Great outdoors week encourages the locals to get out and about

Great outdoors week encourages the locals to get out and about

Thursday, May 17, 2007

By John Hayes Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Flip through the events listings for page after page of things to do in America’s Most Livable City.

But the listings are incomplete. Conspicuously absent is the phone book-sized directory of quality outdoor recreational opportunities available in the Pittsburgh region.

For many Western Pennsylvanians, “outdoor recreation” means more than spreading a blanket in front of the stage or taking in a doubleheader at the stadium. The organizers of Great Outdoors Week would like to offer a few additional suggestions. Coordinated through a core partnership that includes Sustainable Pittsburgh, Bike Pittsburgh, Rachel Carson Homestead, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, Port Authority of Allegheny County, REI Pittsburgh, Three Rivers Rowing Association and Venture Outdoors, it’s a multi-organizational effort to rekindle Pittsburghers’ connection with the region’s green and wild places.

The 10-day schedule of participatory outdoor activities begins Friday with National Bike to Work Day and ends May 27 with the 100th birthday of the Pittsburgh region’s most influential conservationist, Rachel Carson.

Dozens of fun hands-on activities including kayaking, dragon boating, in-line skating, fishing, rowing, rock climbing and bicycling are scheduled at locations throughout our corner of the state.

“This year, we have a core committee of eight organizations, and over a dozen local groups involved in Great Outdoors Week,” said Kimberly Adams, communication manager of Sustainable Pittsburgh. “It’s a marketing effort by the core group to get information out to their constituents.”

That constituency includes everyone from the inner city to the rural reaches. In very real ways, they’re stakeholders in the commonwealth’s management of participatory natural resources, which include bike trails, nature paths, trout streams, rivers, lakes, parks and every undeveloped green space in every neighborhood.

Great Outdoors Week, now in its sixth year, and the recent Governor’s Outdoors Conference evaluating a growing trend of outdoors avoidance, suggest that Pennsylvania is near the forefront of a national effort to reconnect America to its outdoors heritage.

“We’re not just talking about the health benefits of getting outside, although that’s part of it,” said Adams. “It’s reestablishing that connection [with nature] to groups that have been disenfranchised from the outdoors, getting the media to show African-American and Hispanic faces when they report on the outdoors, countering the ads of the computer and entertainment industries with all of the opportunities that exist outdoors, and reminding people that the best things in life still are free, and a lot of them are outside.”

For information and schedule, go to www.greatoutdoorsweek.org.

Friday

On National Bike to Work Day, Bike Pittsburgh (www.bike-pgh.org, 412-353-0291) celebrates the group’s fifth anniversary with sponsorship of three free biker breakfasts, 8-10 a.m. at the following locations: City-County Building Portico, 414 Grant St., Downtown; Carnegie Mellon University, near University Center, Oakland; REI-Pittsburgh, SouthSide Works, South Side.

The birthday party continues from 6-10 p.m. with food, beer, awards for cycling devotees and a screening of the film “Contested Streets” at Attack Theatre, Penn Avenue and Mathilda Street, Garfield. $3 members, $5 nonmembers.

Get your hands dirty at a Community Garden Planting, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Braddock Avenue at the Rankin Bridge (412-586-2324).

It’s also Tireless Friday, with SouthSide Works retailer REI leading a river sweep to clean up local waterways (www.rei.com/stores/101, 1-800-426-4840). The cleanup starts on the North Shore at Heinz Lofts.

SATURDAY

Rain or shine, the Venture Outdoors Festival (www.ventureoutdoors.org, 412-255-0564), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on the North Shore near Heinz Field, encourages extreme-sports veterans and curious beginners to mingle and learn at their own pace. Family-friendly activities include kayaking, canoeing, biking, dragon boating, rock climbing, in-line skating and fishing. The festival includes environmentally conscious boat tours courtesy of RiverQuest, live music from Jazzam and a remote broadcast by WYEP-FM. The Venture Outdoors Festival is sponsored by UPMC Health Plan.

More Community Garden Planting: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Greenfield Avenue and Irvine Street, Greenfield; 9 a.m.-noon, Brownsville Road and Margaret Street, Rankin; 40th Street Bridge at Plummer Street, Lawrenceville; Highland Park Bridge at Butler Street, Highland Park (412-586-2324).

SUNDAY

Pedal Pittsburgh isn’t a race — it’s a ride. Coordinated by the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (www.cdcp.org, 412-391-4144), cyclists start at 7:30 a.m. at Station Square and choose from several course options ranging in length from 15 to 60 miles. Pedal Pittsburgh is expected to attract more than 2,000 riders and spotlights the neighborhoods and landmarks of America’s Most Livable City.

Ephram Zimmerman of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy leads an Interpretive Walk, 5 p.m. in Mount Washington Park.

MAY 23

Downtown TriAnglers meet every Wednesday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. through the summer to fish at the Point. Pennsylvania fishing license required.

May 26

Rather celebrate the great outdoors indoors? Staffers from Three Rivers Rowing Association (www.threeriversrowing.org, 412-231-TRRA) show how to get the most out of every stroke in the group’s indoor rowing tanks and rowing machines. It’s Learn to Row and Paddle Day at the group’s Millvale Training Facility.

May 27

Happy 100th birthday, Rachel Carson! A block party at Springdale’s Rachel Carson Homestead (www.rachelcarsonhomestead.org, 724-274-5459) celebrates the life and influence of the author and conservationist. Activities include the Rachel Carson Sustainable Feast showcasing local produce prepared by some of Pittsburgh’s leading chefs, and a one-woman play by Kaiulani Lee at Springdale High School.

(John Hayes can be reached at jhayes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1991. )

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