Pittsburgh has a lot of green spaces — look at any hillside and you’ll see veritable oceans of verdant green. While transforming these slopes into public assets is no simple task, Scenic Pittsburgh has done just that in Fineview.
On Tuesday, June 21, the nonprofit conservation group is opening a new 2.2-acre public green space behind Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side with a panoramic view of the city all the way to Mount Washington. The Fountain Street Overlook will be open daily from dawn to dusk. Visitors should plan for some rough, steep terrain.
To get this far required a painstaking process of trash removal — people have been dumping tires, pallets and other debris over the hillside for decades. Invasive weeds had grown out of control, limiting access to this otherwise stellar view of the skyline.
“We got started on green space restoration because we realized that these lots were a major source of our area’s visual blight and garbage,” says Mike Dawida, former Allegheny County commissioner and executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh. “We realized we could do more than clean these places up — with the right partners, we could transform them into scenic community assets.”
The project involved hefting old tires and trash cans full of garbage up the steep, overgrown hillside. In previous decades, the site was covered with houses, so foundations and other remnants provided other obstacles.
It was not a walk in the park. (But now, it sort of is).
Scenic Pittsburgh seeks out land that isn’t easily developable for housing or business — usually wooded, on steep slopes. The spaces aren’t usually big enough for traditional development but are too large to be a simple community project. This one fit the criteria perfectly.
The project began when Scenic Pittsburgh purchased a lot at Fountain and Henderson streets from Pittsburgh Public Schools in 2017. The nonprofit is leasing the surrounding lots from the City of Pittsburgh. Scenic Pittsburgh conducted numerous cleanup events with Allegheny CleanWays and contracted Landforce to create paths and repair stairs. The group also worked with Grounded to analyze the green space needs in Fineview, which helped guide the development.
In April, the Scenic Pittsburgh staff planted 50 native mapleleaf viburnum bushes — donated by the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership — which are intended to block the growth of invasive weeds and restore some of the balance of native plant life in the area.
Funding came from the Laurel Foundation and Colcom Foundation, as well as via a joint grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Allegheny Health Network.
There are paths throughout the site that connect the entrance at the end of Graib Street to the stairs at Fountain Street.
“These sites are everywhere in Pittsburgh, and in the region,” says Dawida. “They hold great scenic and public health potential for our population and for our future. And we can’t afford to ignore them and let them remain blighted just because restoring them can be difficult.”
The grand opening of the Fountain Street Overlook will take place on Tuesday, June 21 at 4 p.m. The site and the opening celebration can be accessed via stairs on Fountain Street near the intersection of Sandusky Street.