Photo: Volunteers from Friends of the Riverfront are working hard this summer to clear out invasive vines growing along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Work done on “Trail Tuesdays” includes maintenance along the Thomas J. Murphy Trail section in the Northside. Photo by Zach Armstrong 

This summer, Friends of the Riverfront (FOR) is clearing out invasive vines that are growing along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, part of which was recently renamed the Thomas J. Murphy Trail.

By Zach Armstrong

Northsiders have the opportunity to help take care of part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, recently renamed the Thomas J. Murphy Trail, this summer by cutting down invasive vines as part of Stewardship Season, an effort of Friends of the Riverfront (FOR).

“Trail Tuesdays” will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Chateau section of the trail weekly in June and July. Volunteers can cut down invasive vines growing on the riverfront trees that threaten to block the path of the trail and reduce habitat for wildlife.

Plants that pose the biggest threat to the trail on the Northside are tree of heaven and Japanese knotweed. These plant species spread rapidly and have aggressive root systems that can damage pavement. For the last several years, these plants have been found in abundance around western Pennsylvania near river banks, wet meadows and roadsides.

“Often when you’re able to contribute to events like this, locals will thank you for what you’re doing,” said Friends of the Riverfront volunteer Stephanie Dicks. “You feel good about what you’re doing for them while also enhancing their neighborhood experience and doing something that you enjoy doing yourself.”

FOR is a local organization with the goal of bringing environmental and economic benefits to Pittsburghers through maintenance of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Stewardship Season is a series of events hosted annually by the organization from May to July so that locals can volunteer in fun ways to clean the trail.

Summer events hosted by FOR will also be a part of their Trails to Wellness campaign in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. The campaign, which officially launched in May, is meant to promote the benefits that outdoor activities and helping local communities can bring to mental and physical well-being.

“We want to promote that the trails are for everyone and not just for bicyclists,” said Community Initiative Coordinator at Friends of the Riverfront, Rosie Wise. “These trails are also for people who want to improve their physical health along with their mental health.”
The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is a 24-mile long system that runs along all three of Pittsburgh’s rivers. The trail opened in 1994 after the steel industry declined and local organizations such as FOR were attempting to revitalize the riverfronts for public use.

“Part of the issue in the past was that people could not access the rivers because everything was privately owned so you wouldn’t be able to have a fun day by the river.” said Wise. “With the outline of the trail, you can have access to the rivers now and enjoy them.”

Today, the trail is used by over 600,000 people annually and brings a local economic impact of $8,286,026. The U.S. Department of the Interior awarded the trail in 2010 with National Recreation Trail status which is conferred to trails with local significance and have maintained proper maintenance.

Other events by FOR over Stewardship Season will take place across the Pittsburgh area with times that work with everyone’s schedule. “Crews and Brews” will take place on Thursday evenings at 5 p.m. Volunteers at these events will go to local restaurants during happy hour after cleaning up litter. The organization will also join OpenStreetsPGH on July 28 where people can run,walk and bike on roads usually used for vehicles.

Contact rosie@friendsoftheriverfront.org or go to https://friendsoftheriverfront.org/contact-us/ for more information on how to get involved.