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CALL/WALKS/Pittsburgh - Walking the Urban Wilderness

  • Hays Woods 1015 Agnew Rd, junction of Agnew Road and Hay's Woods Trail Pittsburgh, PA, 15227 United States (map)

Led by artist Natalie Settles, ecologist Charles Bier, and landscape architect Kara Smith, this WALK is a rare opportunity to explore Hays Woods, the proposed site of a new city park.

Hays Woods is a large tract of former industrial land that has mostly reverted to forest. On this walk, we will make our way from the southern edge of Hay’s Woods toward a scenic overlook at the ridgeline, with views across the Monongahela River to iconic Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Along the route we will discuss the natural features of the site in the context of its past as a former coal mine and its future as a City Park, with the idea that it will become a living laboratory for urban forestry, conservation, and recreation.

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Natalie Settles’ work intermingles the history and inquiries of art and science. She traces the bigger picture within pattern and chaos, the ideal and particular, damage and decay in the life of beauty and complexity, and things that are powerful, intricate and also fleeting. Through her practice, she has collaborated with researchers in biochemistry, botany, and physiology, as well as developmental and evolutionary biology. Part research, part meditation, her work in various media often takes the form of drawing and large-scale drawing installations.


Charles Bier is a western Pennsylvania native and studied ecology at the University of Wisconsin. He has broad experience in regional flora, fauna, ecosystems and conservation issues. Much of his focus has been on rare and endangered species, natural communities and biodiversity conservation. Since 1981 he has worked for WPC; first as part of the PA Natural Heritage Program, and now broadly providing science support across programs. He is a Research Associate at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the Section of Invertebrate Zoology, and serves on several state committees including the Governor’s Invasive Species Council, DCNR’s Ecosystem Management Advisory Committee and technical committees of the PA Biological Survey.


Kara Smith is the Principal Environmental Planner in the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning. She is the project manager for Hays Woods park master planning, and has an extensive background in urban design and park design as a landscape architect and environmental planner.