Autumn represents a changing of seasons, a return to cold weather, and a moment of slowing down after the hustle and bustle of what a hot Pennsylvania summer brings. It’s often a moment of reflection, so we’d like to take a moment and look back upon some of the restoration work and capital projects we’ve put into motion this year.
Honoring History: Allegheny Commons Park North Promenade Restoration Continues
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy broke ground on the second phase of the North Promenade project in Allegheny Commons Park in the summer of 2023. Construction started at Federal Street and North Avenue, continuing to Arch Street. Accessible pathways, dark sky-compliant lighting, additional bench installations, and new park trees are the major features of the next phase of work, which will fulfill the needs and wishes of the Northside community.
Propelling the Power of Nature for All: Frick Environmental Center Outdoor Sensory Classroom
Connecting to nature, especially outdoors, has well-documented benefits for physical and mental health, social well-being, and cognitive development. Unfortunately, most parks and natural spaces do not consider the needs of children with physical and intellectual disabilities and children with different sensory needs. Over the last year, the Parks Conservancy has led a meaningful, inclusive, and accessible community engagement process to solicit feedback from individuals with disabilities, caregivers, teachers, and dozens of Pittsburgh-based organizations serving children with disabilities on the design of a welcoming and accessible trail and outdoor classroom space at the Frick Environmental Center.
Encompassing 3 acres immediately adjacent to the Environmental Center, the project site will feature an accessible 1/3-mile trail that will wind through the woodlands, discovery stations that encourage visitors to pause and participate in activities that promote nature-based learning and engage the senses. Gathering spots will allow visitors to the site to rest, reflect, and reap the benefits of time outdoors.
The project will allow the Parks Conservancy to forge partnerships with new organizations and schools and develop new environmental education programs that consider the needs of learners with exceptionalities and disabilities. Fundraising for the project's construction, long-term care, and programming is ongoing, with construction scheduled to begin in early 2024.
Putting the Mellon Park Action Plan into Action
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy began improving the connectivity, accessibility, and safety on both sides of Mellon Park. This project advances a key priority identified by the broader community in the Mellon Park Action Plan.
The Action Plan, finalized last September through feedback from thousands of park users and over two dozen community-based organizations, represents a unified vision for Mellon Park. Through this project, the Conservancy will improve entrances and install signage throughout the park to create a more inviting, accessible, and welcoming experience for visitors on both the north and south sides of the park. Upgraded entrances and a comprehensive signage package will promote a safer pedestrian experience along Fifth Avenue and ensure consistency between both sides of the park.
Fostering Unity in Baxter Park
The Parks Conservancy recently began developing a community-driven strategy for improving and activating Baxter Park in Homewood. The plan's development is the first step in enabling the Parks Conservancy to move toward the design and construction of a vibrant, more accessible gathering place for Homewood residents.
The primary outcome of this project is to promote a safer, healthier, greener, and cleaner Homewood community and Baxter Park. The park was the highest-ranked space in need of investment on the Equitable Investment Strategy, created by the Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh as a result of input from over 10,000 residents and an analysis of existing park conditions. The Homewood Community Plan and Homewood Clusters Plan recommend renovating and improving Baxter Park.
Upon completion of the community engagement process, the design team will develop a singular, preferred concept plan that responds to community feedback and in collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public Schools. The result will be a grounded, realistic improvement plan that is constructible, maintainable, and responds to the community's needs.
Welcoming Pittsburgh Newest Park: Hays Woods
Recently becoming the City of Pittsburgh’s newest park, Hays Woods encompasses 660 acres of undeveloped forest, valleys, and streams along the southeast end of Pittsburgh and is now home to the largest urban park project undertaken east of the Mississippi River in 75 years.
In 2023, the Parks Conservancy was the first local organization on the ground to begin restoration work in the park. The Parks Conservancy began preliminary invasive species management and trash removal within the park. The property has been neglected for so long, and aggressive invasive species have taken hold of this vital place for respite and recreation. Once work is completed, improved maintenance of the forests, trails, and trailheads will welcome more people into Pittsburgh’s newest green space.
Our capital improvement projects allow us to enact the mission of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy through restoring the parks to excellence and ensuring everyone in Pittsburgh has access to well-maintained green spaces. As the leaves change color and fall from the trees, we hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on all that you’re thankful for, and we hope our wonderful parks system comes to mind!