Parks Foundation Project Walking Tour in South Park

Each year at Park ’til Dark we host free activities in the parks as a way to encourage park visitors to learn something new and interact with the park in meaningful and connective ways. One activity from South Park in 2024 was a Parks Foundation Project Walking Tour of all the projects we have undertaken in the Southern section of the park. This walking tour was led by our Executive Director, Joey-Linn Ulrich, and our Project Manager, Nicole Oeler. Since the walking tour was so well received, we are inviting you to enjoy this 1.5 mile self-guided walking tour on your own.

You can find a map of the walking tour here to help guide you. Outlined below are all the projects stops along this tour of our work within the Southern section of the park. Let us know what you think of the walking tour and what you found the most interesting to learn!

Walking Tour Start: Green Design Parking Solution

The Parks Foundation and Allegheny County completed the Green Design Parking Solution in 2021. This new aesthetically pleasing solution features sustainable elements such as a minimal footprint, the elimination of asphalt, storm water management, drain-through paving surface, concrete boardwalks and native plants. This innovative green design cleans, cools and slows approximately 2-million gallons of polluted stormwater each year before it enters Catfish Run. The parking lot also had 100 trees and over 20,000 perennials and grasses planted to help clean the air and shade the pavement. Learn more!

Park lots with trees in spring

Walking Tour: Children’s Playground Parking Lot Tree Planting

In the fall of 2023, the Parks Foundation contributed to the redesign of the children’s playground parking lot, as per recommendations from our South Park Ecological Assessment and Action Plan. As a part of the process 88 trees were planted along the updated parking lot for the restored playground. The trees are intended to shade, intercept and absorb stormwater, provide habitat and offer a comfortable gathering area for visitors. Sustainable site improvements also resulted in the reduction of 30,000 square feet of unnecessary asphalt pavement, which will improve water quality, reduce flooding and lower ambient air temperatures – all without losing a single parking space. Learn more!

Walking Tour: Nevin Shelter

Nevin Shelter was one of the original stone structures designed by Paul Riis, the first director of the Allegheny County Parks and a renowned landscape architect. Nevin Shelter is one of many natural stone features created in the Prairie-style design found throughout the park. It was originally built in 1931, and was updated to its original grandeur in 2023 by replacing the roof, restoring masonry, repairing flooring, updating the chimney, adding seating and signage and pruning the surrounding trees. The shelter has a traditional oven shelter, making it the only working hearth currently found in all of the county parks. Throughout South Park’s history, oven shelters have played a prominent role as one of the amenities available for the use of park patrons. They added beauty and interest to the park, as well as convenience, by providing visitors with a dry area to cook and take shelter throughout the year.  Learn More!

Walking Tour: Park ’til Dark & Earth Day Tree Planting

Just above Nevin Shelter is a site where our reforestation efforts have been focused this spring. During Park ’til Dark, 100 trees were planted and for our Earth Day Celebration another 150 trees were planted in this area. These efforts total 0.3-acres of reforestation and were both funded by our Tree Fund. Learn more about our ongoing Ecological Impact Work!

Walking Tour: Catfish Run Riparian Buffer

A riparian buffer is an area adjacent to a stream, lake or wetland that contains a combination of trees, shrubs, and/or perennial plants and is managed differently from the surrounding landscape, primarily to provide conservation benefits. Over the years, multiple sections of Catfish Run’s riparian buffer was planted along Corrigan Drive in the vicinity of the Ice Rink, Edgebrook Shelter, the oval and green parking lot area, and the Oliver Miller Homestead. The areas total over 5.5 acres and a variety of native trees, shrubs and flowering plants that attract pollinators were planted along the buffer. Learn More!

Walking Tour Start: Edgebrook Shelter

Edgebrook Shelter, which is a current project, is another one of the oven shelters, like Nevin, to be built under Riis’ tenure. The objective of this project is to restore the Edgebrook Shelter for safe, practical use and interpretation related to its historic origins. This restoration will address landscaping, masonry restoration, flooring and roofing updates, and chimney updates. Interpretive signage to educate park users about the history and the project itself will be installed at the shelter. Learn More!

Walking Tour: Chimney Swift Towers

The Parks Foundation partnered with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania to construct 100 habitat towers throughout the nine Allegheny County Parks, with 19 being placed in South Park. Chimney swifts are beneficial birds to the environment and people because they are voracious eaters of bothersome flying insects including mosquitoes, flies and beetles. The birds attract attention as they acrobatically swoop down on their prey and eat in flight. This collaborative effort to install towers is valuable because the swift populations have declined significantly in our region as their habitat has been changed over the years, reducing their nesting sites. Thanks to continued monitoring by the Audubon Society, we know that there are nests in the towers found in South Park and in all 9 county parks.  Learn more!

Walking Tour: Babcock Sign & Sign Standardization

The Parks Foundation and Allegheny County adopted a comprehensive set of signage guidelines to create a more unified image throughout the parks. The goal is to make wayfinding in the parks easier and eliminate a cluttered appearance from various generations of styles, sizes and colors. Additionally, interpretive signage was added to South Park detailing the founding of the Allegheny County Park system. The interpretive signs in South Park describe how the visionary Allegheny County Commissioner E.V. Babcock recognized the need to preserve rural lands for recreation and protect them from the city’s inevitable expansion. Babcock oversaw the county’s purchase of about 4,000 acres in 1927 that would become North and South Parks.

Walking Tour: Montour Trail Connector

This two-mile trail segment enables trail users to connect from South Park to the Montour Trail. It is also one of the two trails in South Park to be featured in our Trail Discovery Guide! The Montour Trail extends from Coraopolis to Clairton and joins the Great Allegheny Passage Trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. In addition to connecting park users to the GAP Trail, we are also studying the feasibility of a trail connection between South Park and White Oak Park. Learn more about the Montour Trail Connector!

Walking Tour: Streams Assessment

We are currently in the process of studying all 23 streams found throughout the county parks over a three-year period. This work builds upon our Ecological Assessment and Action Plans by diving deeply into the condition of the streams through the assessment of their chemistry, macro-invertebrate biological community and physical condition using standardized procedures over a one-year period. South Park is currently being studied, so check back in for the results in 2025! Learn more.

Walking Tour: Fairgrounds Improvement, Reforestation and Meadow at Oval

The Fairgrounds were originally designed for County Fairs from the 1930-1960s. In the early 2010’s a new site development plan was created with park-user input to restore this popular recreation area and make it an asset for today’s users. During the improvement of the Fairgrounds the old fencing, bleachers, cinder track and backstops were removed and were replaced with updated ball fields, a football field and a 1/2 mile track. The deteriorated bleachers on the slope of the Oval were replaced with a two-acre pollinator meadow featuring native plantings. The area was planted with 300 trees and shrubs to enhance our ongoing reforestation efforts. To date, we have planted over 8.75-acres in South Park alone, for a grand total of 42-acres of reforestation throughout the 9 county parks. Learn More!

Walking Tour Finish: Green Parking Lot Promenade Benches

The promenade was designed with benches as an invitation for park visitors to sit, enjoy the landscape and find peace and quiet. The seating along the promenade is funded by our bench program, a meaningful way to improve your parks with a lasting tribute to a loved one. Donors can choose to honor a friend of family member, celebrate a special occasion, or express gratitude. To date, over 100 benches have been installed throughout the county parks.

All the projects listed on this tour were completed alongside Allegheny County. We are so grateful for their efforts to enhance the park user experience with us so that everyone can continue to enjoy the wonder spaces inside our parks. While this tour shares a lot of our projects, there are even more in South Park – like the Cascades, the Outdoor Classroom at the Cascades and the Paul Riis Trail. You can add these sites to your tour if you want to make your journey a little longer. No matter how long you walk or explore, thank you for joining us on this tour of all our projects in South Park!