For 20 years, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has been looking after the great Pennsylvania city’s most prestigious parks.
Following the collapse of the steel industry, a group of citizens concerned with the deteriorating conditions of the city’s historic parks decided to step up, forming the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. The conservancy, under an official public-private partnership agreement, focused on the city’s then-four regional parks: Frick, Highland, Riverview, and Schenley.
To date, the conservancy has raised nearly $97 million dollars for park projects, according to Scott Roller, the group’s senior manager of communications. Seventeen projects have been completed, ranging from $19 million for construction of a new environmental center in Frick Park to a half-million dollar renovation of McKinley Park that will begin later this year.
“Pittsburgh loves its parks. They would exist no matter what. But the PPC allowed these projects to be done decades sooner than they would have without our support,” Roller said.
Among those projects:
Frick Environmental Center opened its doors in September. The center serves as a welcome center, a living laboratory for hands-on environmental education, and a gateway to the woodlands of Frick Park.
Mellon Square, a 1.37-acre park built in 1955 in the heart of Uptown, was deteriorating. The project refurbished the square’s signature fountains, reinstalled dramatic lighting, and restored its unique terrazzo paving. Landscaping included a wide array of plantings, and a terrace was added over Smithfield Street. A maintenance fund was established to prevent it from falling back into disrepair. The project spurred dramatic economic development in the blocks surrounding its perimeter.
In McKinley Park, work will begin this year to install huge cisterns underground to hold stormwater for slow release deeper into the ground, preventing it from rushing down a steep hillside and flooding nearby properties. In 2013, the PPC installed a permanent, permeable parking lot and restored a 1930s stone wall at the park’s entrance. —Cindy Landrum