November 2013: South Park

South Park, Pennsylvania

South Park’s 2,013 acres were developed in isolated rural splendor in 1927. Today it is in the heart of the most populated area in the region outside of Pittsburgh proper. Earlier, in frontier times, Oliver Miller built a log cabin along Catfish Run in 1772. In the summer of 1794 musket fire erupted on the site by protesters of a new tax on whiskey to retire debts from the American Revolution. A militia of more than 12,000 men was assembled and George Washington took command to march on western Pennsylvania from Harrisburg. It was one of only two times a sitting President personally commanded the military in the field. The “Whiskey Rebellion” was squashed without opposition and signaled to the new American people that changes to the law would have to take place through Constitutional means or the government would meet such threats to disturb the peace with force. The Miller family owned the land until selling out to the County in 1927; a stone house built in 1808 remains a focal point of South Park. 

Most dog owners content themselves with the easy walking along the more than two miles of bike path along Corrigan Drive through the center of the park. The thoroughfare is named for Douglas Corrigan who in 1938 took off from New York for California but landed in Ireland instead. He claimed it was a navigational error. In fact, “Wrongway Corrigan” was likely protesting bureaucratic red tape that denied him an overseas flying permit. To hike on natural surfaces try the wooded mountain bike paths along East Park Drive. If the trails are not crowded with bikes your dog can get about an hour of hiking on these sporty hills. If the wheeled traffic is too daunting, there are plenty of route options to cut your explorations short.  

Your dog can’t go in but you still may want to stop in to see the South Park buffalo herd. In the park’s nascent days it seemed obvious that parks should have wild animals and that the ideal caretakers would be real Indians. The County brought two tribes of Indians from a Montana reservation to live in its parks when they opened in 1927. Chief Big Beaver and his tribe went to North Park, and Chief Wild Eagle and his tribe went to South Park with great fanfare. Thirty-six head of buffalo were trucked in by means of a motor caravan, led by a tank. Things quickly went awry, however. In North Park, the Indians cared for the herd as they had done for generations - killing animals they needed for food and clothing. The Plains Indians were sent home to Big Sky country.

Take PA 51 (Clairton Boulevard) south to Route 88 (Bownsville Road) and go west to park entrance at Corrigan Drive.