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Land purchase along Monongahela opens access for fishermen

Sunday, October 13, 2002

By Deborah Weisberg

Anglers will have better access to the Monongahela River, upstream of the Hot Metal Bridge on the South Side, but it comes at a price.

The Friends of the Riverfront, a local group that promotes access and appreciation of Pittsburgh's rivers, purchased 2 miles of river frontage from CSX railroad for $350,000, said director John Stephen. At its narrowest, the land from river to track is just 55 feet wide. The acquisition means anglers are no longer trespassing and will eventually be able to use a paved path that will parallel the tracks from the South Side Works near the UPMC Sports Medicine Complex. It will connect to a trail planned for McKeesport along the Youghiogheny as part of the Great Allegheny Passage to Cumberland, Maryland.

Stephen also said rapid progress is being made to open access on the Allegheny River under the 40th Street Bridge, as part of a venture with the Lawrenceville Corporation, a neighborhood development group. "If we can get a spur from CSX (railroad), we'll be able to build about a 1 1/2-mile trail from 40th Street to the Strip District."

Stephen said his group would like to turn other spur lines into public access, if railroads could be convinced to sell them.

Evolving access points for anglers include 13th Street in Sharpsburg and the marina at the end which Sharpsburg leases to boat owners and which Stephen's group would like opened to the public.

The Millvale Riverfront is open. Riverfront property between the Fox Chapel Yacht Club and the Waterworks Mall in O'Hara Township is being eyed. So is 2 1/2 miles along the Allegheny River in Penn Hills.

"There are lots of points along the rivers you find when you explore," said Stephen. "When I see one that interests us, I go back and research who it belongs to. Railroads are obstacles but we try to work with them. Government and quasi-government agencies are the easiest, then developers because they realize the value of access."

Trails that parallel the river also are progressing. Five miles from Ninth Street to the Glenwood Bridge on the South Side will be completed in a few weeks. The three-mile Northside trail is almost finished except for 500 feet between Heinz Field and the Carnegie Science Center, and the piece from Washington's Landing to Millvale. The Eliza Furnace Trail doesn't reach the river, but reconstruction of the Mon Wharf--a popular fishing spot in that area -- will be completed in another year or two and will include a trail at water level idead for fishing, Stephen said.

For more information about river access, visit http://www.friendsoftheriverfront.org.

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