Parks Conservancy Recipient Of $437K+ Great Urban Parks Campaign Grant For McKinley Park Green Infrastructure

AUG 8, 2016

Pittsburgh one of four cities awarded total of $1.75M; McKinley Park project to address stormwater, park entrance, community trail connections

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has been awarded a $437,500 2016 Great Urban Parks Campaign grant for McKinley Park Green Infrastructure projects by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and American Planning Association (APA). Grants totaling $1.75 million in support of green infrastructure projects in Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Denver were announced today, and were selected from a national pool of applicants. Green infrastructure in urban parks is an efficient way to reduce flooding, improve water quality, improve wildlife habitat, and increase biodiversity, all while providing opportunities for access to nature and outdoor recreation.

The Parks Conservancy’s McKinley Park project – located in Pittsburgh’s Beltzhoover neighborhood - will be undertaken in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh.  The Great Urban Parks Campaign grant will be used to address the first priority identified by the community in the recently completed McKinley Park Master Plan – capturing stormwater runoff from streets surrounding the “Chicken Hill” area and storing it underground for slow release, with improved park entrances and trail connections to a community gathering space.  

The Parks Conservancy’s previous work in McKinley Park has included an entrance area parking lot surfaced with porous asphalt that allows storm water to be absorbed into the ground, rain gardens to receive water from the parking lot, and accessible walkways from the street to the playground and the basketball court. The stone wall dating from the 1930s at the entrance of the park was carefully restored to historic detail. 

The Great Urban Parks Campaign grant will help further the Parks Conservancy’s Green Infrastructure (GI) work, eventually adding to a slate of current and completed GI projects that includes Highland Park’s babbling brook and seasonal pools, Schenlely Park’s Beacon Street meadow and infiltration trenches,  Bob O’Connor Golf Course retentive grading, and the previously mentioned McKinley Park entrance and rain garden. “The Parks Conservancy’s green infrastructure work brings value to Pittsburgh through stormwater management and improved health of park ecosystems, supportive habitat for plants and animals, and visual enhancement of the park landscape,” said Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Director of Community Projects Heather Sage. “We are thrilled to continue this work by bringing these benefits to McKinley Park and the communities that surround it.”

Pittsburgh Project Partners

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy – celebrating their 20th Anniversary in 2016 – has raised $92M to date for Pittsburgh’s parks, and works closely with national, city, county, and community organizations in planning, design, construction, and completion of projects. Project partners and allies for the McKinley Park green infrastructure project include Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), the City of Pittsburgh Departments of City Planning and Public WorksHilltop AlliancePittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), Saw Mill Run Watershed Association,  South Hilltop Men’s GroupStudent Conservation Association (SCA), The UrbanKind Institute, and Voices Against Violence.

The City of Pittsburgh is a proud partner in this model collaborative demonstrating how investing in our parks and addressing regional stormwater issues can together provide a strong foundation for neighborhood development,” said City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “It's work like this that will help ensure that every Pittsburgher benefits as we grow as a city. And it's work like this that shows that strategic investments can have many collateral benefits. We thank the NRPA and its partners for including Pittsburgh in this important initiative.”

McKinley Park is a “signature community park” in Pittsburgh's Open Space Plan, the City of Pittsburgh’s comprehensive plan for Pittsburgh's greenspaces. “The support and work this grant will allow fits perfectly with the long-term plan for McKinley, because of its strong role in serving a larger population of residents both near and far from the park, and in providing ecological benefits to the city and our environment,” said Josh LippertSenior Environmental Planner with the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning.

“PWSA is identifying pollution sources within the Saw Mill Run Watershed to significantly improve water quality in the stream itself, as well as to help stop flooding along SR 51,” said Brendan SchubertPWSA Manager of External Affairs. “We know how important it is to support green infrastructure projects that improve water quality across the watershed and bring additional community benefits, such as access to greenspace, neighborhood improvements and workforce development opportunities. The project at McKinley Park does all of that and more, and we're happy to be partners in this work.”

“Landforce crews are proving that meaningful work in land stewardship is not only a catalyst for the land, but a catalyst for people and neighborhoods”, said Landforce Executive Director Ilyssa Manspeizer. “By recruiting, training, educating, employing and supporting traditionally hard to employ adults, including those with limited income and education levels, homelessness, or those who are formerly incarcerated and/or military veterans, we look forward to playing a part in helping this project succeed once it is built.”

“SCA recruits and fields local high school students in partnership with the City and community partners to maintain the trail network and help to control invasive plants throughout McKinley Park year-round” said Jennifer Layman, Regional Partnership Director, Student Conservation Association. “This division of labor with the City's own Department of Public Works crews helps to increase community engagement in the park as a neighborhood asset and increases public awareness of the role and value of green infrastructure in maintaining conditions within the park. “

“ALCOSAN is pleased to bring its green-first expertise and funding to this project, benefiting the community, the environment and the economy. With $40 million in ALCOSAN-funded green neighborhood projects already up and working, we know this project will protect our rivers and streams,” said ALCOSAN Public Information Officer Jeanne Clark. “We will provide technical expertise and monitoring for the project so that we can all understand its impacts and apply this information to new projects in the future.”

“We're looking forward to working with residents of Beltzhoover and Knoxville in water quality monitoring at Saw Mill Run and other parts of the watershed,” said Lisa Werder Brown, Director, Saw Mill Run Watershed Association. “Many of the issues impacting Saw Mill Run are the direct results of stormwater runoff and combined sewage overflows. Because of its location and size, McKinley Park is an ideal site for implementing green infrastructure to help mitigate the problems of flooding, high sedimentation and bacterial levels, and abandoned mine drainage entering in the stream.”

The work we're doing in McKinley Park has so much community support because we were deliberate in capturing every voice that wanted to speak and pursuing every aspect that needed attention,” said The UrbanKind Institute Executive Director Dr. Jamil Bey. “Residents from Beltzhoover, Knoxville, Allentown, Bon Air, and Mt. Washington flocked to community meetings as we planned together. Child development specialists, environmental groups, economic development, and neighborhood organizations gathered with folks form the Mayor’s office, the Department of Public Works, ALCOSAN, PWSA and from the state representative’s office to inform the design team and to contribute to a plan that will not only transform our park, but the lives of the residents who use it.”

National Partners and Funding

Green infrastructure is essential to social and environmental change, especially in underserved areas where water quality is a major concern,” said Barbara Tulipane, NRPA President and CEO. “That’s why we are proud to award the Great Urban Parks Campaign grant, which will help showcase the social, environmental and economic benefits of green infrastructure in America’s urban parks and beyond.”       

Parks play an important role in creating communities of lasting value,” said Carol Rhea, FAICP, APA president. “Incorporating green infrastructure into new or existing parks will enhance each community, making them more sustainable, equitable and resilient for current and future generations.”

A joint initiative of NRPA and APA, the Great Urban Parks Campaign aims to improve environmental and social outcomes in underserved communities through green infrastructure projects in local parks.  Additionally, the Campaign will result in the development of training resources for park, planning and green infrastructure professionals to improve equity through green infrastructure. Funding for the Great Urban Parks Campaign grant was provided by The JPB Foundation.

Additional background information:

Great Urban Parks

National Recreation and Parks Association: 

American Planning Association:


High resolution image available upon request; image credit Jeremy Marshall.

About the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy:

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was founded in December 1996 by a group of citizens concerned with the deteriorating conditions of Pittsburgh's historic city parks. A nonprofit organization, the Parks Conservancy works closely with the City of Pittsburgh under an official public-private partnership agreement to restore and improve the city’s park system to its full potential. Originally including Highland, Schenley, Frick, and Riverview Parks, the scope of the Park Conservancy’s work now includes a focus on community parks including Allegheny Commons, Arsenal Park, Cliffside Park, McKinley Park, and Mellon Park. To date, the Parks Conservancy has raised $92 million toward park improvements.

About the National Recreation and Park Association

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of more than 50,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

About the American Planning Association

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. For more information, visit