Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Riverlife Pushing for Improvements to Trail

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Riverlife Pushing for Improvements to Trail

Article excerpt

Graffiti tells part of the story of a segment of riverfront trail in Downtown, but inspiration could be drawn from one message in particular: "Quality of life is quality of mind."

Riverlife recently launched a "lunchtime loop" campaign to get the public to walk that Downtown stretch - between the Clemente Bridge and the Point - and start thinking about how to improve its quality and, thus, the quality of the trail experience.

Approaching the Point, the trail suddenly becomes the shadowy underbelly of the Fort Duquesne Bridge ramp - concrete piers and paint-scribbled thoughts on a retaining wall.

"This piece is accessible and it's used, but it's underloved," said Stephan Bontrager, spokesman for Riverlife, the nonprofit that formed 16 years ago to bring attention to Pittsburgh's rivers. "We want to raise the profile of that space."

This summer, Riverlife hopes to initiate a process to bring a public art project to that stretch and to include the public, design professionals, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, community groups and the city in its planning.

The loop campaign began on Earth Day as a 30-minute respite, starting in Market Square, heading on Sixth Street to the steps on the Downtown side of the Clemente Bridge and following the trail to the Point State Park fountain before returning to Market Square.

There's not much you can do about the ramp and its underpinnings or about the shadowy niches they create, which once provided a haven for homeless people. "But think of the wall as a blank canvas" without the graffiti, Mr. Bontrager said.

The targeted piece of trail is owned in different parts by the city and state Department of Transportation.

Wednesday's loop walkers included the city's planning director and a Riverlife board member, Ray Gastil, and Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department. …

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