John Canning: Jubilee Days for the 21st Century


Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
A group of students planted a tree in Riverview Park on Wednesday, May 31.

Accounts of Jubilee Day in the last years of Allegheny City were of throngs of school children marching from their respective schools to spend a day of fun and frolic, yes, even being allowed to walk on the grass, in the Allegheny Commons Park. This annual event, probably modeled on the English practice of ending the school year with a “Games Day,” was somewhat short-lived. But the interaction of students, and all of us, with our parks and green spaces remains  today as  an important part of life in our North Side communities.

This spring, a new approach to the old Jubilee Day will be happening with the planting of 30 new trees in Riverview Park.  Fifth grade students from every North Side school will be doing the planting. Here is an ecological twist in the revival of a long forgotten celebration. Kudos to the CitiPARKS Ranger staff, the Buhl Foundation, and all the Fifth Grade teachers and their students for this renewed interest and involvement in our parks.

We are indeed fortunate on the North Side to have two highly committed Park Rangers assigned to our community’s two major parks. Ernie Francestine, from Brighton Heights, is the Allegheny Commons Ranger and  Nancy Schaffer, from Central North Side, has a similar position in Riverview. They have taken the lead in this exciting and community entered program. Focusing on the important roles our parks, large and small, play in adding to the quality of life on the North Side.  Amber Farr, from the Buhl Foundation, was crucial in helping to fund this program that connects over 400 students from every North Side school with the parks and green spaces close by their homes and schools. During the final weeks of the school year, let’s call it “Arbor Weeks,”  students in each class are planting trees in the Snyder’s Point section of Riverview Park.

Another feature of the program is the snazzy booklet “A Fifth Grade Explorer’s Guide “  produced for every student. The “guide” is designed to teach students the recreational, cultural, ecological, economic, aesthetic, and educational values of parks.  Plans are afoot to expand from three to five experiences in the 2017-2018 school year.  If you have a Fifth Grader youngster in your home or in your neighborhood, they will be a catalyst for preserving, protecting, and advancing the importance of the green spaces throughout the North Side.



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