Let's not take a step backward from progress on city parks

Written by Rosa Colucci on .

A great park system is a key element of Pittsburgh's value proposition. The 1998 Master Plan for the city's four largest parks -- Frick, Highland, Riverview and Schenley -- analyzed conditions and compiled a $118 million list of needed repairs and improvements caused by 50 years of under-investment. These capital reinvestments require resources additional to daily park maintenance.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has been working with the city for 12 years to restore the park system to excellence, faithfully following the master plan's recommendations. Thanks to nearly 10,000 citizen donors and volunteers, foundations and corporations, government and the Allegheny Regional Asset District, more than $40 million has been raised and many major repairs accomplished, such as the Riverview Chapel Shelter, Schenley Plaza and the Highland Park Entry Garden. Yet, half of the necessary work remains undone, such as replacing the ruined Frick Environmental Center and restoration of Panther Hollow Lake.

The suggestion that the city could "save" $1.5 million by letting the county maintain the city parks for $3 million is counterproductive ("Former Allegheny County Head Urges Merger with City Departments," June 17). Reducing spending on city parks to $3 million would mean that Pittsburgh's great parks would be maintained at about $9.37 per resident. To put that in perspective, cities known for great parks are spending at a much higher level (according to the Center for City Park Excellence, Trust for Public Land, Chicago spends $133 per resident and Cincinnati spends $140 per resident).

With resources scarce, there is obvious need for continuous improvement and efficiency in parks management and maintenance. But to slash funding when we are beginning to see genuine improvements could reverse a positive trend and doom our city parks to another 50-year cycle of neglect and decay.

President and CEO
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy


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