The planners of Aspinwall Riverfront Park have long hoped to get accompanying bike and walking trails along the river to fill in Three Rivers Heritage Trail system connecting Pittsburgh and Erie.

Today Pittsburgh City Council, with the approval of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA), granted an easement to Friends of the Riverfront to construct part of a mile-long bike and walking trail along city property at the Pittsburgh Water Treatment Plant located at 900 Freeport Road.

The organization plans to add a mile of trail which will connect Aspinwall and its new park with the municipalities of Fox Chapel and Blawnox as part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system.

“This is a great showcase of how many people came together to make this project possible,” says Friends of the Riverfront Executive Director Tom Baxter. “This is just the beginning of what we’re going to see along our riverfronts in Allegheny County.”

Getting the easement was no easy task. Because the trails were designed to cross near the Pittsburgh Water Treatment Plant, the plan had to be vetted in multiple ways to insure the security of the city’s water supply.

“What the PWSA does is complex, and to do what they’re doing is really helpful,” says Susan Crookston, who is in charge of development for Aspinwall Riverfront Park. “They deserve a lot of thanks and credit for making this happen.”

There have been various efforts over the past 20 years to get portions of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail extended along the northern bank of the Allegheny River near Aspinwall, but this marks the first substantial progress toward getting those trails built.

“The perspective that [Interim Executive Director] Jim Good brings has been outstanding,” says Crookston. “There’s a million reasons why things can’t work. When you let people do what they do best, they’ll just blow you away.”

The new section of trail will run from the park in Aspinwall, north up Freeport Road along the river, past the Waterworks Mall, UPMC’s Lighthouse Pointe Village retirement community at Chapel Harbor and into Blawnox.

Crookston says the park and new trails will be a valuable resource to a potentially very large number of people.

“Not only is there all kinds of economic diversity in our area, 3,000 people work within a half-mile and they’re all going to be able to use the park,” she says, adding that around 140,000 people live within a six-minute drive of where the park will be.

“This is a really exciting thing, and the park serves as a great catalyst to make this happen,” she says.