The Nine Mile Run stream emerges in Frick Park, flows through the slag dump and empties into the Monongahela River. The undeveloped space could connect the already popular Frick Park to the riverfront.

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"Perhaps the most striking opportunity
noted for a large park, is the valley of Nine Mile Run. Its long meadows of varying width would Make ideal playfields; the stream, when it is freed from sewage, will be an attractive and interesting element in the landscape; the wooded slopes on either side give ample opportunity for enjoyment of the forest, for shaded walks and cool resting Places."

-Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., 1910

Nine Mile Run is a historic stream valley, identified for its beauty as well as its wastewater problems. By 1923, the valley was selected by influential Pittsburghers for a city park but was subsequently purchased by a steel industry slag disposal firm. Between 1922 and 1970 it was used as a a dumping ground for industrial slag from Pittsburgh area Steel Mills. The Nine Nile Run watershed is a natural drainage basin of the Monongahela River. Approximately 34% of the entire watershed is classified as undeveloped land. In 1995, the City of Pittsburgh commissioned a master planning study of the 230 acre site, now owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The project will result in 100 acres of open space to become the "Frick Park Extension" and the new housing development known as "Sommerset at Frick Park".


The Nine Mile Run stream is the last flowing surface water within the contiguous land mass of the historic city of Pittsburgh. With the development of "Sommerset at Frick Park" the stream will be surrounded by a contiguous public space from Frick Park to the Monongahela River. While the houses are built on the top of the slag plateau, Pittsburgh City Planning will be vegetating the lower slopes, and developing the Frick Park Extension.

The STUDIO for Creative Inquiry has been working with Pittsburgh City Planning and citizen of the region, to develop a concensus based master planning process as well as a new ecosystem based design approach to the Frick Park Extension. The project team, is working off the original Frick Park intent of a wooded interior dedicated to wildlife and nature experiences, while recognizing the challenges of sustainable and affordable open space.

In the summer of 1999, The project team will conduct a number of vegetation experiments on the lower slag slopes, as the development team begins grading on the upper plateaus and slopes. The Frick Park extension and the restoration of the Nine Mile Run stream will provide a potential aesthetic and economic model of the benefits of open space development and ecological reclamation on brownfield properties occuring along streams and rivers.

The STUDIO for Creative Inquiry's involvement in the Nine Mile Run project is supported by the Heinz Endowments.

The slag heap rises steeply to the edge of the current development and overlooks the stream and path to the right. Although the water is polluted, the stream is surrounded by plants and wildlife.






The Nine Mile Run Project team has conducted three years of analysis and community dialogue on the issues of public space, art and ecology in the context of the controversial Sommerset development in the slag-filled hills of Pittsburgh's East End. Realizing the greenway project in the development would fulfill famous park designer Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.'s vision for an extension of Frick Park and East End access to the Monongahela River.

Directed by artists Bob Bingham, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, and attorney John Stephen, the Nine Mile Run Greenway Project's interdisciplinary team includes a wide range of practitioners, including academics, Pittsburgh city officials and members of the community. Pittsburgh city planners Joan Blaustein and John Rahaim have provided access, overview and guidance as the team worked to develop its innovative plan and process. Sue Thompson and John Rawlins of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History have studied and inventoried land biodiversity, while Pennsylvania State University scientists, geomorphologist Peggy Johnson and wetland scientist Andrew Cole have analyzed the aquatic systems. David Dzombak, a civil engineer at Carnegie Mellon University, has tested the stream and analyzed various outfalls to pinpoint failures in adjacent sewage systems. Pennsylvania State University landscape architect Ken Tamminga has analyzed landscape ecology and restoration practices as they relate to the design process.

Commenting on the team's unique creative practice, Collins says, "We approach Nine Mile Run as a post-industrial landscape, an interconnected system of opportunities often constrained by industrial policies and practices. Our work is a systems intervention that addresses perception, communication and education. We engage our colleagues in the sciences to help us understand the issues, then we take specific action to affect the decision-making process."

Nine Mile Run Team Project Goals

  • Establish artists as a creative source for environmental and community change;
  • Encourage dialogue about complex post-industrial issues utilizing contemporary technologies;
  • Identify and model sustainable approaches to urban open space development;
  • Promote bio-diversity and managed succession standards for brownfields reclamation.
The project maintains a Community Resource and Research Center located off Commercial Avenue in the proposed public greenway. Staff at the Center monitors current usage and habitat of the area.
The Center is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and every Sunday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. For more information on the Nine Mile Run Greenway Project, stop by the trailer.

This project is sponsored by: 
The Carnegie Mellon University STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

The STUDIO for Creative Inquiry was founded in 1989 to support experimental and cross-disciplinary work in the arts. It carries out this mission by:

  • Providing artist residencies with stipends, commissions and facilities.
  • Maintaining a work environment populated by a broad range of practitioners, including resident fellows, Carnegie Mellon faculty and students, and other associates.
  • Facilitating access to human and technical resources at Carnegie Mellon and throughout the Pittsburgh community.
  • Developing public venues for presenting innovative work.