Chores. The grind. Tedium. Labor. Maintenance is rarely thought of fondly.

And few people are inspired by sameness. We don’t wake up thinking, “Wow! My sidewalk remains unbroken!  The trees in my park are still standing!” Instead we prefer to imagine our creations as permanent, somehow set apart from time, and nature. But the only constant in nature is change: plants grow, spread, die, decay, become soil again; paint fades, chips, peels; wood rots; metal rusts; concrete cracks; even the land shifts, eroding gradually, season by season, rutted by water and blown away by the wind.

The real unsung hero in this endless battle is the routine maintenance worker, whether a gardener, a janitor, a housekeeper, a public employee or a volunteer keeping up their community. These people do the work that no one notices – work that gets noticed only when they’ve done a bad job, because we only tend to notice when things fall apart (e.g. Pittsburgh’s Perennial Pothole Problems).


But even a cursory look in the dictionary exposes the heroism inherent in maintenance. To maintain something is to:

“preserve from failure or decline”

“sustain against opposition or danger”

“uphold and defend”

“continue or persevere in”

“carry on”

“keep up”

“support or provide for”

These are the mantras of people everywhere, and describe the goals of some of our deepest relationships: a mother and her children, a king and his castle, a people and their nation, or even humanity and our planet, Earth.

Maintenance is beneficial to the person maintaining, too.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’d much rather exercise by digging holes and moving rocks than pumping iron at the gym. I know I’m staying in shape, and keeping the environment in shape while I’m at it! Why exercise in a stuffy, sweaty room, running in place and lifting things only to put them right back down, when you can exercise outside while improving your community?


Land stewardship and other maintenance work can provide valuable experience for those with barriers to employment as well. That’s why we’re working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Mount Washington Community Development Corporation to establish the Pittsburgh Conservation Corps, which will hire those underserved individuals to build trails in our City’s parks, restore ecologies or maintain vacant lots. The crews will receive training and support in a variety of skills, from arboriculture to job readiness, all the while improving green space throughout the city and building the capacity of groups like the Department of Public Works as well as local landscaping companies.

Of course, we know maintaining things isn’t easy, so we’ve made a little guide to help you along.  You can find it and other resources on, here.  

So next time you have to repair, repaint or replant—in fact, each time you step on to your site to upkeep it, whether it’s your backyard, a community garden, a park, an Ambassador project, or a Green Playce; remember: you are a hero, so persevere, sustain,



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