South Side further along path
Janette Knittel marveled at the transformation of the Monongahela riverfront while walking in the new South Shore Riverfront Park on Wednesday.
Knittel, 51, of Kennedy remembered when the park and adjoining SouthSide Works was part of the Jones & Laughlin Steel plant, later LTV Steel, that belched smoke and fire from both sides of the river and helped earn Pittsburgh its "Smoky City" moniker. Now, she can spend lunch breaks from General Dynamics strolling through the 3.2 acre park.
"I started walking through here and thought, 'This is a surprise,' " said Knittel, who grew up in McKees Rocks. "I remember driving past here on my way to Kennywood, and the mill was right along Carson Street. There was no reason to come to the South Side unless you were going to Kennywood back then."
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and other dignitaries officially opened the $13.4 million park that runs from 25th Street to the Hot Metal Bridge and links by trail to the South Side Riverfront Park that runs between 18th and Ninth streets. The city paid for the project with about $10.6 million in federal, state and local money and about $2.7 million in private donations from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Soffer Organization and Columbia Gas.
"It's beautiful," said Leo McIntyre, 43, of Canonsburg, an employee of The Fireplace in McKees Rocks, who was eating lunch near the Birmingham Bridge. "The river is right here. There's trains. You can see the barges going up and down the river."
The park, which offers waterfront access to the SouthSide Works retail area and the Three Rivers Heritage and Great Allegheny Passage trail systems, does not ignore the land's steelmaking legacy.
Remnants of the steel mill, which closed in 1984, are evident throughout. Five steel ingots and a large slag ladle that crews uncovered during site development were preserved and displayed. Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area donated a former gate to J&L's Morgan Billet Mill, which also is on display, and provided interpretive plaques for the displays.
Ronald Baraff, director of museum collections and archives for Rivers of Steel, said the South Shore park was once the site of the No. 2 Open Hearth department. J&L began making iron on the South Side in 1853, he said.
Allan Helminiak, 68, of South Side Slopes was biking through the place where his late father, Albert, once worked as a bricklayer. Helminiak, a retired machinist, said he had aspirations of working there until a grade school tour of the mill. The dirt and heat convinced him there were better ways to make money, he said.
"It's convenient," he said of the park. "But also this is a great place to get on any of the trails. Like today, I was getting bored at the house, so I decided to get out the bike and see where it takes me."