Since 1991, Friends of Riverfront has thrived as an independent nonprofit organization with the goal of “riverfront revitalization” along the banks of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers in Pittsburgh and the surrounding metropolitan area. Friends achieved this objective by developing the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and various other river-related infrastructure (such as boat launches and the Three Rivers Water Trail), which intersect with the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).
A small group of environmental activists and writers, including University of Pittsburgh geography professor Edward Muller, environmental lawyer John Stephen, magazine columnist R. Todd Erkel, environmentalist Martin O’Malley, and then-State Representative (later City of Pittsburgh mayor) Tom Murphy, formed a concept plan for the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in November of 1990. By February 14, 1991, Friends claimed nearly 35 miles of riverfront for public recreational use and vowed in their mission statement to “plan, promote and negotiate as necessary” to develop and otherwise maintain the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and its particular section of the GAP along the Eliza Furnace Trail.
Friends’ involvement with GAP development began in 1998 with the establishment of the Eliza Furnace Trail. Between 1998 and 2012, Friends assisted in fundraising and subsequently developing the South Side extension segment (1999), the Baldwin Borough segment (2002), the Hot Metal Bridge (2007), Mon-Wharf or The Point segment (2010), and a portion of the Keystone Metals segment. When trail construction on the GAP ceased, Friends continued to be a steadfast fundraiser and partner within the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) in dealing with matters associated with the GAP. Presently, Friends organizes trail clean-up days and other public events that bring trail users together on the trail and highlight riverfront revitalization. Friends also sponsor the Riverfronts Naturally program which relies on volunteer participation to keep Pittsburgh’s riverfront trails clean and lush with vegetation. Friends of the Riverfront’s Trail Development Program continues to expand the Three Rivers Heritage Trail throughout Allegheny County by providing technical assistance to municipalities and private landowners. Friends provide support with land acquisition, fundraising, trail design, and construction.
For more information regarding Friends of the Riverfront visit their website at https://friendsoftheriverfront.org/.
2020 Friends Staff:
Kelsey Ripper, Executive Director
Amy O’Neill, Development Director
Courtney Mahronich Vita, Director of Trail Development
Rosie Wise, Community Initiative Coordinator
Friends Board Officers:
Stacey Vernallis, President
Cathy Schnaubelt Rogers, Secretary
Durwood Hill, Treasurer
Author: Reed Hertzler with contributions from Friends
 Friends of the Riverfront Forging Connections Book Committee, Forging Connections: Friends of the Riverfront; Twenty Years of Building the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, (Friends of the Riverfront, 2011), 1.
 Friends of the Riverfront Forging Connections Book Committee, Friends of the Riverfront; Twenty Years of Building the Three Rivers Heritage Trail 17.
 Friends of the Riverfront Forging Connections Book Committee, Friends, 30-37.
 Friends of the Riverfront Forging Connections Book Committee, Friends, 60.