2.0 mile run: Steel Valley Heritage Trail
Let me start at the beginning.
I live in the Steel Valley area of Pittsburgh, named so because it used to be home to one of Andrew Carnegie’s great steel plants called Homestead Works. In fact, a few miles down the river in Braddock, one of Pittsburgh’s only running steel mills is located. Below, you can see it in the background of this urban farm.
The mill in Homestead closed in the 1980s, which sent this community straight down the tubes. People couldn’t find work and the local population fell into poverty or moved away. Sometimes, when I’m walking, I think I can catch a glimpse of what it may have looked like when my grandparents were children, or even before.
In the 2000s, though, a development company purchased up the brownfield site and turned it into an expansive shopping center called The Waterfront, now home to stores, restaurants, (unfortunately) parking lots. This was a jolt of energy that my community needed, but we are still waiting for it to trickle into the old neighborhoods. Change is happening, but more slowly than the rapid development near those old smokestacks.
One thing that Pittsburgh is great at? Honoring our history. Every where you look there are pieces of things that aren’t there anymore.
Our region is proud and our roots run deep. I love that about us. It makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger, without even trying. It makes me feel like I’m part of this great story which is still unfolding. Everywhere I look, there are lessons which teach me how we got to where we are. We are a city of bridges. Bridges connecting communities, people, families, and also connecting us to our history.
Those lessons are the ones that teach us how to get to where to want to be. When you live in a place where history is still very much a part of the present, you take the reminders for granted. You get so used to seeing all of these amazing landmarks and you forget to ask why they are even there. Not me. I’m a history nerd, and I take every opportunity to find out why and when and how things became and are. There isn’t a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that I’ve visited and not had this experience, but I still feel special living in such a historically relevant neighborhood.
If you’ve ever been to The Waterfront, you’ve seen the smoke stacks from the old steel plant. They are our community’s main landmark, preserved forever as a testament to the people who built this neighborhood. If you look hard enough, you can see lots of other historical landmarks which have been preserved. Most notably, the Carrie Furnaces and the Pump House of the old Homestead Works, the place where workers on strike defeated an attack by Pinkertons in what we now call the Battle of Homestead.
Luckily for me, there is a trail that runs parallel to the beautiful Monongahela River called the Steel Valley Trail. Its well maintained, never crowded, and runs close enough to parking lots that I don’t feel paranoid of being in the movie Taken3.
It’s actually part of the greater trail system called the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Maryland.
Once a connector is completed, the trail will allow Pittsburghers to travel 344.5 glorious vehicle-free miles – all the way to Washington D.C. For now, I think I will just stick to the few miles nearest my house. 🙂