Sunday, December 4, 2011

Local trails, parks provide outdoor activities for students

On a recent fall day, Starry Ray of Squirrel Hill was spending her lunch break riding her bicycle on the Eliza Furnace Trail downtown. She wasn’t alone. During the lunchtime hours, this trail, as well as the many others in Pittsburgh, are bustling with people just like Ray who are hoping to enjoy a break from the cubicle.
Pittsburgh’s many trails are also easily accessible to students and offer a wide range of recreational activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and sightseeing–often for free.
The popular Three Rivers Heritage Trail runs along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, making it very accessible and useful for Point Park students. Boasting 22 miles of separate, smaller trails, students can enjoy walking, running, cycling, and in some areas, rollerblading on the trail.
One of the most popular of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system is the Eliza Furnace Trail, also known as the “Jail Trail.”  Students can be access the trail at the intersection of Grant Street and First Avenue.
For many people, like Ray, the trail is a convenient way to enjoy the outdoors. She recently began taking advantage of the trail as a form of exercise during her lunch break.
“I’ve been trying different kinds of exercise and thought, why don’t I try a bicycle,” she said.
The trail doesn’t offer much in the way of scenery, but its flat, level asphalt surface makes it ideal for walking, running and biking.
The Eliza Furnace Trail connects downtown Pittsburgh to the trails at Schenley Park. Starting downtown, students will end up at Second Avenue in Oakland.
Thomas Baxter, executive director ot Friends of the Riverfront, believes Pittsburgh’s trails and rivers are a great resource to “get out, be fit and enjoy nature.”
“It really makes the Pittsburgh region a great place,” said Baxter.
But it’s not just the Heritage trails that are great to use; there’s also free public access to the riverfront all along the trail.
“If you want to get out and see fall foliage, the water is one of the best ways to do it,” said Baxter.
There’s a series of public kayak and canoe points along the trail that allow students to rent equipment.
Kayak Pittsburgh, located under the Sixth Street Bridge on the North Shore, offers rentals for both solo kayaks and tandem kayaks.  A solo kayak costs $15 an hour and $8 for every additional half an hour; a tandem kayak costs $20 per hour and $10 for every additional half an hour.
For those looking to cover more ground on the trail, Point Park offers a free bicycle rental program through USG. Bikes can be rented for a period of 24 hours as long as students provide an ID as collateral.
Another option for rentals is at the Golden Triangle Bike Rental, located at 600 First Avenue Downtown, which offers Point Park students a 15 percent discount with a valid student ID.
Britt Keefer, co-owner of the Golden Triangle Bike Rental, recommends bicycles for exploring because of their convenience.
“A lot of different amenities are accessible from trails and it’s a good way for people to see the city and cover more ground,” said Keefer.
Golden Triangle Bike Rental offers several different bikes including comfort/hybrid bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, and tandem bikes. Depending on the model chosen, prices start at $8 an hour or $30 a day. All rentals include a helmet, trail map and bike lock.
For those looking to rollerblade along the 22-mile stretch, the Eliza Furnace Trail, the North Shore Trail and the South Side Trail are all great, safe areas for this. The North Shore Trail runs along Pittsburgh’s North Shore, past downtown and into Millvale. The trail on the Southside is accessible from 9th Street, 18th Street and at the Hot Metal Bridge.
Although the Three Rivers Heritage Trail provides great views of the city, Emerald View Park, located in the neighborhoods of Mount Washington, Duquesne Heights and Allentown, is the best place to go for city scenery.
Emerald View Park was created in 2005 using existing land that was once used for dumping and mining. Over several years, the land has been restored, creating trails, playing fields, playgrounds and more.
What makes Emerald View Park unique is its wooded areas, making it perfect for hiking.
A brand new stretch of trail was unveiled September 27 and is accessible from the grassy area near the “Point of View” statue (Grandview Avenue and Sweetbriar Street).
Within Emerald View Park exist three smaller park areas: Mount Washington Park (intersection of Norton Street and Ennis Street), Olympia Park (intersection of Virginia Avenue and Olympia Street) and Grandview Park (intersection of Bailey Avenue and Beltzhoover Avenue).
All three parks include playgrounds and basketball courts and both Mount Washington and Grandview Park have wooded trails.
Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of park development and conservation, hopes that students will take advantage of the hiking, biking and other recreational opportunities that the park offers.
“There is something really special about being in a park in such an urban area. We are the closest large park to Point Park students,” she said.
A 19-mile trail plan, more habitat restoration, improved signage, and facility enhancements are all in the future of the park.
“We’re trying to improve the ecology of it and provide people to get out into it,” said Manspiezer.
For students who are shy about getting out to explore the miles of trails the park has to offer, Emerald View Park is hosting a Wild Urban Active Hike on October 16. The guided tour is an informational hike and would allow students to become familiar with the area.
Manspeizer said a lack of city signage may intimidate students, but all trails are marked in the park and maps are available online at and via email at
Other nearby parks that are just a short trek outside of the city include Schenley Park in Oakland, Frick Park, which extends from Point Breeze into Squirrel Hill and Edgewood, and Highland Park located in the Highland Park community.
A map of Emerald View Park.
Published online at

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