Community Guide: Shaler
Aug 31, 2015 11:33AM ● Published by Jill Cueni Cohen
Gallery: Shaler [17 Images] Click any image to expand.
“People who live here tend to stay here, and we notice that their children also tend to buy property in Shaler,” said Rogers, a lifelong resident who actually grew up in the same building as the Glenshaw Library. Known locally as ‘the White Elephant,’ the library on Butler Plank Road is still serving the public after 120 years and continues to eschew technology. “The library is very dear to people’s hearts,” he added.
Right down the street on the corner of Glenshaw Avenue is an old house that once served the Underground Railroad. “The area has played an interesting role in our country’s history,” said Rogers. Also of historical significance is the fact that Shaler Township was one of the first municipalities in Pittsburgh to allow Jewish burial, and it now contains three small Jewish cemeteries.
Shaler is made up of several well-established neighborhoods: Glenshaw, Bauerstown, Cherry City, Braun, Jeffrey, Dehaven, and Burchfield. “These old neighborhoods make up our community civic groups and organizations, and there are parks in every one of them,” said Rogers, noting that the township has scant commercial property. “In most cases, people in Shaler identify more with their neighborhood than with the township.”
The stately homes that line Mount Royal Boulevard testify to the township’s affluent beginnings, but the area is also rich in geological history. “The tree canopy in Shaler is incredible,” said Rogers, adding that the township dedicates approximately 100 acres of its 11.2 square miles to green space. Shaler’s crown jewel is Fall Run Park. Located just off of Route 8, it features 92 acres of practically pristine land, including a spectacular waterfall, and the park’s ecology is regularly studied by three of Pittsburgh’s major universities.
Knowledge is power in Shaler, as evidenced by the fact that this tiny township sports not one but two libraries. According to Director Sharon McRae, “The Shaler North Hills Library opened its doors on September 26, 1942 with 3,000 books. Today, SNHL is a national, award-winning public library that offers free access to more than 130,000 items including books, movies, high-speed Internet access, quality programming and a knowledgeable, friendly staff. “
SNHL is a nationally designated Family Place Library and is recognized for its services to children and their caregivers. “It leads the way in early literacy outreach, and staff goes where they are asked to serve, regardless of location,” said McRae, adding that SNHL staff works closely with the Shaler Area School District and area private schools to help meet the needs of students. “Recognizing that it is our community that holds the talent, the library regularly connects with and champions local artists, authors, gardeners, comics, car cruisers, engineers, knitters, poets, musicians, community leaders and more. We couldn’t do what we do without such an array of knowledge and talent within our community.”
Community Day takes place on the Fourth of July in Kiwanis Park and on “Lite Up” Night before the holidays. “The Kiwanis Club of Glenshaw purchased the property and donated it to the township,” said Rogers, adding that the group still owns the park’s concession stand and the money goes back into the community, for example, purchasing hot water tanks for homes during the flood following Hurricane Ivan.
Rogers has managed the township for the past 23 years and praised the commission’s seven-member board for staying away from political posturing. Friendly with all of its neighbors and an active member of the North Hills Council of Governments, Shaler recently merged with Hampton for water use. “There has been no change in our water rates for the past three years; the two boards took the political risk to do that for the residents, and the bigger footprint results in better rates,” Rogers said.
Shaler has six volunteer fire companies, a paid EMS service and 26 full time police officers. “This is a very safe community,” said Rogers, adding that despite its massive hills, the township is known for its stellar road maintenance in the wintertime.
“Shaler Township is a phenomenal place to live, work and play because of its residents and its leaders,” said McRae. “Shaler Township and SASD officials are driven, not by self-service, but by excellent service to the community.”
• Sat., Nov. 21: Lite Up Night, 7 p.m., Shaler North Hills Library and Shaler Area Middle School