In a surprise and welcome move, on June 9 the City of Pittsburgh received a gift of 660-acres for what will become Pittsburgh’s largest park. The rugged undeveloped area includes the bluffs high above the Monongahela and across the river from Hazelwood.
When Charles Betters purchased the tract in 2003 he planned to build a horse-racing track, casino, shops, and residences atop the bluff, but first he needed to level the hill top and remove the coal. After strong opposition by residents and environmental groups the DEP permit was denied. Without the required approval for the casino, the project was abandoned in 2005. Since then Hays Woods has continued to mature, providing a quiet natural area for locals (hear audio), and home for a family of bald eagles.
Mayor Bill Peduto deserves our thanks for negotiating this gift. Now the challenge is for the City to properly manage any development in the new park according to the sustainability models adopted by Phipps Conservancy and the new Environmental Center at Frick Park, while also ensuring preservation of the wild nature of this urban gem so close to the heart of Pittsburgh. For the interim, the Urban Development Authority will be responsible for development, and will need to hold public hearings.