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Friends of the Riverfront Cultivates Stewardship of its Region's Rivers

Loredana Vuoto, January 03, 2017

Friends of the Riverfront (FOR) is a pioneer green organization that understands enjoying the great outdoors is a civic duty.

For 20 years, FOR has been on the ground and in the water, working to protect and restore the Pittsburgh region's rivers and riverfronts. They have been involved in creating nearly all of the trails for biking, hiking, rollerblading or paddling along Pittsburgh's shores. Through intense collaboration with community partners, government officials and a diverse volunteer base, FOR has transformed Pittsburgh's rivers and riverfronts from industrial wastelands to international examples of environmental renewal.

FOR does not take for granted the natural beauty bestowed on Pittsburgh. "We have a vested interest in caring for our water and land trails once they are in the public realm," said Thomas Baxter, Executive Director of FOR. "We have helped create them and it is important to keep them in good shape for the health and vitality of the community."

FOR accomplishes its mission through numerous projects that encourage volunteers to get involved and become stewards of the land. Riverfronts Naturally, for example, allows volunteers to participate in meaningful experiential education on watershed and riparian habitat issues. Between April and November of every year, over 1,000 volunteers devote three or more hours of their time to clean up the riverfronts.

"Volunteers love giving back," said Mr. Baxter. "By doing so, they feel a level of ownership in their county?s rivers and trails, thereby creating a community that is proud to be environmentally friendly."

Riverfronts Naturally is a on-going program that restores native vegetation to areas adjoining the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, desolate brownfield areas and other public spaces in the Pittsburgh region. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is a pedestrian trail and greenway system around Pittsburgh. It stretches for 21 miles along both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers and is accessible to cyclists, walkers and runners.

The efforts of Riverfronts Naturally to plant native vegetation will restore the natural ecosystem, provide sustainable habitat for wildlife and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. This will benefit the environment and reduce maintenance costs. It will also enhance the outdoor experience for land and water trail users and provide educational opportunities for schools, universities and the general public. Its long-term goal is for plantings along the trail to grow into an extensive park, or greenway within the city that will be able to sustain itself with restored trees and wildflowers.

"Riverfronts Naturally shows that we are all responsible for the world we live in," said Mr. Baxter. "As stewards of the earth, we are proud to be doing our part and making a difference."

Tags: Local Action News, Organization News


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