Almost every Pittsburgh neighborhood has them: city steps that connect streets and people in the city's hilly terrain. And on those hillsides are some of the best vistas in a city known for its views.
The view is but one feature of the 2006 Pittsburgh StepTrek that begins Sunday, October 1, at noon at Josephine and 21st streets on the South Side. ”Steps and the City,” this year's theme, refers to the many steps throughout the city that are innate to Pittsburgh's unique topography. The Trek combines photography, historic narrative, sweeping views, several open houses and a perspective look at neighborhoods whose identity, like that of the South Side Slopes, is etched with steps.
“The StepTrek celebrates the thousands of steps throughout the city,” said Bev Boggio, StepTrek committee chairperson. ”To give a sense of the public stairways in other neighborhoods, we invited photographer Tim Fabian to show his work. Tim captured images of steps throughout the city with author Bob Regan in ‘The Steps of Pittsburgh.' There are more steps than what's here, and we encourage people to walk in other neighborhoods, to experience them and the views they offer.”
And it's the view that caught the attention of the New York Times, which ran a story this past August on development in the Slopes and the interest in the vistas that come with new and refurbished homes. To take advantage of the spectacular views of downtown, Oakland and the mighty Monongahela River, the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, which organizes the StepTrek, has changed the courses to offer a different perspective of the streets and steps of the Slopes. Trekkers should find the routes walker friendly, especially as they meander the middle areas of the Slopes neighborhood.
New this year is a course that includes a section on the east end of the Slopes that passes through Monongahela Park, a former water basin. Never included as part of the StepTrek, the park borders the areas of Shelley and Stella streets, which have seen remarkable home investments in recent years.
The StepTrek, with presenting sponsor Duquesne Light, covers the largest concentration of public steps in the city. There are three courses from which to choose. The Church Tour of the Slopes, is the shortest of the routes, and takes participants to three hillside churches and offers views of many others.
The Gold Course, on the west side of the Slopes, leads to the studio of artist Johno Prascak, this year's Honorary Chair. Original art, specifically created by Johno for the 2006 StepTrek, will be on the front of the event tee shirt. Johno's paintings have been featured on the TV show “Will & Grace,” in the upcoming series “The Class” and in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
As always, the StepTrek is what the trekker makes it. Each year several people choose to walk the Trek for its fitness aspect. Others prefer a leisurely pace. There are rest and water stops along the way. Each pre-registered trekker receives a commemorative tee shirt, pedometer, walking map and a course narrative.
The Trek itself is self-guided, and for the first time will have color maps courtesy of a grant from Forest City – Station Square. The course narrative points out the landmarks and gives a history of the stairs and buildings, counts the steps and also provides instruction as to the route. Arrows along the course will provide direction as well.
A tent in the staging area will feature Tim Fabian's photography of steps around the city. An additional tent will show historic South Side pictures that have been in the collection of the Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and the Carnegie Library. Registration is $10 per person. For more information, see www.StepTrek.org or call 412-488-0486.