Nesting great horned owls, outdoor Zumba dance and fitness classes and hitting the trails are among the winter offerings in North Park and Hartwood Acres.
As more people frequent the county parks in record numbers seeking refuge from the pandemic, they continue to visit during the colder months, said Andy Grobe, assistant deputy director of recreation for Allegheny County Parks.
Because of public interest, Allegheny County Parks are upping its offerings of activities. “We’re been busier than ever,” Grobe said. “We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy nature during daylight hours when we are open.”
Walking, running and biking are by far the most popular activities. The parks staff clears snowy and icy roads and walkways and closes some roads in North Park in snowy weather including the loop around the athletic fields and a large section of North Ridge Drive.
“People love it when we shut down certain roads because they don’t have to worry about cars,” Grobe said.
Many events are on hold at Hartwood as the area around the mansion is closed for the installation of a sculpture garden. Work is expected to finish in the spring.
For something different, an outdoor Zumba dance and fitness class will be offered at North Park.
Hiking and mountain biking is an all-season activity on 48 miles of trails in North Park and 14.5 miles at Hartwood. An Allegheny County Parks trails app is available for free download to help walkers explore the entire park.
Nature programming including guided hikes, owl prowls and more are offered by park rangers at North Park and Hartwood as well as Latodami Nature Center in North Park.
Winter is a great time of year to see a variety of wildlife, said Chris Kubiak, director of education at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. Audubon offers winter programs at its Fox Chapel headquarters as well as the Succop Nature Park in Penn Township in Butler and Buffalo Creek Nature Park in Buffalo Township.
Kubiak grew up in Franklin Park by Big Sewickley Creek where he learned to bird.
“People have this misconception that once winter hits, there’s nothing interesting to experience in nature,” he said. “But from a bird standpoint, there’s lots of cool stuff to experience.”