cost: moderate
cost: moderate
workload: moderate
workload: moderate
time commitment: moderate
time commitment: moderate

This region has many beautiful wooded spots, yet the connection between people and the ecosystems they live in is often broken by poor infrastructure. Vacant lots can be used to enhance the entrance to trails, and when aggregated, can be used to create new trails.  Trails can serve a variety of uses like walking, running, cycling, cross-country skiing, or simply commuting from one place to another. To enhance an existing trail, consider improving the entrance with timber, stone, or brick-lined pathways and directing signage.

There are a handful of organizations in the region that work to create and maintain trails, including the Friends of the Riverfront, Trail Pittsburgh, Riverlife, Allegheny Land Trust, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.


1. The first step is to decide whether you want to enhance an existing trail or create a brand new trail. If this is your first vacant lot project, it may be a good idea to start small by enhancing an existing trail.

2. If you’re unsure of what trails already exist in your community, start by taking a walk around the neighborhood and talking to some neighbors. Perhaps there are trails that go unnoticed because they are overgrown with weeds or otherwise out of site.

3. When you choose a trail to work on, think about what the goals of improving that trail are. Do you want to simply make the trail more safe for walkers? Do you want to increase use of the trail? Do you want to make it an inviting and attractive place to walk? Make sure your design is tailored to these needs.


  • Encourages walking or hiking for physical exercise
  • Walking on trails has been said to increase emotional wellbeing
  • Clear paths increase sense of safety

Suitability and Considerations

Our region has several great opportunities for trail projects. With our numerous greenways, stairs and paper streets there are many opportunities to take the path less traveled and explore new territory. That said, these types of projects are typically chosen the presence of some existing thoroughfare, whether physical or cultural. Physically, these opportunities may manifest out of convenience (ever seen a path worn down in the grass because so many people have cut through?). Culturally, there may be an opportunity to connect visitors to the historical significance of a site or community. Visit the Research page to learn more about how to discover your lot’s history.

To do a trail project, the qualities of the vacant lot being used will have to be considered. Check out the lot assessment page to see how different aspects of the lot will affect how you carry out your project.

Possible Materials

  • Gravel or wood chips for walkways
  • Plants/trees
  • Mulch
  • Lighting