Location: Tree Pittsburgh’s headquarters, along the Allegheny River under the 62nd Street Bridge

Featured guests: Joe Stavish, director of education, and Matt Stanko, nursery operations manager

3 things that surprised me:

1. Tree Pittsburgh’s headquarters is situated on a narrow strip of land along the Allegheny River that takes up about five acres. Near the entrance of the property is a building that houses the offices, education center and event space. Past that, you’ll reach the Heritage Nursery, where they grow the trees used for biannual giveaways as well as for reforesting parks and other natural areas. Along the river, they’ve planted a narrow forest with trails running through it that is used for camps and other educational programming.

2. Each year, Matt and the nursery team plant 100,000 tree seeds. About 50,000 seedlings will emerge and they hope to end up with around 25,000 containerized plants.

3. Tree Pittsburgh headquarters sits on what used to be the Tippins Steel Mill. Though the mill closed more than 50 years ago, Joe explained that buildings from the operation were standing as recently as 2017. After the buildings were demolished, the area was left a brownfield site, meaning that the soil was full of various chemical contaminants. Because of that, Tree Pittsburgh doesn’t plant any trees in the ground — they are plant exclusively in containers with soil brought in from offsite.

One thing that didn’t make the final cut: Over the past few years, the Tree Pittsburgh staff and volunteers have planted hundreds of trees on their property to improve the riverside environment. The trees help prevent hillside erosion while also creating habitats for animals. Joe says that he sometimes sets up motion-activated wildlife cameras around the property and has seen a range of animals visiting the site including deer, skunk, opossum, raccoons and coyotes.

Additional info: You can register to volunteer at Tree Pittsburgh, learn more about their programming and sign up for their email (where you’ll get notified about their free tree giveaways) at the website.

Want more Yinzer Backstage Pass? Check out our visit to Pittsburgh International Airport where we went behind the scenes of their massive terminal construction project.

Boaz is the host of NEXTpittsburgh's Yinzer Backstage Pass video series. He is also an author, filmmaker, advertising copywriter, teacher, experiential storyteller, talk show host, gardener, kazoo museum curator and so much more.