santa!


This stump looks like a castle to me. Or perhaps a city in its own right – it’s dynamic and exciting and full of a diverse array of living things, all growing, thriving, and eventually dying. I am endlessly fascinated with decay as the foundation of life. If you stop to look closely at the forest floor, well it’s absolutely flooring (…oh yes I did) the immense variety of life and biodiversity you can find amongst the fallen leaves. There are beautiful fungi, moss, lichen, and plants; fascinating invertebrates and subtle signs of other animal life; not to mention the stunning skeletons of last-year’s leaves, whose nutrients are mid-cycle back up into the treetops. Even when times are challenging and uncertain, it’s easy to be amazed by this world we live in.

Stump city

May 17, 2020: Erin Copeland, Restoration Ecologist 

Hi, I'm Erin! I've been with the Parks Conservancy for 13 years. I'm a big fan of the woods, where I enjoy hiking and biking! I also enjoy taking walks with my dog Asher. He and I both feel a lot more settled and normal when we go for long walks together.


Our family has been going on out-of-town adventure most weekend! Our adventures typically include biking, hiking and exploring spring wildflowers. We've also been visiting our nearest park, which is Highland Park! We typically bike, explore obstacle courses in the woods and watch the ducks.


I love exploring the woods and traveling to far away lands, but most recently that has been through science fiction and mythology books! I've also found myself watching a TON of Hulu! It's stocked up with so many seasons of "Elementary", which makes it way too easy to stay up and binge watch.