the bird’s song

bird2For many Mt. Lebanon residents, Bird Park is a well-kept secret. Even people who have watched countless soccer games on Bird Park field may never have explored the wooded, passive-use green space that others recognize as a community treasure.

Bird Park has existed for more than four decades, but it has never looked better, thanks to the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy, which has worked doggedly to clear it of invasive vegetation (with the help of the Steel City Grazer goats), the many local Eagle Scouts who have improved the park with their projects, and Mt. Lebanon’s public works department, which collaborates on many initiatives that help preserved the park’s pristine beauty and ensure it is safe for walkers (both dog and human).bird1

Bird is one of only three Mt. Lebanon parks where dogs on leash are permitted (Robb Hollow and Twin Hills, also), but many people enjoy a stroll without a four-legged friend and are pleased to find that the dogs and their owners are, for the most part, respectful and friendly. The park is actually a great place to meet people—almost everyone stops to say hey and chat briefly (and it’s easy to tell who doesn’t feel like gabbing).

You can enter the park at the lot on Beadling Road across from Markham School and from several other spots closer to Washington Road or Mayfair Drive, but the best and easiest place to start out, with or without the dog, is the parking lot off Cedar Boulevard. You’ll enter a flat meadow, where the fire circle currently is getting a nice makeover, thanks to the Scouts. There’s a water fountain there (and also one farther into the park near the picnic shelter), but you might want to take your own water along on a hot day, just in case.

Beyond the meadow the park becomes hilly, but the nice thing is that recently railroad ties have been embedded even gentle slopes to help provide sure footing and there is a rustic wooden stairway on the steeper slope. And the park is so much easier to navigate than it once was, because the huge fallen trees that once blocked many trails, meaning you had to crawl over the trunks or find a way around, have been chopped away, creating a clear passage and in some places, a good place to sit on a stump and rest. There’s a new sturdy bridge over the stream, which tends to be dry in mid-summer but grows to a good-size creek in rainy seasons (If your dog likes water, consider whether you want him to flop in the stream, because he’ll need to be hosed down when you get home!)

The trail diverges in many places (and you can walk all the way from Cedar to Washington Road), but if you want to end up back at your car, it’s a pleasant hike up the hill and over the bridge, where the terrain levels off and you’ll arrive at the spanking clean picnic shelter. Families and small groups often picnic there, and if you need to catch your breath (or are dying to check your phone), there’s a comfortable bench next to the water fountain. Could even be a great spot to enjoy a book.

Enjoy unusual the “sounds of silence” while you’re in the park, only occasionally interrupted by the hum of a lawn mower on Mayfair or Youngwood.  On a sunny day, don’t forget to look up—and down—to appreciate clear blue skies peaking through the treetops and dappled sunlight on the green below.bird3

If you’re an old-timer, you might remember that the space that became Bird Park was once slated to become a trailer park.  Thank goodness that did not happen, and instead we all can enjoy a patch of forest green just a few minutes from home.

Although I never knew him, I think that the veteran after whom the park was named, Tom Bird, who grew up nearby and was  the first Mt. Lebanon resident to die in Vietnam, would be very pleased to have this gem of spot—which he probably explored long before it became a park—as his legacy.

 

 

 

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