Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
|Founded||1996 (18 years ago)|
|Origins||Schenley Park Conservancy|
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for the people of Pittsburgh by restoring the park system to excellence in partnership with the city. Work is conducted primarily in the seven regional parks of Pittsburgh: Frick Park, Schenley Park, Highland Park, Riverview Park, Mellon Square, Mellon Park, and Schenley Plaza although the Conservancy works in other city parks as resources permit.
The Conservancy was founded in 1996 by Meg Cheever, former publisher of Pittsburgh Magazine, who modeled it on other private/public partnerships in Louisville, Kentucky, New York City, and Buffalo, New York. It has a constituency of over 8,000 members.
The Conservancy raises funds to help the city maintain, repair, and improve the parks with environmental sensitivity, respect for the parks' historic landscape design, and attention to the recreational needs of modern users. After holding public meetings, the Conservancy and city published the Regional Parks Master Plan in 2000 as a 20-year blueprint for parks restoration. Work outlined includes capital projects and ecological restoration.
To date, the Conservancy has completed nine capital projects:
- The Reynolds Street gatehouse entrance to Frick Park
- The restoration of the Schenley Park Visitor Center
- The creation of a babbling brook to dechlorinate waste water from Highland Park's water filtration plant
- The ecological restoration of the Phipps Run natural area in Schenley Park
- The restoration of the Highland Park Entry Garden
- The conversion of Schenley Plaza from a parking lot into the grand entrance to Schenley Park
- The creation of a seasonal pools wetland habitat along Highland Park's Washington Boulevard
- The restoration of the Riverview Park Chapel Shelter and its surrounding landscape
- The restoration of the Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain in Schenley Plaza
The Conservancy is also involved in ecological maintenance of the parks, which includes control of invasive plants, seeding of native trees and shrubs, and the creation of sustainable trails. The Conservancy works with other environmental organizations as well as with volunteers, recording over 4,000 hours of volunteer labor annually. The Conservancy is heavily involved in the Urban EcoStewards program, where citizens receive training in ecological restoration techniques in order to care for a particular plot of parkland and monitor its progress over time.
In 2008, the Conservancy served as the local host for the 2008 International Urban Parks Conference, "Body and Soul: Parks and the Health of Great Cities." More than 600 park advocates from 10 countries and 31 states convened in Pittsburgh to explore the greening of the city and the crucial role parks play in the health of cities' people and economies.
Future Conservancy projects include building a new Environmental Center at Frick Park, replacing the former structure that burned in 2002; the complete ecological restoration of Schenley Park's Panther Hollow watershed and rebuilding of the boathouse at Panther Hollow Lake; and the implementation of a comprehensive trail and signage program in the four regional parks.
Through the Urban Eco-Stewards program, volunteers sign up to maintain a specific section of a park. The stewards perform activities such as trail maintenance, invasive species removal, trash removal, and tree plantings. All Eco-Stewards are trained by the conservancy to carry out their duties in a proper way.
- Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website
- Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy blog
- Archive of 2008 International Urban Parks Conference materials
- Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy on Twitter
- Pittsburgh park photos on Flickr
- Gigapan images of Pittsburgh's parks
- Pittsburgh Dept. of Parks & Recreation website
- William Loeffler (2000). Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy profile: story by Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved May 14, 2007.