Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Denver Street Steps

In the summer of 2006, my son took a four-day class at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, located at the time in the building on Melwood Street just off Baum Blvd. I accompanied him on the trip there, as we were going by bus and I was not sure of the path myself. Since I myself was not taking the class, I had a couple hours each morning.

I asked the lady at the reception desk whether there was a faster way to get to the location other than the circuitous method we had used; I think we had used the 81B Lincoln (now the 82) and walked up from Centre Avenue. She replied that yes, there was a bus that dropped off up by the Craig-Bigelow split, but that didn't save much since you still had to walk all the way around Craig and Baum. But there was an unusable alternative, a blocked staircase that made a beeline from the corner to the building.

Blocked, as it turned out, by inch-thick poison ivy vines and other major overgrowth. It had been decades since anyone could walk through here easily. But since I had several hours at hand with little else to do, and the promise of being able to enjoy the fruits of my own labor within a day or two, I set to work. My tools at hand: a couple of discarded grocery bags, and Stone Age tools.

It took all that first morning, but I did get it to where you could see from one end to the other. As good a cleanup as I could manage, and I was done for the day. On day two, I got the rest of it pulled out and thrown over a cement block wall into a small lot full of wrecked cars. At the time, Mayor O'Connor was in the midst of a "Redd Up Pittsburgh" campaign, so I contacted the office and let them know there was a mound of poison ivy branches to pick up. One more pass to pick up just plain junk, and the steps were clear.

Once a year since, I revisit those steps to tidy up my work. It only takes 15 minutes, once a year, to keep the ivy pulled back as well as the rest of the undergrowth and trash.

In 2015, the City of Pittsburgh embarked on an inventory project for all of the city steps, all 700 to 800 of them. I assisted with the project on several steps in the Fineview neighborhood on the North Side. Dozens of others did likewise. We observed conditions of usability, overgrowth, deterioration, railings, cracks, and other matters. The city has since used this data to assemble a plan for repairing them. Of course there is far more to do than the city can accomplish in a decade, let alone a year, so figuring out which to do first requires human input. Thursday 28 July 2017, the city held an event to gather that input, which I attended.

Afterward, I filmed this little video, showing what Denver Street looks like now. I had not been here yet in 2017; I don't think I got there in 2016, either. The couple years of growth shows that the poison ivy is indeed coming back with a vengeance. I plan to present the city with my little story here and the video, in hopes that someone else can take up the adoption process, whether it be city crews or simply another concerned citizen a little closer than me, 12 miles away, who can devote 15 minutes a year to keeping that growth down.

1 comment:

  1. My "adopt-a-steps" project from 2006, in its current state. It doesn't take much to keep a staircase clear, but if you don't, it only takes a couple years to become blocked again.