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group hiking through schenley park

Parks and Barriers to Getting Outdoors in Pittsburgh

By: Morgan Collins

At Venture Outdoors, we understand spending time outside is not everyone’s favorite pastime (although we find this difficult to believe, since spending time outside makes people healthier and happier). But most of the people who spend the majority of their time indoors are not choosing to do so; most of these individuals are encountering obstacles when they try to spend time outside. Barriers to accessing the outdoors differ for each population. Children often can’t spend time playing outdoors due to the increase in popularity of structured indoor activities, heightened expectations for the amount of time spent in school and on school work, and cultural changes surrounding the questionable safety of outdoor play. Residents of cities may struggle to find adequate, nearby green spaces to enjoy the outdoors. Neurodiverse or disabled individuals may be barred from spending time outside if they are physically unable to access green spaces or if they feel unwelcome in the outdoor community. The latter remains true for any minority population; the audience for outdoor recreation is dominated by neurotypical, caucasian individuals in the United States, and individuals who do not identify as part of this group may feel unwelcome in the outdoors.

At Venture Outdoors, we are working to overcome these barriers in Pittsburgh and provide inspiration for other communities to make the outdoors accessible for everyone. One way we do so is supporting our local parks to make sure green space is available for public use. Pittsburgh maintains a number of beautiful parks and green spaces that are perfect destinations for enjoying the outdoors. Keep reading to figure out which Pittsburgh park is closest to you!

Schenley Park

Created in 1889, Schenley Park is one of Pittsburgh’s oldest parks. Located between Oakland and Squirrel Hill, the park sprawls across 456 acres. Visitors to Schenley Park have the opportunity to bike, hike, and walk on beautiful trails, play a round at the Bob O’Connor Golf Course, or just relax with family or friends on Flagstaff Hill.

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South Park

South Park sprawls over 2,013 acres in Bethel Park and South Park Township. Along with free Friday night concerts from June to August, the park features a golf course, ballfields, a wave pool, gathering shelters, a skate park, hiking trails, a nature center, a dek hockey rink, and an ice rink.

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Frick Park

This 644-acre park is the largest of Pittsburgh’s historic regional parks. Located within walking distance of Wilkinsburg, Squirrel Hill, and Swissvale, Frick Park features extensive trails through wooded valleys and hills. Clayton Hill, where more than 100 species of birds have been recorded, is the perfect destination for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers. This park is also home to the famous Blue Slide Playground and the newly opened Frick Environmental Center.

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North Park

Encompassing 3,075 acres in Hampton, McCandless and Pine Townships, North Park features a 65-acre lake, a golf course, a pool, an ice rink, ballfields, a nature center, shelters, off-leash areas, a dek hockey rink, and hiking trails. This park is the perfect destination for all outdoor activities.

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McKinley Park

This 78.5-acre park is surrounded by Beltzhoover, Knoxville, Bon Air, and Allentown. Since the 1870s, this land has been a public asset and a gathering point for the surrounding neighborhoods. In 2013, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy completed a project at the park to restore a historic stone wall and steps and constructed a parking lot with rain gardens, lighting, and seating. The Parks Conservancy is currently working with community partners and the City of Pittsburgh on a green infrastructure project in the Chicken Hill area of McKinley Park.

Didn’t see a park close to you? Check out the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the Allegheny County Parks websites for more information.

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