About Us

Since 1991, Friends of the Riverfront has worked to protect and restore the riverfront in the Pittsburgh region through trail development and stewardship after decades of legacy pollution. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail now encompasses nearly 30 miles of urban and suburban riverfront trails along both banks of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. Through broad and diverse collaborations, we continue to work towards and promote environmental restoration, economic vitality, and public health benefits for Allegheny County and Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Our mission

Build safe, clean, and accessible riverfront trails as part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system to create and maintain an outstanding experience for trail users while providing economic, environmental, and health benefits to the Pittsburgh region.

The Staff

Kelsey Ripper

Executive Director

After growing up riding her bike on the trails and rowing the rivers of Pittsburgh, Kelsey lived and worked in New York City as a nonprofit manager and then as a nonprofit and economic development attorney. Her first introduction to Friends of the Riverfront was as a board member and volunteer. Before joining Friends as Executive Director, Kelsey was the Director of the Microenterprise Project at Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS), an economic development program that provides free legal assistance to under-resourced small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Prior to working at VOLS, Kelsey was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Lawyers Alliance for New York where she designed and implemented a program to provide legal services to nonprofit clients addressing food security. Kelsey has a J.D. from Fordham Law School and a B.A. in Environmental Studies and American Studies from Fordham University. She continues to hike, bike, and row along Pittsburgh's rivers.

Amy O’Neill

Development Director

With a background ranging from grant-writing to animal behavior to team management, Amy is a non-profit renaissance woman. Over the past two decades she honed her talents in the field of wildlife conservation as a veterinary technician, animal caretaker, educator, volunteer coordinator, event planner, project manager, grant writer and fundraiser. In her role as the Development Director for both the Friends of the Riverfront and Allegheny Cleanways, she provides support for our members and partners and builds new relationships with individuals and organizations throughout the region. As a child, Amy spent her summers on her grandfather’s pontoon boat discovering her love of wildlife and the river trails. Currently, she lives in the Alle-Kiski Valley with her husband, son, and fluffy dog and serves on the boards of the North Hills Amateur Hockey Association and Highlands Hockey Club.

Courtney Mahronich Vita

Director of Trail Development

Courtney earned her B.A. in Political Science and M.S. in Environmental Studies from Point Park University. Prior to working with Friends of the Riverfront, Courtney spent over two and a half years working with 21 communities along long‑distance trails in western Pennsylvania, working as a Student Conservation Association Fellow and Project Coordinator with the Trail Town Program® where she provided technical assistance on the community and economic impact of trails on the region and their communities. She ran the Trail Town Certified Network, promoting trail friendly and sustainable business practices, doubling its membership to over 120. As Director of Trail Development at Friends of the Riverfront, Courtney works to extend the Three Rivers Heritage Trail; one of her primary focuses is the extension of the Trail along the Allegheny River corridor from Millvale to Freeport, where it will connect to and become a part of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, as well as several other regional trails.

Rosie Wise

Community Initiative Coordinator

Originally from rural central Pennsylvania, Rosie is a Pittsburgh transplant. She earned her B.S. from Lycoming College, has over 20 years of experience in the plant sciences field, and was born with a green thumb. Her previous job role included restoration management of Frick Woods Nature Reserve, 100+ acres of Frick Park. She played a major role in helping the Frick Environmental Center and it’s 4 acre native landscaped campus receive the Living Building Challenge certification. She also works with private landowners on habitat restoration projects to reestablish native plant species. Her duties with Friends of the Riverfront involve executing goals related to the volunteer stewardship events and activities and transitioning the stewardship program into a more neighborhood‑based, self‑sustaining program. She enjoys hiking the trails less traveled and discovering new trails with her furry companions.

Kaitlyn Roth

Communications Specialist

After completing a year of service with Friends of the Riverfront through the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE), Kaitlyn has officially joined the team. A native of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, she completed her undergraduate degree at Juniata College studying Communication Advocacy and Biology. During her time at Juniata, Kaitlyn served as a Newman Civic Fellow, a NextGen Climate Pennsylvania Fellow, and interned with Central PA SURJ. During her service year with Friends of the Riverfront, Kaitlyn was nominated by her fellow PULSE Fellows to the position of Diversity and Inclusion Chair of the PULSE Outreach Board of the Leadership Committee. In her free time, Kaitlyn enjoys getting outdoors to hike and ride her bike through nature preserves. So far, her favorite thing about living in Pittsburgh has been walking along the North Shore in the early evening.

The Board

Stacey Vernallis

President

Cathy Rogers

Secretary

Durwood Hill

Treasurer

Mary Ellen Ramage

 

Marla Meyer Papernick

 

Tom Demagall

 

Jeanne Clark

 

Sam Hartzman

 

Chris Hetz

 

Nick Ross

 

Ron Steffey

 

Anna Tang

 

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