Allegheny Commons, Pittsburgh’s oldest park, is a bit like a green oasis amid the bustling streets of the North Side. The sounds of the streets press in from all sides, but a walk down the park’s tree-lined promenade can provide a small measure of respite from the hectic reality of city life.
It’s also a crossroads in the North Side, situated at the junction of three neighborhoods: Allegheny West, East Allegheny and Allegheny Center.
East Allegheny resident Lynn Glorieux seems to know -- and love -- every square inch of it.
For the past 25 years, Glorieux has been tending to much of the landscaping in Allegheny Commons, and almost every day she picks up litter in what she calls her “uniform” -- it consists of a broom, a dustpan and a distinctive tan fishing hat with a chin-strap.
At any given time, neighbors in East Allegheny might see her sweeping up cigarette butts or engaging passers-by with a friendly smile. Glorieux, a retired nurse, said she’s happy to take on this volunteer role for her community. She estimated that she spends about 10 hours per week sprucing up the park, coming out for an hour or two at a time in the evenings. And she’s not afraid to deputize, if need be.
“When we get a hanging bag up in a tree, it just bothers me and bothers me until I can catch some guys in a cherry-picker, and I can ask them, ‘Could you please come in here and get that bag out of here?’ And sometimes, they’ll just do it,” Glorieux said.
Glorieux’s friend and colleague, Erin Tobin of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, said Lynn is one of the most dependable volunteers in her organization.
“We’re at the high level trying to make plans for the parks to be better places, but it’s really about the community and what they want," said Tobin. "It’s really awesome to see somebody from the community take such ownership over the space that they spend time in."
"Every time I’m in the North Side, if I’m driving past the park, I feel like I see Lynn," Tobin said. "She’s just a figure of the park. So, we’re very, very lucky and grateful -- I wish that I had Lynns in every neighborhood I work in.”
Glorieux said volunteering has allowed her to form a deeper connection to her neighborhood.
“When I’m picking up litter, I meet interesting people. People talk to me when I’m doing this, more than they would otherwise, and now, after 25 years, they know me. They know my hat. They say, ‘Did you go kayaking this morning?'" Glorieux said. "I get to talk to people that I normally would not have an opportunity to interact with. I like that a lot.”
Glorieux said she can’t imagine hanging up her broom for good.
“This is my plan: you know when people get old, and they have trouble balancing, you know? I have a broom and a dustpan, and really, I think I’ll just go around like this," Glorieux said. "And they’ll say, ‘Boy, she’s still picking up litter.”