Above: Partners gather as Peter Ramage, president of Etna Borough Council, cuts the ribbon during the opening and dedication of Etna Riverfront Trail & Park.
October 22 was a momentous day for the Borough of Etna and community partners as they gathered to celebrate the completion of the Etna Riverfront Trail & Park with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
A decade ago, the Borough and residents began reimagining what the long industrialized riverfront could look like through the Allegheny County Community Trails Initiative. This trail and riverfront development plan includes 17 municipalities and aims to expand the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which will connect Pittsburgh to Erie when completed.
“You didn’t just accept… that you couldn’t reconnect to the riverfront. You didn’t just accept that there was a horrible brownfield here that you were never going to get cleaned up. You really took your love for your community and stepped forward to make something great and I think that’s amazing,” said Lauren Imgrund, deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.
The park’s design elements include a stage, benches, greenspace, pavilions with picnic tables, a bike rack and repair station, all of which was decided upon by the community through public meetings with Environmental Planning & Design (EPD) and the Borough. When entering the park, there are bird houses and environmental signage provided by The Western Pennsylvania Audubon Society; along the perimeter are perforated metal panels with designs that tell a story of residents’ relationship with the riverfront and were created by EPD.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Mary Ellen Ramage, manager for the Borough of Etna, extended her gratitude to a plethora of partners that aided the community’s reconnection to the river, but the driving force behind the project was made clear.
“It did take so many partners working together, rowing together, but we wouldn’t really be there if it wasn’t for Mary Ellen. We wouldn’t,” said State Representative Sara Innamorato. “I am a proud member of her vortex, because you know what it’s like when Mary Ellen sucks you in, there’s no coming back out. [And] you know you’re going to… see things like this trail.”
Katie Kovalchik, director of landscape architecture and communication & technology manager for EDP, said Ramage is “a very strong-willed person” and recognized her trust in EDP with the creation of the perforated panels.
“She’ll laugh about how we brought the idea of doing the panels to her and she asked, ‘Have you done these anywhere else before?’ And we said, ‘Well, no, but we know it will work,’” Kovalchik said. “She’ll credit us pushing her to go further, but it was definitely a great working relationship.”
For area residents, they’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.
Beverly and Eugene Gazdik live in Millvale, but they grew up and spent their formative years in Etna and have family who still live there.
“We are so proud of what [Etna] has accomplished,” Beverly said. “Growing up in this area and seeing all the steel mills close… I still feel connected to Etna and proud of everything they’re doing here.”
“It’s exciting to see what the future holds for the next generation.”
The full list of partners include: Allegheny County, Friends of the Riverfront, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, McCollom Strategies, Darla Cravotta (Director of Community Relations & Special Projects to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald), RK Mellon Foundation, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Southwest Planning Commision, Colcom Foundation, Fugh Foundation, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Western Pennsylvania Audubon Society, Henry L. Hillman Foundation, Allegheny County Health Department, Environmental Planning & Design, HF Lenz Company, Frank J. Zottola Construction, Eisler Landscapes, and most importantly, the residents of Etna Borough.