Park Ranger Nancy Schaefer outlines the importance of supporting native plants, insects, and birds in Riverview Park.

Photo: University of Guelph

Friends of Riverview Park (FORP) is a volunteer committee that advocates and works to improve Riverview Park. Organized in 2016 by the Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC) and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the groups’ efforts have aided and created several important initiatives, for example: the Davis Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, Riverview Park or “RP” Day, the Grand Avenue Entrance Revisioning, the Woods Run Stormwater Project, and trail maintenance and mapping.

A new effort taking shape is meadow development. The idea is to create an environment ideal for native insects and birds, which in turn, supports a more diverse ecosystem overall. This is especially important as the park is under an increasing attack from a dozen different invasive plants including Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard. 

The issue with invasive plants is that once they are introduced, they immediately begin to expand because they have no natural enemies. Insects, birds, and animals don’t recognize or eat the invasive plants, allowing them to spread without limitations. The result is an area with fewer critters of all kinds because there is increasingly less to eat. Plants, birds, insects, and animals that you would have seen here 25 years ago are unable to be found now due to overbrowsing by deer along with invasive plant expansion.

The area being proposed for the first meadow is Snyder’s Point or Pope’s View, located at the southwest corner of the park. This open area already has many milkweed plants, which are vital for monarch butterflies. A committee has been formed and is looking at a couple of models already existing in Allegheny County. Once a focus is determined, volunteers will plant and encourage native plants while simultaneously removing invasives. There is also a growing realization that the overbrowsing by deer must be addressed and a committee may soon be organized to explore options.

The importance of supporting native plants along with great examples and suggestions for how everyone can participate in helping nature are contained in this Doug Tallamy Lecture. Tallamy is the author of “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” and “Natures’ Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard.” Doug lets you understand that you can do plenty to help nature with simple and inexpensive strategies, making it clear that everyone can be part of the solution.

What would you like to see in Riverview Park? You can help to make it happen by getting involved. FORP meetings are held on the fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m. Meeting locations will be posted on the FORP Facebook page and are sent out each month via email. Follow FORP on Facebook for more information or email Erin Tobin at etobin@pittsburghparks.org to join.

Nancy Schaefer is a City of Pittsburgh Park Ranger in the Northside’s Riverview Park.

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