The last time rain fell on Michigan Street in Beltzhoover, it flowed in a new direction. Now, instead of heading straight for the sewers and contributing to overflows that pollute Saw Mill Run and the Ohio River, this rainwater flows into McKinley park. It cascades through a new system of green infrastructure − an engineered landscape that carefully manages water for multiple benefits.
Concrete walls and limestone boulders detain the water, slowing its flow and preventing hillside erosion. Rain gardens filter the water and use it to grow vibrant flowers and lush grass. Finally, underground pipes slowly release it into the woodland below, returning it to a path it hasn’t traveled on for more than 100 years.
In 2016 the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and American Planning Association (APA) awarded the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy a $435,000 Great Urban Parks Campaign grant for this green infrastructure project. Local partners including Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), the Allegheny Foundation, Three Rivers Wet Weather, and others provided additional funding and the Department of Public Works (DPW) is providing in-kind services for a total investment of more than $1 million. While centered around green infrastructure, the project incorporated key community priorities for upper McKinley Park, also known as Chicken Hill. These amenities, still under construction, include restored historical sandstone stairs, a new pavilion and gathering space with a built-in slide, a universally accessible trail throughout the area, overlooks made from reclaimed stone, and benches made from the trees that needed to be cut down on site.
We continue to work with local contractor, Go Supreme, and the DPW to finish the remainder of the project, in anticipation of a Fall completion. In the meantime, we are delighted to announce the completion of the green infrastructure portion of the project, constructed by John Zottola Landscaping, Inc.
Next time it rains, stop by McKinley Park and see this living system in action!
- The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh, is in the process of restoring and upgrading the “Chicken Hill” section of McKinley Park. This project will be built by contractors and the Department of Public Works (DPW).
- Currently, a Beltzhoover-based contractor is building the Eldora portion of the trail, an outdoor classroom, and other new amenities. These amenities include benches made from trees in the park that died and were cut down.
- The DPW has started restoring stairs and building trails. It will construct a new plaza with a pavilion at the intersection of Michigan and Haberman Avenues. Landforce, a land stewardship and workforce development organization, built a section of trail and has been managing invasive species in the park.
- A contractor will be selected in the very near future to complete a large series of rain gardens to manage stormwater from the neighborhood. Sections of the park will be completed throughout the year and the whole project should be complete in 2019!
- Go Supreme, a Beltzhoover-based contractor, was selected to build portions of the project. They began building the outdoor classroom before being halted by winter weather.
- Timber Trails, a local lumber miller, cut dying trees that the City Forestry department felled in the park. They recycled these trees into beautiful slabs for benches, which are to be built and installed by the local contractor.
- The Parks Conservancy bid for a general contractor twice without success. We adjusted the project scope and sequencing to accommodate the contractors’ stated needs and then bid again in late December 2018.
- Community meetings were held to discuss a concept plan for the Chicken Hill area of McKinley Park in January and March. See what was presented at that meeting here.
- The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was awarded a Great Urban Parks Campaign grant for a green infrastructure project in the park by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and American Planning Association (APA). This project will manage stormwater in the Chicken Hill area of the park along Michigan Street, and will feature a number of park improvements including a shelter and an accessible trail.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's first major project in McKinley Park was completed in 2013. This project revitalized the park's entrance in the Beltzhoover neighborhood, reconnecting the 78.5-acre park to its users and its community.
McKinley Park is a gathering place for the neighborhoods of Beltzhoover, Knoxville, Bon Air and Allentown. This community park, which historians have said gives one “a euphoric sense of the countryside,” features children’s play areas, wooded hiking trails, a skate park, sports courts, a baseball field, and an activities center.
McKinley Park has been a public asset since the 1870s, when citizens of Beltzhoover gathered for picnics and played in the stream valley. In its heyday, the park featured a handsome bandstand and shelter house, groomed trails, and its own park ranger. But by the beginning of the 21st century, much of this had been lost. Residents sought to revive the park by focusing initially on an entrance project.
With the aid of local government, state, and private funding, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy completed the $250,000 McKinley Park Entrance and Rain Gardens project. This project improved accessibility and saved an important historic feature: a stone wall and steps at the park entrance dating back to the 1930s. The completed project included an entrance area parking lot surfaced with porous asphalt that allows stormwater to be absorbed into the ground; rain gardens to receive water from the parking lot; and accessible walkways from the street to the playground and the basketball court. The community celebrated the project’s completion on July 12, 2013, with the Parks Conservancy, the City of Pittsburgh, Representative Jake Wheatley, City Council members Bruce Kraus, Daniel Lavelle, and Natalia Rudiak.
2016 saw the completion of a master plan, led by the Parks Conservancy in partnership with the community and the City of Pittsburgh. The plan, produced by Pfaffmann + Associates, Andropogon Associates, and Meliora Design, set forth a vision which connects the park to the larger community through the Haberman Corridor, and through its contribution to stormwater management goals of the Saw Mill Run Watershed.
Presently, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is working with community partners and the City of Pittsburgh on a green infrastructure project in the Chicken Hill area of McKinley Park. This project aims to reduce stormwater flowing into combined sewers; resolve drainage and erosion problems that are adversely impacting the park; and restore accessibility and connectivity both within the park and with surrounding neighborhoods.