The public will have a chance to weigh in on the future of Hays Woods at a community meeting Wednesday evening, as efforts are underway to turn the parcel into Pittsburgh's largest city park.
Hays Woods is about 650 acres, and runs along the Monongahela River between the South Side and Homestead. It's home to Pittsburgh's only nesting pair of bald eagles, as well as lots of trees and streams.
A Hays Woods Task Force was formed last spring, and includes representatives from the City of Pittsburgh, the Borough of Baldwin -- which borders the woods -- and nonprofits. A draft plan for the transition into a park was released last month.
Heather Sage, director of community projects for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, said preserving the land's natural qualities is a priority.
"Really enhancing the ecological health that's there, understanding the way it could function better," Sage said. "And doing as little as little development, so to speak, of changing the character of the place that's there today."
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has members on the Task Force, though its role in managing Hays Woods if it becomes an actual park is yet to be determined. At other city parks, the Conservancy has duties including ecological restoration, fundraising and implementing education programs.
Sage said the first step to making Hays Woods a park would be an evaluation of its assets and what the community would like to see happen.
In 2017, a majority of the Hays Woods property was transferred to the City, but the Urban Redevelopment Authority reserved 89 acres for potential housing development. Pittsburgh City Councilor Corey O'Connor said that's no longer part of the plan, and the the city is seeking to have the remaining acreage transferred from the URA as soon as possible.
"Obviously, we're going to have to get people there, so we're looking at where to put some gravel parking, maybe a couple connecting roads but nothing really through the park," O'Connor said regarding potential uses for the 89 acres. "Let's make this a real natural resource, and allow it to be a passive park."
The public meeting takes place Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Holy Angels Parish in Hays.