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Mount Washington CDC Plans Four More Miles Of Woodland Trails

MAP: The proposed trail section would connect “Hike 1” and “Hike 2” as shown in the Emerald View Park trail map.

Over the last several years, the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation has been slowly developing an impressive woodland trail system as part of the 257-acre Emerald View Park.

The CDC is now looking forward to beginning work on the next phase of the trail, dubbed the Fort Pitt Tunnel Trail Connection Project. As the name implies, the trail would run above the tunnel on its southern end, connecting existing trails near Republic Street to the west and Sweetbriar Street to the east.

“It will complete about four miles of woodland trails,” said Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of Parks and Conservation at the CDC. “You’ll have to cross a road a couple of times, but mostly you’ll be able to stay in the woods.”

Manspeizer said trail building involves a lot more than just clearing trees and brush.

“It’s actually much more like being a sculptor, and learning and understanding how the land works, how the land is shaped, and how water will flow over the land,” Manspeizer said. “There’s a lot of soils knowledge, a lot of geomorphology knowledge, and a lot of ecological knowledge as well.”

The work is made possible by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Manspeizer said the CDC partnered with the city of Pittsburgh — which owns the land — to apply for the grant in April 2012. Since receiving the $133,000 grant in December 2012, the CDC has been working with the Public Works and Law Departments to bring the plan to fruition.

The city plans to assign $100,000 Allegheny Regional Asset District funds to the project as part of the matching requirement of the grant.

Additionally, the CDC will be contributing around $5,000 in cash and $28,000 worth of Emerald Trail Corps labor. The Corps is a job training program for at-risk adults, including people re-entering civilian life after leaving the military and those with a history of incarceration.

“We train and hire people to learn how to build trails as well as how to restore the woodlands,” Manspeizer said. “These crews will be building the section of woodland trails … that are incorporated into this project.”

Manspeizer said once the Fort Pitt Tunnel project is completed, the CDC will be about 80 percent of the way to completing their overall woodland trail plan. If everything goes according to plan, the new section of trail could be open this fall. 

“That will … leave us open to begin to really examine and look at the more urban sidewalk trails,” Manspeizer said.

Before work can begin on the trail, City Council must approve the project. Council has voted to hold the legislation for the last few weeks as they await the results of an engineering study from the Department of Public Works. They’re expected to take a preliminary vote next week.