October 1, 2013 | Vol. 74 No. 10

StepTrek going high-tech this year with GIS route maps

Brian Oswald, who moved to the South Side five years ago, first learned of StepTrek when he joined the board of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) four years ago.

“I thought, ‘my goodness, this is awesome. How come I didn’t know about this?”’

Once he participated in the non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the hillside neighborhood with its spectacular views, he was hooked.

“It was like ‘Chutes and Ladders’ to me,” he said of the classic children’s game in which players advance upward via ladders before coming down again.

“There were passageways everywhere that you can only do by foot,” he said of StepTrek’s couple of thousand steps and the intertwining streets and sidewalks that connect them.

Today, as president of the SSSNA, Mr. Oswald will join about a thousand Trekkers in climbing some of the Slopes’ 68 sets of public stairs in the 13th annual StepTrek on Saturday, Oct. 5.

The event will begin at South Side Park at Josephine and 21st streets at 11 a.m., and run to 4 p.m. Registration opens at 11 a.m.

With two courses to choose from, participants may choose to walk one or both routes. They may also choose to use the event as a test of fitness or a leisurely stroll.

Its health benefits have earned the event the heart-healthy rating of the American Heart Association.

There are water and rest stops along the way, and signage on each of the courses to guide participants.

Last year’s StepTrek, marred by morning rain, drew 970 participants. The prior year drew 1,040.

Advance online registration is $12. Registration at the event is $15. Visit: showclix.com/event/steptrek to purchase tickets.

Entering online the South Pittsburgh Reporter discount code of SPR by Oct. 4 will result in a $2 discount.

Only online preregistration guarantees a tee-shirt. Tee-shirts will also be given to same-day registrants on a first come, first serve basis.

Children under 12 accompanied by an adult are free, but must be registered.

UPMC Mercy is the presenting sponsor.

Before or after their trek, participants may enjoy an active market place in the registration area, including artists, entertainment, food trucks, and fashion trucks.

There will be a Chinese raffle, with prizes like a print by artist Johno Prascak; gift certificates to bars and restaurants; tickets for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra family Halloween show; and more.

Trekkers are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items for distribution by the Brashear Association.

New this year is a partnership with ESRI, a geographic information systems (GIS) mapping company, to make the GIS route maps accessible via mobile device during StepTrek.

The electronic maps will include links to photographs and highlight historical locations. There will also be a map released after the event showing the Instagram pictures that Trekkers took along the route using #StepTrek.

Also new this year is the addition of orienteering courses.

The Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club (WPOC) has created two courses in the Slopes for a meet during StepTrek.

Orienteering requires navigational skills using a topographical map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain.

“In our 13th year we’ve tried to embrace technology to enhance the experience of the StepTrek attendees.

“We’ve also been able to add an element of adventure with the help of the WPOC,” Mr. Oswald said.

StepTrek is the largest fundraiser of the SSSNA, a volunteer organization whose mission is to maintain, foster, and improve the quality of life, safety, and unity of the Slopes neighborhood.

For more information on StepTrek, or to volunteer, visit www.StepTrek.org.

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