When you register for the Pittsburgh Triathlon and Adventure Race, you aren’t just making a commitment to test yourself and enjoy a great morning of racing. You’re also helping Friends of the Riverfront, with proceeds from the race helping them to continue the stewardship and great work they’ve been doing for the last 25 years.
In case you aren’t familiar with their stewardship and great work, read on to learn a little more about the group we’re so excited to be supporting by taking over management of the triathlon and adventure race.
Essentially, if it’s a trail that runs along any of the three rivers beginning at the Point and stretching in all directions, it’s a trail that’s maintained and cared for by Friends of the Riverfront. They manage the 24-mile Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which is made up of different sections of trails that pass through neighborhoods and areas including the North Shore, the South Side, Station Square, Lawrenceville, Washington’s Landing, Duck Hollow, Chateau, Millvale, Route 28, the Strip District and Hazelwood.
The trail is also the final segment of the Great Allegheny Passage that goes from The Point in downtown Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., then continues on to Washington, D.C., via the C&O Canal Towpath.They also maintain the 21 Three Rivers Water Trail access points and promote the use of recreation on the rivers as well as beside them.
Friends of the Riverfront staff and their many volunteers are passionate about th
e continued transformation of our riverfronts and rivers into places where people can pursue outdoor activity, be healthy and be social and about helping nature to thrive in environments where heavy industry once ruled.
Who wouldn’t love being part of something that helped support those goals?
Lots of Pittsburghers both benefit from and contribute to their efforts, as well. A 2014 survey showed an estimated 822,873 annual user visits to the trail, with a total economic impact of $8,286,026. The survey also showed that 75.5 percent of trail users live in the city of Pittsburgh and 59 percent of respondents said they use the trail at least twice a week, if not more.
The majority of trail users are on bicycles (44.1 percent), while walkers make up the second largest group at 32.7 percent followed by runners and joggers at 20.8 percent. Also notable about the survey was that more than 83 percent of respondents rated the cleanliness and maintenance of the trail as good to excellent, and 82.5 percent indicated that safety on the trail was good to excellent.
It’s not easy to support those types of user and satisfaction numbers, and Friends of the Riverfront gets a lot of help. They had 1,702 volunteers who contributed 5,326 hours of service to the organization in 2014.
Not bad for what started in 1991 when then-mayor Sophie Masloff authorized a strip of land on the South Side to be used as a public trail at the urging of the Riverfront Planning Committee, which became Friends of the Riverfront. The organization still has lots of plans for the future.
By 2018, Friends of the Riverfront plans to extend the Three Rivers Heritage Trail further into Allegheny County, to complete the Ohio River portion of the trail to connect to the Montour Trail, which would allow cyclists to bike to Pittsburgh International Airport, and to continue serving as the primary stewards for the trail.
Their more immediate projects include completing the design and raising capital funds for the Etna Riverfront Park and Trail, building a portion of the trail along Neville Island on the Ohio Riverfront, constructing a portion of the trail from Aspinwall Riverfront Park through PWSA property and into the Township of O’Hara and maintaining their current high level of volunteer and stewardship events.
So when you’re out there swimming or kayaking, biking and running on Aug. 13-14, know that you’re not only enjoying the results of Friends of the Riverfront’s hard work but also helping to ensure the future of Pittsburgh’s waterfront trails and waterways for recreation and healthy living.