Daylilies, purple coneflower, sea green juniper, and Eastern redbud trees now provide greenery, beauty, and bursts of natural color along Ohio River Boulevard (Route 65) in Pittsburgh, thanks to the generous support from private donors, the Garden Club of Allegheny County (GCAC), and Rivers Casino.

On June 27, community residents Nelson and Carol Craige, GCAC Grants Committee Chairperson Carol Duggan, Rivers Casino General Manager Craig Clark, and representatives from Western Pennsylvania Conservancy unveiled the sign at the newly planted 1,400 foot-long community gateway flower garden in the median of Route 65.

Financial support from the Craiges, GCAC, and Rivers Casino made it possible for the Conservancy to purchase flowers, trees, mulch, tools, and other materials needed to establish and maintain this unique floral entryway into downtown Pittsburgh. Used by approximately 32,000 daily commuters, Route 65 is a popular thoroughfare connecting communities and suburbs west of Pittsburgh to the North Side, North Shore and downtown Pittsburgh.

“GCAC is pleased to support and be part of greening efforts in key locations across the county, including this new Route 65 garden,” said Duggan, whose club has supported other Conservancy greening projects since 1984, including the Ft. Pitt Tunnel Garden and a new bioswale in Point State Park.

Seeking tangible opportunities to expand their existing sustainability efforts, Rivers General Manager Craig Clark said the casino is pleased to partner with the Conservancy to help sustain this new garden over the next three years.

“The Conservancy has done an amazing job sprucing up our highways and the city, and we are thrilled to support them on this project along Ohio River Boulevard,” said Clark.

This new Route 65 garden joins three other Conservancy entryway gardens – Parkway West at the Ft. Pitt Tunnel, Parkway East at the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, and Route 51 at the Liberty Bridge – that provide aesthetically pleasing landscapes enjoyed by tens of thousands of commuters each day. Not only do these entryway gardens bring a unique identity, beauty, character, and charm to Pittsburgh, they are also important urban wildlife areas for birds and pollinators such as butterflies and bees. Vital near busy roadways, the trees in these gardens absorb CO2 and release oxygen back into the air.

Current road construction activities provided an ideal time for planning, design, and construction of the flower beds before planting the Route 65 garden. The Conservancy also partnered with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to coordinate planting and landscaping activities around road and lane closures. PennDOT provided mulch, landscaping fabric, topsoil, and planter boxes as part of the $25.2 million Route 65 Improvement Project.

Interest to turn the concrete median into green space has been decades in the making. Twenty years ago, the Craiges began working with the Conservancy to help transform the corridor between the Manchester neighborhood and the West End Bridge into a healthy and vibrant green space. They helped plant a pilot perennial garden along Route 65 to determine which plants would best tolerate the challenging environment of exhaust fumes, salt spray, and limited shade and water. Perennials such as serviceberry and forsythia proved to be tolerant and are now among the plants used to provide year-round beauty and visual interest for this new garden.

“It’s very rewarding to partner with such a committed local business and residents to make our communities more beautiful and environmentally healthier places to live,” said Cynthia Carrow, vice president of government and community relations for the Conservancy. “We sincerely appreciate the support of Rivers Casino, the Craiges, Garden Club of Allegheny County, PennDOT, and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. This garden would not be possible if not for all of their support and commitment.”