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Iron Garden Walk celebrates regrowth at former steel industry site

| Friday, June 19, 2015, 8:57 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
One of the iron interpretive plaques providing a narrative of the wild garden at the Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark sire in Rankin Wednesday, June 17, 2015.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
One of the new cast iron interpretive plaques narrating the wild garden at the Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark site in Rankin Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Each one interprets a different facet of the garden.

There's no keeping nature down. Despite Pittsburgh's industrial past, green life will always grow again.

And it has, as visitors will see June 20, when the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area unveils the Iron Garden Walk at the Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark site in Rankin and Swissvale.

The garden has been constructed as a narrative of the natural regrowth at the site along the Monongahela River that for so long served as a prime industrial ground helping build America.

The event, from 2 to 5 p.m., will feature half-hour tours of the garden.

Ten interpretative, iron-cast plaques set up along the garden feature illustrations of the different flora on the site. The plaques serve to signify and educate the public on how nature has “grown back stronger than humans ever could,” Director of Museum Collections Ron Baraff says.

Visitors will be able to take home rubbings of the plaques.

The idea for the garden came about after world-renowned landscape ethicist Rick Darke, who is planning to attend the event, visited the Carrie Furnaces and became fascinated by the patterns in which its flora regenerated.

Areas along the site, for example, that used to be covered in concrete padding, and still exhibit large jackhammered holes, have regenerated flourishing miniature ecosystems, Baraff says.

Although Rivers of Steel maintains the site's landscape with necessary “edits” to overcrowded shrubbery, Baraff says that it does not “add” to the vegetation, allowing nature's organic regrowth to take course.

“Nature isn't as random as you think,” Baraff says.“You don't need to reinvent, because nature will do that for you.”

Baraff says he believes there is a lot the public can learn and apply to their own gardens from the unique patterns of regrowth.

The plaques will remain at the site permanently and visitors can tour the garden and plaques during Rivers of Steel's regular tours or by booking a private tour.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the hard hat, Rivers of Steel is offering a special adult general admission price of $19.15 on guided tours, seniors for $15 and $12.50 for children 8 to 17. The two-hour tours are available at 10 a.m. Fridays, June through August, and 10 and 11 a.m. Saturdays through October. Private group tours can be booked for Monday through Friday.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area serves to conserve, interpret and develop historical, cultural and recreational resources throughout Western Pennsylvania.

Matthew Zabierek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7948.

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