Conservancy looks to create accessible areas for people to connect with nature at Frick Park
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is looking to create a series of accessible sensory areas in Frick Park.
Many of the sites the conservancy uses for nature programming and other activities at the park aren’t accessible for everyone, said Brandon Riley, the conservancy’s capital projects manager.
“We’re trying to provide that ability for people of all abilities to connect to nature,” Riley said.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy plans to use a 3-acre area at the park to create a quarter-mile-long trail with several gathering places and activities along it.
While details haven’t been finalized, Riley said the conservancy would like to create two or three larger gathering spaces where Pittsburgh Public Schools could bring students for classroom instruction at the park or staff from the conservancy could host educational programs. Several smaller stations would offer seating areas, self-guided activities or signage to point out elements of nature.
“The intent here is to protect nature as much as possible and tuck in these experiences where we can,” Riley said. “Nature is really the star. We’re trying to weave our way through it and preserve that nature, but also make it accessible to people.”
Accessibility is at the heart of the conservancy’s planning, Riley said. Paths would be able to accommodate wheelchairs, seating areas would be available for people who may struggle to walk longer distances and guide ropes or other edging would be placed to ensure people with vision impairments can stay on the trails, he said.
The key is to help people use their senses to connect with nature, Riley said.
“That could be identifying things in nature you can see, you can smell, you can taste or feel,” Riley said.
For example, he said, there could be stations that encourage people to pause and hear sounds such as birds or a breeze. Activities like stepping on tree stumps could allow people to practice balance, while also touching and feeling various types of trees.
None of the city’s other public parks have designated accessible sensory areas such as the ones planned at Frick Park.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is accepting public feedback and suggestions for the site. An online survey on the city’s EngagePGH platform will be open until Monday. Riley said there will be additional opportunities for public engagement once the conservancy presents its design plans, likely in late March or April.
He estimated the project will cost around $750,000, but the price tag could change based on what elements the public would like to see incorporated.
The conservancy is hoping to secure garner grant funding for the project, Riley said.
The earliest he expects construction to begin is spring 2024. If work begins then, he said work could wrap up late that summer or early in the fall.
This article originally appeared in the TribLive on Feb. 17, 2023, and was written by Julia Felton. Read the original article here.
Julia Felton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Julia by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .