Project Update: Schenley Park and Four Mile Run Watershed

December 1, 2017 by Lauryn Stalter

When we put out the call for Pittsburghers to weigh in on future projects in Schenley Park, hundreds and hundreds of you made your voice heard. 

With input from so many people, Parks Conservancy staff and consultants have made big strides in developing a concept plan for Schenley Park and, more broadly, the Four Mile Run Watershed. The idea? Redirect stormwater -- that usually goes into sewer pipes, causing problems & costing money for water treatment -- into the park, through green infrastructure projects that add amenities and increase park health for all.

In lower Schenley Park, a biker rides along Panther Hollow Run


In late 2016, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) published the City-Wide Green First Plan. In it, they identified six priority areas for early green infrastructure projects. Based on their findings, focusing stormwater management efforts first on priority areas like the Four Mile Run Watershed -- and within it, Schenley Park --  would yield the biggest results; namely, fewer flooded basements and combined sewer overflow (CSO) incidents.  

Because the Four Mile Run Watershed touches so many neighborhoods (Greenfield, Squirrel Hill, Oakland, and Hazelwood) and is used by a variety of residents, park visitors, and commuters, it was important to hear feedback from as many people as possible.

So the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy staff and consultants Phronesis set out to collect as much input as possible to shape this new project. Over the course of a year, through community meetings, guided walks in the park, and online surveys, we gathered feedback from hundreds of park users like you. Click here for a summary of the community’s feedback.

Community members on a guided walk in Schenley Park

The concept

After feedback gathering and on-the-ground research, project concepts were presented at a public meeting in the fall, marking the next steps in this major park project. Click here to see the full presentation.
The overall plan for this part of Schenley Park can be divvied up into three distinct project areas:
  1. Panther Hollow Lake and wetland
  2. Junction Hollow Trail
  3. Monongahela River outlet
Three project areas in Schenley Park
Panther Hollow word cloud
Panther Hollow Lake is an icon of Schenley Park, and has been a critical piece of our Regional Park Master Plan work in Schenley Park for years. Currently, PWSA is using a smart valve at the lake's outlet that  uses weather predictions to remotely allow for better control of water levels, allowing the lake to retain an estimated one million gallons of stormwater. Plans include a pre-treatment wetland to filter water before it enters the lake. Overwhelmingly, we heard that visitors would like to see more accessible pathways around the lake border; restoration of the lake; and a safer way to cross the railroad tracks.
By creating a new wetland and stream alongside the existing Junction Hollow Trail, stormwater that would otherwise be pumped straight into our city sewers could create new habitats, learning spaces, and amenities along this popular trail. Proposed are two trails instead of a single track - one for a more direct route, another meandering. Feedback for this plan encouraged lots of natural areas as well as improved park and trail entrances.
 Rendering of Panther Hollow Lake and Junction Hollow Trail
After traveling through Panther Hollow Lake and along Junction Hollow Trail, we envision this clean, fresh stormwater flowing to the Monongahela River via the new Hazelwood Green site. Work will continue to shape this section of the plan as this changing area develops.
Thanks to the feedback of so many residents who helped shape these concepts for the park, PWSA is moving forward with a Request for Proposals in the next few months to finish the design and prepare for construction. Stay tuned as this project develops and read more about our work in Four Mile Run here.

Schenley Park, Stormwater and Green Infrastructure