Parks & Trails

Park Improvements are coming to McCahill Park 

We hope you have had a chance to see and enjoy the new playground at McCahill Park, Annie’s Field of Dreams. More improvements are planned for both the playground and the park in the next year or two. A “village” of Lilliput playhouses incorporating a firehouse, market, and a playhouse will be constructed in the playground. In the park, the Fox Chapel Parks Commission is planning a loop trail around the ballfields, a multi-purpose court for winter ice skating, basketball, and pickleball. In addition, the two existing ballfields will be upgraded. Park improvements will incorporate innovative stormwater features like rain gardens. The playground upgrades are funded through generous donations and the Annie Whittingham Forever Five Foundation. The park upgrades are the result of the Borough receiving two state grants totaling $303,900. Borough Council has also generously contributed additional funds for the park upgrades.

Hardie Valley Park Gets a Makeover 

Earlier this year, the Garden Club of Allegheny County (GCAC) awarded a $10,000 grant to the Fox Chapel Conservancy.  The money was used to purchase and plant native trees, shrubs, and plants near the waterfall at Hardie Valley Park, the Borough's newest 17-acre park. 

GCAC felt this was a vital grant request to fund as our tree canopy in Allegheny County is declining.  According to a study conducted by Tree Pittsburgh, 1,742,820 trees or 11,000 acres of trees were lost between the years 2010-2015.  That was roughly 1,000 trees a day in our County.  Only 3-5%  was due to natural aging.  The remainder is primarily caused by man. 

Trees are natural filters for the air. Additionally, they are like large sponges that soak up groundwater.  Shade trees reduce surface temperatures.  Additionally, they provide homes, shelter, and food sources for birds. Audubon recently shared a study that confirmed what local bird experts already suspected: Bird populations have dropped a staggering 29% — nearly 3 billion birds — since the 1970s.  Much of the decline in our area is directly related to the declining tree canopy, the loss of food sources, and the problems non-native invasive trees and shrubs are causing.

Several GCAC members who felt strongly about the need to plant native trees had agreed to participate in the planting process. Once the grant was awarded,  Missy Marshall, a renowned landscape architect, and  Frank Pizzi, recently retired as the curator of horticulture at the Pittsburgh Zoo, worked with  Carrie Casey, a member of the Borough's Park Committee, to determine which native trees to plant in the Park.

Due to the pandemic, ordering trees became a problematic undertaking.  It was decided to do the work in stages.  In phase one, about 95 trees and shrubs were ordered from four different nurseries. The trees ranged in size from 1-2 gallon trees up to three-inch caliber dogwood that each weighed over 250 pounds and even a 3.5" American Beech.  The team was able to schedule the delivery of the trees in a 48-hour window. The large trees and shrubs were offloaded and planted with the help of the Borough maintenance crew: Roger, Danny, Billy, Luke, Jon, and a backhoe.  

On May 14th and May 17th,  GCAC  hosted a workday.  Members planted the remaining trees, spread mulch around the trees, and made individual cages to help protect the trees from deer and rabbits.  Special thanks to Bruce, Chase, and Lisa Bowden, and GCAC members Frank Pizzi, Missy Marshall, Katie Jones, Carrie Casey, Lynn Bainbridge, Lilla Hillman, Joanna Flannigan, Sally Foster, and  Marilyn Bruschi for all their hard work and commitment to planting natives at the park!  The park is now home to dogwoods, hornbeam, redbuds,  hemlocks, serviceberry, spicebush, winterberry, and buttonbush.  

As more trees become available this fall, GCAC members and Borough officials will begin working on phase 2.   

 Volunteers will be needed throughout the summer to help water the new trees. Then, in the fall, the park stewards would like to schedule a volunteer workday. If you would like to volunteer to help at  Hardie Valley Park or willing to work on a cleanup day, please contact Shawn Peterson at speterson@fox-chapel.pa.us.   

Seeders & Weeders – Help improve the entrance to Hardie Valley Park 

In 1934 a group of friends in their early twenties met at the home of Kaka Lockhart for lunch. One of the girls asked, "How do we learn to garden?”  Kaka's mother recommended that they start a garden club specifically for young women. At the start, approximately 30 ladies from the East End began to hold meetings in fellow members' homes. Their goal was to learn to garden and have fun.  They called themselves "Seeders and Weeders." At that time, the group relied heavily on Rachel Hunt and her books for their training. 

For many years, the group had a booth at the Annual May Market at The Phipps Garden Center. Their purpose was to raise funds. They then gifted any proceeds to Phipps. In addition to helping the garden center, the ladies helped fund organizations like Beechwood Farms, Western PA Conservancy, and the Western PA Horticulture Society.   

Today, there are approximately 50 women in the garden club. They reside primarily in Fox Chapel and the East End.  The group still likes to support their community thru different gardening projects.  They currently plant and maintain the enclosed garden at Canterbury Place: It is a beautiful place where residents can sit and visit friends and family. They also helped design, plant, and maintain a garden at The Aspinwall Riverfront park, and they help plant and maintain the gardens at The Sharpsburg Library.

The members were thrilled to learn that the Borough purchased the Hardie property - as it provides a critical link to the trail system that runs from Beechwood Farms to O'hara Community Park.  The members wanted to help provide more curb appeal to the property entrance from Old Mill Road. It was decided that the organization would purchase 50 native trees in honor of each of the clubs' 50 members. A few of the dedicated members met on-site on May 4th. They removed a large number of invasive plants such as privet, honeysuckle and multiflora rose. They then planted river birch, pawpaw, swamp oak, hornbeam, maples, redbud, serviceberry, spicebush, and dogwood trees. After watering every tree, they spread mulch and then provided wire cages installed around all the young trees to prevent the deer and rabbits from nibbling the tree trunks.  Many thanks to Lisa, Bruce and Chase Bowden, Manny Cahouet, Maria Durant, Katie Jones, Nicholas Griswald, Carrie Casey Leemhuis, Missy Marshall, and Brenda Rogers for all their help in creating such a lovely park entrance.  

Garlic Mustard Pull

The Parks Commission is pleased to share news on the accomplishment of the community volunteers from the spring 2021 Garlic Mustard Pull. The Trillium Trail and the entrance to Salamander Park were the two areas where volunteers focused their efforts. Held on Saturday, May 8, and 15, over thirty volunteers from the community filled dozens of garbage bags of the invasive weed. Many people expressed a renewed discovery of family, friends, community, and the beauty of our lovely parks. We thank all who helped this year and look forward to more volunteers next year!