This new boat launch site is conveniently located at the end of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Brightwood. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)

 

Pittsburgh may have its three rivers, but how frequently do residents actually visit our waterways?  

For most of us, the answer is not too often.

Friends of the Riverfront, however, is going to see that that changes.

Most recently Friends of the Riverfront and the Brightwood Civic Group joined forces to start a canoe and kayak launch site.

The launch site consists of a concrete ramp that leads to a pebble beach, which allows canoe and kayak enthusiasts to enter the river from the steep river bank and provides an area to hold kayaks or canoes.

The launch site is located behind behind Western State Penitentiary in Brightwood at the end of Westhall Street, which is also the end of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.

Tom Baxter, executive director of Friends of the Riverfront, met with the Brightwood Civic Group over a year ago to discuss details of the project. He said that the canoe and kayak launch site puts the Northside at the forefront of an increasingly growing movement.

"It’s important because non-motorized boating is the fastest growing sport in the tri-state region right now," Baxter said.

While boating will be the most popular activity at the launch site, some of the related activities will include fishing, learning about the native plants and animals and the connecting Three Rivers Heritage bike trail.

The budget for the project was roughly $100,000, which Friends of the Riverfront raised from private investors, donators and volunteers. Friends of the Riverfront  will maintain the launch site, which is ADA accessible by way of a concrete ramp.

The increasing popularity of the sports is what sparked the interest of having the kayaking and canoeing site.

Ed Brandt, former director of the Brightwood Civic Group, said the new launch is a major breakthrough.

"Prior to this, there was no public access to the river on the Northside," Brandt said.

Brandt feels that not only is the project good for the Northside, but it also benefits the environment as the “Green Movement" increases in popularity.

According to Baxter this is one of many launch sites planned for future openings, including one at the Mon Wharf and another at the Southside Works.

He also expects the usage of the river to expand tremendously.

"The usage will be doubled or tripled," Baxter predicted.