Safe Routes to Parks

By Kevin Hurley, Trip Leader Specialist

A few weeks ago I had the exciting opportunity to work with two of my favorite groups located in the Hill District: The Jeron X. Grayson Community Center (JXGCC), with 6th to 8th graders, and the Center That C.A.R.E.S. (CTC), with 3rd to 5th graders. I was excited to see them as always, but this time we were going to do something pretty important. We were going to work with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and audit the routes with their program called the “Safe Routes to Parks” initiative. At CTC we worked with Gavin White and provided the children with chalk to mark areas that they deemed unsafe on the way to the park. They marked degraded sidewalks and areas with overgrown vegetation that were difficult to pass by or see around. At the park we asked them various questions about their feelings on the route and recorded their answers.

Geocaching Safe Routes

Geocaching near August Wilson Park

At JXGCC I worked with Kathryn Hunninen to make a geocaching course around their neighborhood up to the August Wilson Park. Similarly, at the end of the outing, we surveyed the youth and recorded their answers, noting things like times when we were forced to walk on the streets due to no sidewalks and times that we had to cross the street without any crosswalks. We also surveyed both groups on how often they go to the park and what they like to do there. I personally connected with one of the youth from JXGCC, Shamon, who said that he liked to go to the park to be alone, “to read his books, write down a rap, hear the birds sing and breathe the air.” When asked if he ever went with his friends he said no because those two things, his friends and his peaceful alone time, really didn’t coincide. Many times I’ve run through Schenley Park only to stop and admire a sunset or sunrise, or watch a deer cross the path in front of me, completely alone and removed from the city. To me his reasons are something that I can absolutely relate to.

What we, Venture Outdoors and the youth from CTC and JXGCC, did with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is hugely important. I don’t think I fully grasped it until reflecting on the activity and listening to the recordings of the groups’ answers. I believe access to nature is something that I’ve taken for granted recently. Some people, some youth, must face rather precarious conditions to access a green space, to be able to breathe fresh air for an hour a day, to be able to sit with companions or in solitude and write their thoughts down or do nothing at all but listen to the birds and have a moment of calmness. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to have been able to lead these two outings with these two groups, to hear the feedback of the students, and to work with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to make an effort to ameliorate the conditions that some neighborhoods must face to get to places that I consider sacred and that are free to the public. With our help and collaboration with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, I hope to see in the future parks and green spaces more easily accessible to everyone so that all may enjoy them for whatever reasons they find and so that anyone may be able to experience and connect to nature like and Shamon and I have.

Posted in Outing Recaps


  • Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting

    April 24, 2018

    By: Beth Zabiegalski   

    As an organization, Venture Outdoors does some really awesome and exciting things with local youth in after-school and summer programs, getting them outside for the first time or teaching them something new to do in nature. Most of our outings are a couple hours or less, but when we build meaningful relationships with our students, we create formative outdoor experiences with memories that last more than just that afternoon. 

    Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day Restorative Practices Training through Venture Outdoors’ partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools. I’ll admit I had next to no idea what to expect,

     » Read more about: Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting  »

  • Spring Inside

    April 17, 2018

    A Day a Phipps 
    By: Sara Cardamone 

    Now that Spring is finally here, so is the rain! In Pittsburgh, sometimes it can be hard to find ways to be in nature when it is rainy and muddy. However, there are tons of fun alternatives if you look hard enough! Since I’m a student at Pitt, I pass Phipps Conservatory all the time but I always felt like I never had enough time to stop in. Fast forward to now, the first big rainy day of Spring was upon us and I was struggling to find a calming activity to take my mind off of school and then it hit me.

     » Read more about: Spring Inside  »

  • My Mirror is the Outdoors

    April 10, 2018

    By Stephanie Capilongo

    “Go Outside… amidst the simple beauty of nature… and know that as long as places like this exist, there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.” -Anne Frank.

    The outdoors, it appears, is complicated. But it’s not. It can free your mind and give you a new appreciation for beauty. It brings things and people together, whether it’s your best friend, significant other or your cat. The people you go with mean everything. And no matter who you are or what you do, you can find joy.

     » Read more about: My Mirror is the Outdoors  »

  • When Youth Find their Voices

    April 3, 2018

    By: Lo Hutelmyer, Ryan Singleton and Ty’Shay Thorton

    To an educator, few things are more rewarding than witnessing a student discover his or her own passion. More rewarding still is when they show their first glimpses of leadership by taking charge to teach others about their passion.

    For those of you who may know me, it’s sometimes a challenge for me to stay quiet. But when I had the opportunity to watch Ty’Shay and Ryan present at last month’s conference, I was speechless. Ty’Shay and Ryan, 7th graders from Manchester Academic Charter School, have been participating regularly on Venture Outdoors trips for two years.

     » Read more about: When Youth Find their Voices  »

  • Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!

    March 27, 2018

    By: La’Nell Pennington, Trip Leader SpecialistGASP

    Last October, youth group members at Mount Ararat Community Activity Center in East Liberty participated in an after-school workshop with Pittsburgh’s own Group Against Smog and Pollution. (GASP).

    What is air pollution? We started out by asking the children if they knew what air pollution was. All the kids raised their hands excited to give answers. After a short hike to the Larimer Community Garden, we took turns giving examples of different types of air pollution and where it comes from. The children identified pollution sources such as cars,

     » Read more about: Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing

Geocaching - CD

Cultural District Geocaching
Thursday, April 26
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Join us for a fun intro to the world of geocaching in the Cultural District. We will learn the basics of using a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to navigate between waypoints throughout downtown.