Colcom Foundation Helps Create Community Greenspace with Restoration of Fountain Street Overlook

A sizable grant from Colcom Foundation and other funding sources has enabled the transformation of a wooded slope between Fountain and Henderson Streets, located directly behind Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh’s North Side. 

Once a working-class neighborhood where mill and factory workers owned homes, the area fell into disrepair in the 1950s and 60s when the houses deteriorated and were torn down, leaving behind exposed foundations that became illegal dumping grounds. 

Despite being a steep-slope area, Scenic Pittsburgh recognized its potential as an urban forest patch, offering stunning views of the city all the way to Mount Washington and adjacent to the Fineview Fitness Trail and stairways.

In 2017, Scenic Pittsburgh purchased the large lot from the local school district, and with the majority of surrounding lots being city-owned, Colcom Foundation stepped in with a series of grants to work toward the creation of a greenspace in the rundown lot. 

Along with support from other local foundations, such as the Laurel Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and in collaboration with other organizations, such as Keystone 10 Million Trees effort and Allegheny Cleanways, repairs began at the Fountain Street stairs. 

To make the Fountain Street Overlook a reality, the project team had to undertake the daunting task of hauling old tires and trash cans filled with garbage up the steep, densely overgrown hillside. The site’s history as a residential area meant that the team had to contend with the remnants of the old houses, including foundations and other debris, which only added to the challenge. Their hard work has paid off, however, resulting in a beautiful greenspace to be enjoyed by the community. 

After a year-long cleanup effort that removed tons of trash, Scenic Pittsburgh unveiled the Fountain Street Overlook, a new 2.2-acre publicly accessible greenspace in the Fineview neighborhood. The site offers stunning views of the rivers, the Fort Pitt Bridge, and Mt. Washington.

The newly transformed Fountain Street Overlook involves a combination of land ownership, with Scenic Pittsburgh owning some of the land and leasing the rest from the City of Pittsburgh. The site is easily accessible via stairs on Fountain Street, located near the intersection of Sandusky Street.

A major donor to the project, Colcom Foundation, has been dedicated to protecting native species, promoting sustainability, and enhancing the natural beauty of Western Pennsylvania. The Foundation was founded by Cordelia May, a philanthropist and conservationist who believed that humans have a responsibility to protect and preserve the natural world.

Over the years, Colcom Foundation has provided significant funding for a wide range of projects aimed at achieving its goals, including conservation and preservation efforts such as supporting Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Watershed Conservation Program, which works to protect and restore the region’s rivers and streams and promote sustainable land use practices.

Colcom Foundation has also provided funding for a great number of projects aimed at promoting public access to parks, trails, and other natural areas, as well as supporting efforts to promote the arts and cultural heritage of the region.

The Foundation believes that protecting these areas is essential for preserving biodiversity, promoting human health and well-being, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Colcom Foundation donated a total of $1.85 million to impacted nonprofit organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Foundation provided general operating support grants to 51 organizations dedicated to improving the region’s quality of life through community and environmental initiatives. The grants ranged in size and were awarded to organizations such as Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The largest grant, totaling $500,000, was given to the American Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania to prevent a potential blood shortage.

Colcom Foundation’s local conservation efforts primarily focus on southwestern Pennsylvania, which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland.

Some of the other local conservation organizations that Colcom partners with are WeConservePA, Allegheny Land Trust, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and Hollow Oak Land Trust. 

On a national level, The Foundation supports various initiatives aimed at providing a more sustainable and equitable future for communities across the United States.

With their ongoing support and dedication to conservation and sustainability, Colcom Foundation hopes to continue inspiring and empowering individuals and organizations to take action toward a more sustainable and vibrant future for Western Pennsylvania and beyond.

To learn more about Colcom Foundation visit:

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