IMG_3097_crop, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ccbarr’s photostream

The City of Pittsburgh has received a gift in its 200th year far too big to wrap with a bow: 660 acres of parkland known locally as Hays Woods. Mayor Peduto announced the closing today of the transaction, following negotiations between the City by Pittsburgh Development Group II and Mayor Peduto’s Chief of Staff and URA board chairman Kevin Acklin. From the Mayor’s press release:

“This tremendous gift – one of the largest ever to Pittsburgh or any other city — is a perfect way to further celebrate the City’s 200th birthday. It will preserve hundreds of acres of untouched urban forest for generations, and underscore the City’s ongoing work to preserve and protect our environment,” Mayor Peduto said.

The City is paying $5 million to cover expenses related to the transfer of the property, but that is far below the market value of the mineral rights, the value of the property, and the $15 million that the Pittsburgh Development Group II had invested in the site, which is why it’s being considered a gift.


Hays Eagle Nest, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ccbarr’s photostream

It will become the largest contiguous public park in Pittsburgh’s history.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has described the land as “a wild, overgrown uphill, downhill of deep woods, meadows, cliffs, views, deer scat, darting birds, dragonflies, butterflies, knotweed, old trees, junk trees and wetlands of reeds, rushes and cattails.”

Hays Woods has also become well known in recent years because of a family of bald eagles that have taken up residence there. PixController’s webcam allows everyone a view of their activities.


IMG_3096_crop, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ccbarr’s photostream

Charles J. Betters is the principal owner of Pittsburgh Development Group II. He was inspired by the legacy of his daughter Roxsan, who died of cancer to make this tremendous donation. Mayor Peduto plans to dedicate the park in her honor in the tradition of two other strong women associated with Pittsburgh parks: Mary Schenley and Helen Clay Frick.

The Mayor will form a working group – including Citiparks, environmental groups, foundations and others – to plan for the park’s usage and preservation, and recommend ways to honor Roxsan Betters’ legacy.