Observatory Hill


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Summer 2017 Newsletter
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Riverview Park

Enforcement Update:  The park ranger program came about because people desired consistent enforcement of regulations.  Here are a couple of challenges that Riverview faces:


Dirt bikes & ATV’s – This happens frequently and riders believe it’s a positive activity but it’s not permitted and creates unsafe situations for other users.  Please call 911 when you see this and provide a description of the bike & rider.  Offenders are aware that police officers are not permitted to chase so it’s a challenging violation to address.  Because people are riding to the park from nearby streets, resolution occurs when we’re able to determine a home address; community cooperation is, and has been, key.


Leave No Trace – Parks belong to all, regardless of background, culture or belief.  Anything YOU do, can and may be done by others.  City code states “No person in a park shall dig or remove any soil, rock, stones, trees, shrubs or plants, down timber or other wood or materials” anything that belongs naturally in the park. Consider the consequences if everyone did it and act accordingly.  Kindly note there are a few things you can take including litter, dog feces,  invasive species (trained and approved) and memories! Visit the Leave No Trace website at       LNT.  


Riverview has a tremendous amount of tree fall and many feel it’s acceptable to help themselves to it.  Did you know that dead trees provide vital habitat for insects, birds and animals, reduces water runoff and returns nutrients to the soil?  Riverview needs all the help it can get!


For Safety SakeSeveral trails are closed due to landslide issues as the City assesses need vs. available resources.  Some decide to go past closed signs on trails – kindly know that doing so, puts you and public safety employees at risk. 


Riverview Park Visitor Center

1 Riverview Avenue

Located on the right side of the entrance on Riverview Avenue, the Riverview Park Visitor & Education Center is open year round from 10am to 5pm most days but is closed on Mondays.

Stop in and you will find:

Smokey the Bear
Drinking Water
Warm Bathroom
First Aid & AED kits
Lost & Found - currently includes a boy's coat, keys, glasses, hats & mittens
Moses Carper Memorial Library - you are invited to explore, borrow and/or keep any book in the library.
Hiking guides - trail maps, scavenger hunt suggestions, animal track pictures, guide to historic sites and buildings
History of Riverview Park
Allegheny Observatory tour information
Nature touch table - skulls, pine cones, feathers, seeds n'at
Guide to Geology of Riverview Park brochure
Memories of Wissahickon Nature Center scrap book
Memories of Riverview Park - pictures of historic park landmarks
Kick balls, hula hoops, frisbees - available for use in the park
Doggie bags for your pet

Get in touch if you'd like to organize a program, meet up or group.  Park Rangers are available to support, lead or guide initiatives that get people outside; ranging from service projects to fun outings including geocaching, tree planting, themed hikes and/or educational programs.


Nancy Schaefer, Ranger




A Word From Our Park Ranger

Dog owners are the most frequent and regular users of many Pittsburgh parks including Riverview.  Dogs and their owners utilize the park all hours, day and night, regardless of weather or season.  Their regular presence is extremely helpful to maintaining safety.  Friendships and significant socialization occurs in off leash dog parks including the two behind the Observatory.  Most dog owners are careful stewards who pick up litter, observe and report potential hazards and contribute to overall enjoyment.  However, dog owners who do not adhere to rules and regulations, create problems and issues.  Interestingly many “law breaking” dog owners are aware of the rules but have decided they are “optional”.  Reasons include:

  •  My dog is trained and friendly, has never bitten anyone;
  •  I never see anyone on this trail so I let my dog run free.
  •  Dogs’ feces are a natural part of the ecosystem and this is a big park, it won’t matter if I leave it behind.
  •  My dog is happy when chasing squirrels and/or deer, its natural behavior.
  •  My dog pulls on the leash and I may fall.
  • Everyone in this neighborhood agrees that it’s okay to let dogs run here.

Pittsburgh ordinances require that no person shall permit their dog to run at large in any public place.  Dogs must be restrained by a leash or chain not exceeding 6 feet.  Dogs are not permitted on playgrounds or courts at any time.  Owners are also required to pick up their dog’s waste and dispose of it in an appropriate receptacle.  These ordinances exist for good reason and violations are punishable by fine. 

Other than fear of a fine, there are many reasons to follow these laws.  The rules fall in line with “Leave No Trace” principles which ask that we “leave only footprints, take only memories/pictures” when you are in parks. 

Keeping your dog on a leash ensures you have control regardless of distractions including bicyclists, runners, children, cars, motorcycles, birds and other animals.   Proper leashing keeps dogs safe from hazards that may injure or kill them.  In addition, other park visitors (and their leashed dogs) may not want to meet your dog.  A leash keeps your dog close, making it easier to track and dispose of their waste. 

Park rangers frequently hear from potential park and trail users who do not use trails because dogs are off-leash.   Letting your dog off-leash creates the impression that it’s acceptable and others will assume they can do so as well.  People see the trails being frequented by off leash dogs and avoid the area and many regular users of Riverview Park avoid the trails because of off leash dogs. 

Off leash dogs have a significant impact on plants, animals and the overall ecosystem.  The impact has a cumulative effect and grows over time:

  • Off-leash dogs disturb nesting areas and damage sensitive wildlife habitat.  Animals are alarmed and cease their routine activities. This increases the amount of energy they use, while simultaneously reducing their opportunities to feed. Repeated stress causes long-term impacts on wildlife including reduced reproduction and growth, suppressed immune system and increased vulnerability to disease and parasites.  Ground-nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to off-leash dogs 
  • Dogs urinating in nesting and sensitive wildlife habitats "marks" the territory, which makes it undesirable or uninhabitable to the wildlife living there; the scent of dogs repels wildlife and the effects remain after the dogs are gone.
  • Dog fur/paws pick up seeds, which can spread invasive plant species
  • Unleashed dogs can chase and injure, or kill, squirrels, ducks and other wildlife 

Dog feces are also an on-going issue in Riverview Park as many owners do not pick up their dog’s waste believing that this 267-acre park can absorb it along with all the wild animals that live here.  However, dog feces contains bacteria and organisms that can spread disease in people. A single gram of dog waste could contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which are known to cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness, and serious kidney disorders in humans.  It can take up to a full year for dog waste to decompose and when it does, it deposits excessive amounts of nitrogen to the soil which can harm native plants.  Unlike human waste, which is directed into sewage pipes, dog waste left on the ground pollutes water.  Environmental Protection Agency estimates that two or three days’ worth of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs would contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it.   Are there 100 dogs “contributing” in Riverview Park?  Given that the park sits at one of the highest point in Pittsburgh, dog feces left on the ground will end up in Pittsburgh waterways after it is done polluting the park environment.

Let’s each do our part to keep Riverview Park alive, growing and healthy for another century by being aware of the impact we have on this fragile ecosystem.

Ranger Nancy Schaefer


Help Keep Riverview Park Healthy

We all want a clean and healthy park for both the pets and the people who use it. Here are some “Dos and Don’ts” to keep in mind:
  • Don’t Litter.
  • Don’t smoke – the entire park is designated as non-smoking.
  • Do keep your dog(s) on a leash unless you are using the designated dog parks.
  • Do pick up after your pet.  One gram of dog waste can contain 23 million bacteria.  It is one of the most common carriers of whipworms, hook worms, round worms and tape worms – just to name a few.  Not cleaning up after your pet, creates a harmful and toxic cycle which will affect both the humans and the pets using the park. According to the CDC, pet droppings can contribute to diseases that can then be passed on to humans.  When infected dog waste is left behind, the eggs of certain roundworms and other parasites can remain in the soil for years.  These parasites are especially harmful to children.

Now that we have a park ranger patrolling the grounds, fines will be issued and they are quite costly.  Let’s all do our part to keep our beautiful park safe and healthy for everyone.


Spotlight on Riverview Park

Covering 287 acres, Riverview Park is commonly referred to as the jewel of Observatory Hill.  Originally this land was owned by Sam Watson and was known as Watson Farms.  In 1894, the residents of Allegheny City along with Mayor William Kennedy pooled their money to purchase the property.  It was then donated to the City of Allegheny.  It is hard to image that the now beautiful chapel shelter was once so neglected and the degree of deterioration so bad, that it was closed down in 2005 and money was being set aside for its demise.  The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, along with the city and droves of volunteers, took on this project.  Fundraising had already begun. A couple of years and over a million dollars later, the building was restored in 2008.  This shelter was originally Watson Memorial Presbyterian Church.  By the late 1800s, its congregation had outgrown the space and it was moved on skids and rollers to the park.  A larger church was built and is the present day Riverview United Presbyterian Church. 

In recent months, focus on improvements to the park has begun.  The road to the Allegheny Observatory has been repaved along with parking lot improvements and new lighting.  In addition, plans to replace both the playground equipment and the surface are underway.  An exciting new addition to Riverview is Park Ranger, Nancy Schaefer.  While chatting with Nancy in a quiet corner of the Visitor’s Center, her excitement and passion for her work were obvious.  A neighborhood resident since 1983, Nancy spoke with pride of her 10 year career with the Northside Leadership Conference. Her professional background also includes work with the Girl Scouts and the Student Conservation Association.  Current work at Riverview brings back many fond memories of working with Moses Carper, former president of OHI.  By supporting the OHI Park Committee and Mr. Moses, this led to the reopening of the Visitor’s Center, the creation of numerous gardens and the organizing of Heritage Day.    She became so familiar with the park because of the time they spent working there, that it seemed only natural to apply for the job opening on the city’s website. She could not believe her good fortune when she was hired.   “This is a beautiful park,” she says with a smile.   As a ranger, she spends her days patrolling the park and she states that she can issue citations for certain rule violations.   Dogs are required to be on leashes when not inside one of the two off-leash areas above the Observatory.  She adds, “Also, please no littering, no smoking on park grounds and clean up after your pets.”   These rules are for both “the health and the safety of everyone.”   Seeing Riverview utilized by more people is the goal of Citiparks and they will appreciate hearing the community’s suggestions and ideas.  Ranger Schaefer can be reached at 412.616.0383 or at nancy.schaefer@pittsburghpa.gov.  Better yet, stop by and check out the park’s many improvements, greet our new park ranger and enjoy this lovely jewel in our own backyard.