Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Blog
Janet Pazzynski weeding one of the 13 flowerbeds she maintains at Riverview Park.

By Abbey Reighard

Rain or shine, Janet Pazzynski can be spotted in Riverview Park most days of the week, walking her dog Molly or weeding one of the many garden beds in the park.

Pazzynski maintains the flower beds located at the entrance of the park during the growing season.

She comes to the park once a week to work on the flower beds, but said she often stops to pull a few weeds if she’s sees any during her daily walks in the park with Molly.

“I love it,” Pazzynski said. “Every Tuesday, this is my day.”

Pazzynski said she started working in the park three years ago, but her love for the park developed at an early age when her and her family would come to the park.

Members of The Pittsburgh Park Conservancy referred to Pazzynski on the PPC blog as “Janet of All Trades.”

After working for Verizon Communication for almost 30 years Pazzynski retired. However, Pazzynski work in the park was just beginning.

“The park just kept calling me,” said Pazzynski.

Pazzynski started out weeding one or two beds, but now she makes her weekly rounds to 13 flower beds.

“[The weeding] becomes an addiction,” Pazzynski said.

Among other things, Pazzynski is a gardener, photographer and graphic designer. Pazzynski’s photography – which features images of the Riverview Park, Downtown Pittsburgh, Mr. Rogers and other scenes in nature – can be viewed at the Riverview Park Visitor’s Center.

Pazzynski uses her graphic design skills she acquired from classes at the Community College of Allegheny College to create posters for park features and events. Pazzynski designed the poster for the new English Knot Garden in the park and for the Riverview Park Planting Day.

On Tuesday, May 20 between 20 and 30 people came out to Riverview Park Planting Day from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

According to Angela Yuele, PPC horticulturist, the conservancy ordered 9,000 plants to be planted in the park by volunteers, city workers and park workers.

Yuele said in previous years the volunteers and workers managed to plant everything in one day, but the planting process often takes two days.

“Anyone is welcome to come out,” said Yuele. “No prior [planting] experience is necessary.”

Yuele said the PPC will provide anyone who wants to plant with “gloves, tools and guidance.”

The PPC also provided the volunteers with a complimentary lunch.

Beth Chmura, who lives nearby Riverview Park, volunteered for the first time in the park on the planting day this year.

“[The Park] is one of the reasons we moved here,” said Chmura who lives down the street from Riverview Park.

Chmura said she enjoys the park for its flowers and wildlife.

“Where else in the city are you going to run into a deer in the middle of the day?” Chmura said.

Yuele said a lot of people who live nearby the park come out to plant every year.

“People from the neighborhood just kind of show up,” Yuele said. “[The planting] kind of takes on a life of its own.”

According to Jake Baechle, PPC volunteer coordinator, in 2013 the Conservancy recorded 146 volunteers, totaling 527 hours of volunteer labor spent in Riverview Park.

Baechle said volunteers planted 250 trees in Riverview, removed invasive plant species and picked up litter.

Yuele, who has worked in the park for over four years, describes Riverview as a kind of “hidden gem.”

Riverview Park was established in 1894 and currently spans 287 acres, according to the PPC website.

When Riverview was founded, the park was home to a chapel, a cabin and a small zoo.

Today, the chapel known as the Chapel Shelter, remains a feature of the park after being closed in 2005, renovated and then reopened in 2008. The Chapel is the oldest building in the park.

The Conservancy plans to renovate the original cabin, known as Watson’s Cabin, as their next project.

Other features within the park include the Allegheny Observatory, the visitor’s center, an activities building, a playground and a swimming pool.

The park also has many trails that visitors walk, run, hike and bike through.

Tim Sullivan said he has been coming to the park for the past 12 years with his 13-year-old dog Marcy.

“She likes to come and walk in the park, and so do I,” said Sullivan.

Pazzynski described the park as a “family park” and said that “everyone owns the park.”

Pazzynski offered some advice for anyone who is interested in volunteering in the park or planting their own gardens at home. She said to be sure pick the right kinds of plants for the amount of light they will receive, to use good fertile soil and to pick a planting project that won’t be too overwhelming.

“Pick a little patch and weed it,” Pazzynski said. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Pazzynski said on some days she spends four hours weeding the garden beds, especially in the months summer months.

Pazzynski said she keeps coming back to garden, but also for its peace and quiet and the familiar faces she sees on her walks.

“I just love this park,” Pazzynski said. “It’s really just a wonderful place.”