When Terry Doloughty was growing up in the 1970s, Polish Hill was a much different place than it is today. Sure, there were more traditionally Polish families and more small businesses -- but what he remembers most fondly were the large green spaces surrounding the little hillside neighborhood.
“I had the ability here to have a very urban life, but then to disappear into the greenery and find some peace there,” Doloughty said.
And that’s part of what’s inspired Doloughty to volunteer to keep up the neighborhood’s green spots since 1980 -- many of which fell into disrepair as the population dwindled.
“As we have children in the neighborhood again, I’d like to see them have the opportunity to have a wonderful, green, safe place to just go and explore,” Doloughty said.
Over the decades, Doloughty said he’s "worked with other people to create community gardens, worked on rain barrel projects, urban edibles, fighting the good fight against knotweed, working with Tree Pittsburgh to plant lots of street trees, and neighborhood cleanups to stop the green places from being anything but green.”
One project Doloughty is particularly proud of is cleaning up the hillside by Polish Hill’s West Penn Park -- with the help of some goats that ate up the invasive vegetation.
“When I was a kid running around back there, that was open forest where you could run and run through the trees," Doloughty said. "With the invasive porcelain vine, wild grape and the knotweed, it’s just a tangled mess that invites invasive species of both flora and fauna, but we’ve got that hillside really cleared.”
Invasive species aren’t the only problem. Doloughty said he and fellow volunteers have pulled as many as 100 tires from hillside dumpsites during neighborhood cleanups.
“We had two- and three-man teams bringing gigantic tanks up the hillside, and car door parts," Doloughty said. "We were trying to have a contest to see who could find the weirdest thing on the cleanup, and everybody kept topping it.”
Miriam Parson, a board member of the Polish Hill Civic Association, said Doloughty has taught her a lot about gardening and how it can improve the neighborhood. She said he’s a spontaneous volunteer.
“He’s the one who’ll just walk down the street with his weed-whacker and say, 'If anyone else wants to join, we’re going to go take care of this piece of hillside to take care of the knotweed and let the trees we’ve planted grow,’ because he has a lot of care for things,” Parson said.
Now, Doloughty said Polish Hill is turning a corner, with new families moving in to take advantage of the neighborhood’s prime location between Oakland, the Strip District and the Hill District. He said he hopes that he can encourage the next generation of Polish Hill natives to take care of their green spaces too.
“Fifty years from now, when someone wonders where all these trees come from, I hope I’m the really old dude across the street going, ‘Wait till I put my teeth in and tell you about this,’” he said.