Coloring inside the lines has never been a characteristic of Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, Landforce. Since its inception in 2016, the team has developed a human-centered, strengths-based approach to workforce development and land stewardship. With this approach, they provide skills, experience, and connections to people that have been excluded from the workforce.
Landforce believes in building upon people’s existing skill set, by combining soft skills training with hands-on land stewardship skills to prepare crew members for a future in environmental work. By investing in people who are often unable to get family-sustaining jobs because of discriminatory and often racist policies like over-incarceration, generational poverty caused by redlining, and unfair hiring practices, Landforce is pushing against these structural barriers. The skill sets people gain while working at Landforce translate well into a variety of entry-level jobs that have clear career ladders, including utilities, public works, and a variety of environmental jobs.
This summer, Landforce took advantage of a unique opportunity to help improve the City of Pittsburgh’s city steps. Historically utilized as a mode of transportation to get mill workers to and from work, many city steps are overgrown, have peeling paint, and are covered in vines. This unique pedestrian infrastructure is now in need of support to ensure that future generations of Pittsburghers can utilize this often overlooked urban treasure.
Landforce crews removed invasive species like bush honeysuckle and grapevine that had run rampant alongside and across the steps and removed sediment from the stair treads. Once the vegetation and steps were cleared, our partner, Allegheny Cleanways removed debris and hauled away garbage that had accumulated in the overgrowth over the years. The crew then repainted the chipping handrails. Finally, Landforce crews planted native shrubs including red chokeberry, buttonbush, silky dogwood, and winterberry. These bushes will shelter the cleared space, and help ensure that native plants root in place of pesky invasives. (Our step project was funded by The Garden Club of Allegheny County, a member of The Garden Club of America).
We expect this won’t be the last time you see the Landforce crew’s brightly colored shirts working on city steps. Our team hopes this is the first of many opportunities to encourage Pittsburghers to think differently about our urban outdoors. The team is eager to take on new projects that expand the number of employment and training opportunities for our crew members. Whether it be a walk in the forest or exploring Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods via the city steps, the importance of urban greenspaces is undeniable.