PITTSBURGH – AUGUST 16, 2022 – The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has been awarded a $235,000 grant from the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust, to plan, design and conduct community engagement for an outdoor sensory classroom at the Frick Environmental Center (FEC). The Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust provides financial support for organizations and projects that serve children and people with intellectual and physical disabilities, with an emphasis on Allegheny County.

The Conservancy is excited to kick off the project by engaging with focus groups of Pittsburgh educators, caregivers, disability advocates and community members and assembling an Advisory Committee representing the Department of Public Works, the City’s ADA Coordinator, Pittsburgh Public Schools and others to ensure the design of the sensory classroom responds to the needs of educators, learners with exceptionalities and park users. In addition, The Conservancy will work with experienced parks and sensory landscape-design consultants with the goal of repurposing and enhancing the existing spaces at the FEC with thoughtfully designed improvements to provide structured learning, play, discovery, observation and gathering.

“Receiving the Edith L. Trees charitable trust grant empowers the Conservancy to not only improve the physical space around the FEC through the design of a first-of-its-kind sensory classroom in a Pittsburgh public park but complement the existing activities provided by our dedicated education staff with free, supporting programs focused on the senses,” said Catherine Qureshi, President & CEO, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “This is an important step in our mission to make every Pittsburgh park inclusive for all and we look forward to the collective insights of the community that will help bring this project to life.”

Although the FEC currently works with more than 1,400 Pittsburgh-area students to provide educational programs year-round, very few opportunities exist in the city for learners with exceptionalities and their families, and even fewer are free. Moreover, there are a limited number of green spaces designed with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles for architecture and programming, which are intended to support learners of all abilities and change the design of the environment rather than changing the learner.

Focus groups, listening sessions, surveys and public meetings will continue throughout the various phases of the project and feedback will be incorporated as the plan progresses. Construction of the outdoor sensory classroom is projected to begin in the fall of 2023.

As part of this project, the Parks Conservancy is seeking a consultant team, led by a landscape architect, to provide planning, design, community engagement, and construction/permitting documentation. The Parks Conservancy will accept proposals until August 31.

To learn more about the outdoor sensory classroom project and to review proposal guidelines, please visit https://pittsburghparks.org/park-projects/frick-environmental-center-sensory-classroom/.



Contact: Alana Wenk
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy


About Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy: Recently celebrating its 25th year, 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 non-profit 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. To date, the Parks Conservancy has raised more than $130 million and completed more than 22 major park improvement projects. The Parks Conservancy works with thousands of volunteers, hosts hundreds of events, and provides programming for more than 7,500 children annually.