Pittsburgh is taking a big step in its attempt to extend the trail from the Point through the Strip District, Lawrenceville and beyond.

This week, City Council introduced a resolution authorizing the application for a $500,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, to help buy a CSX Transportation rail line between 24th and 33rd streets. The city would provide an additional $500,000 if the grant is approved.

“It’ll be part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which is about a 30-mile trail along both sides of all three rivers,” says Kelsey Ripper, executive director of Friends of the Riverfront. “It’s also envisioned as part of the Green Boulevard Plan, which was to continue the riverfront trail along the southern shore of the Allegheny.”

Right now, the trail ends in the Strip but it could eventually reach the Highland Park Bridge.

Work to complete the trail in the Strip District would begin here along the Allegheny River at the 24th St. juncture. Photo by TH Carlisle.

“The existing trail right now goes to 24th Street, and then it stops,” says Ripper. “It doesn’t pick up until around 36th Street in Lawrenceville. So this will complete the trail from 24th to 33rd. It’s not complete to Lawrenceville, but it’s filling a substantial part of that gap.”

It’s been a slow process and will take some time to complete.

“Friends of the Riverfront is closely working with the city on going through that process,” says Ripper. “Once the acquisition goes through, and the city acquires the property, it will go through design and construction. It will be a few years before there’s a trail open to the public. But this is a great first step.”

When finished, the trail will link up the city in new ways.

“It’s reconnecting the city to the riverfronts,” says Ripper. “It’s providing alternate transportation through the Strip District for bikes and pedestrians, and it’s also providing much needed green space to the Strip, which has very few parks and green space right now. This is almost a mile along the riverfront for people to enjoy.”

For Friends of the Riverfront, which just celebrated their 29th anniversary, advocating for trails along the rivers has long been a central part of their mission.

“We worked to steward and expand the Three Rivers Heritage Trail,” says Ripper. “We were involved in developing the existing trail — the 30 miles — and we’re actively working with communities, municipalities and landowners to further extend the trail along all three rivers. We’re working quite a lot in the Allegheny River Valley to extend the trail from Millvale to Freeport.”

They also help clean the trail and keep it free of litter. “We also steward the riparian buffer — so we remove invasive species, and we plant trees and native plants along the riverfront to restore them after decades of legacy pollution,” adds Ripper. “So we’re really the trail advocates — we want to see the trails connect to other trails and safe, clean and accessible trails for everyone.”