Hazelwood is home to a transformed riverfront brownfield where robotics initiatives and the a monumental solar array embody the neighborhood’s future development opportunities. The neighborhood is also home to a 183-acre greenway site with deteriorating roadways and overgrown brush.
“There are steps that are going to nowhere that used to go up to where people lived. Artifacts from old buildings and sidewalks or foundations,” where homes used to be throughout the Greenway, said Tiffany Taulton, director of community initiatives at the Hazelwood Initiative.
After the collapse of the steel industry, the neighborhood lost a significant amount of its population, said Taulton, and some areas fell into disrepair.
The Hazelwood Greenway is cared for by volunteer stewards. Without a neighborhood park, the greenway gives residents access to nature trails.
Pittsburgh’s 13 greenways are corridors of land the city designated as protected, but can’t afford to maintain. Many are cared for by volunteers from nearby neighborhoods. Hazelwood Greenway is one of the largest greenways.
A grant announced Monday could help revitalize the area. The Trust for Public Land has invested $50,000 to start up the city’s new Greenway Stewardship Program. The program will be piloted in the Hazelwood Greenway.
The city will work alongside community groups like the Hazelwood Initiative and its Hazelwood Greenway Stewardship Group to widen trails, improve accessibility, and stabilize parts of the hilly terrain.
“We’re hoping to leverage some of the city’s resources,” said Rebecca Kiernan, the city’s principal resilience planner. “Grant writing capabilities, some planning, some help with our forestry division, maybe some [Department of Public Works] pickups.”
The Hazelwood Greenway has one of the most active stewardship groups. That was one reason why city officials selected it to pilot the Greenway Stewardship program.
“We can take the things that we have to share so that those greenway stewardship groups can flourish and do the work in the greenways to improve their ecology,” Kiernan said.
Greenways can be an unnoticed asset to communities, according to Owen Franklin, Pennsylvania state director for the Trust for Public Land. “Sometimes it just takes the intentional work of a host of partners to get people connected to public space and feel ownership of it.”
Franklin said school yards, greenways, trails and parks can all be important to a community especially as people look for more opportunities to get outside.
“There are a host of spaces that the public can use for exercise, for gathering and for climate resiliency that are not [parks],” he said. “These are public spaces that could be doing more.”
The grant comes from the Trust for Public Land’s “10 Minute Walk to a Park” campaign which encourages cities to ensure all residents are near a green space. The Peduto administration committed to such an effort in 2018.
“We look to use this funding to catalyze partnerships that go deeper,” to replicate the same work in other parts of Pittsburgh, he said.
The city will join the Hazelwood Initiative’s monthly environmental development meeting Monday evening to gather public input about priorities for the investment. Additional meetings will be planned in the coming weeks.
Planning for Hazelwood imporvements will continue through the spring, according to Kiernan. Projects may begin in the greenway as early as May. Kiernan said the city will plan two community volunteer days for residents interested in helping with the project.