Enhancing the Park Experience

The Allegheny County Parks Foundation was established in the fall of 2007. The Foundation works with Allegheny County to restore, improve, and preserve recreation and natural open space at the county's nine parks. Our projects range from developing master plans to enhancing and building new trails to installing shade structures and amenities and evaluating the natural conditions in the parks.

Project Updates:

  • November 8, 2017Recent Accomplishments and Projects In Process

    RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND PROJECTS IN PROCESS


    Settlers Cabin Trail ConnectorSettlers Cabin Park Connector Trail  

    Chimney Swift Habitat Towers. The Allegheny County (ACPF) Parks Foundation partnered with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania to construct 100 habitat towers throughout the nine Allegheny County Parks in 2016 and 2017. Chimney swifts are beneficial birds to the environment because they are voracious eaters of bothersome flying insects including mosquitoes, flies and beetles.  They attract attention as they acrobatically swoop down on their prey and eat in flight. This collaborative effort to install towers is valuable because the swift populations have declined significantly in our region as their habitat has been changed over the years, reducing their nesting sites.

    ·       Ecological Assessment and Action Plans for Boyce Park and South Park. ACPF partnered with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to survey and analyze ecological conditions in Boyce Park and South Park and make recommendations for best management approaches and improvement projects. The Boyce report was completed in fall 2015 and following recommendations, 100 new landscape trees were planted throughout the park in 2016. These projects are serving as a template for similar projects in the other County parks.

    ·        Interpretive Signage at Round Hill Park, North Park and South Park. Installation of informative, uniform signage was completed in Round Hill Park in 2016. These signs enhance the experience of a day on the farm for visitors and provide historical context for what they see at Round Hill today. ACPF installed signs detailing the founding of the Allegheny County Parks system at North and South Parks in 2017.  They describe how visionary Allegheny County Commissioner E.V. Babcock recognized the need to preserve rural lands for recreation and protect tracts from the city’s inevitable expansion and oversaw the county’s purchase of about 4,000 acres in 1927. 

    ·        Community Awareness and Park User Survey. Visitors to all nine County Parks participated in a random survey, conducted using scientific methods, during the summer of 2016 to gauge their enjoyment of the parks and what activities they participate in when they visit.  Visitors appreciate that the parks conserve the natural environment and protect open spaces, provide opportunities for fun, offer facilities and services to improve physical and mental health by reducing stress, promote positive youth development and prevent youth crime and attract new business to the region. A separate, random telephone survey of residents in Allegheny and neighboring counties was conducted to determine the number of annual park visitations. We were delighted to learn that the nine Allegheny County Parks host 22 million visitations each year. 

    ·        Comprehensive Signage Guidelines. The existing directional, site identification and rules signage in the nine County Parks is currently a hodge-podge of various generations of styles, sizes and colors. Existing signage could also be improved to eliminate clutter and make wayfinding in the parks easier. In collaboration with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Kolano Design, ACPF has developed a comprehensive set of signage guidelines that will create a more unified image for the park signs. They will be similar to those in the Pittsburgh city parks.

    ·        Settlers Cabin Park Panhandle Trail Connector Trail. The first phase of a trail segment that will enable trail users to connect from Settler’s Cabin Park to the Panhandle Trail spur of the Montour Trail was completed in fall 2015. The connector will eventually enable trail users to travel from Settler’s Cabin Park to South Park.

    ·        South Park Fairgrounds Oval.  Restoration of the recreational ball fields, football field and track, and replacement of the deteriorated bleachers with new native plantings on the slopes of the oval were completed in spring 2015. These improvements greatly enhance the attractiveness and usability of the Oval.

    ·        South Park Montour Trail Connector Trail. This new trail segment, opened in 2013, enables trail users to connect from South Park to the Montour Trail, a rail-trail that extends from Coraopolis to Clairton and joins the Great Allegheny Passage trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.

    ·        North Park Lake Trail Ingomar Road Section, Gateways and Municipal Row Path. Improvement of the Ingomar Road section of the North Park Lake Trail, completed spring 2015, has increased safety and enhanced the trail experience for diverse users of this section of the trail located on the shoulder of a heavily traveled roadway. This project also included the construction of a path along the lake shore, anchored at the Babcock Boulevard and Ingomar Road “Gateway” with the restoration of the Babblebrook picnic shelter, and the addition of an accessible path for fishing and rain garden with native plantings.

    ·       Bench Endowment Program. 22 benches have been donated to date through ACPF and installed to commemorate people and organizations.

    PROJECTS IN PROCESS

    ·        Boyce and South Park Restoration Projects. Following the recommendations of our comprehensive Ecological Assessment and Master Plans, additional trees were planted and a demonstration meadow was established in Boyce Park in 2017 to reduce mowing, attract pollinators and serve as an educational tool for visitors to replicate in their own homes. Similar projects are planned in South Park, including stream side restoration measures to increase the buffer, serving to improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and protect the streams from the impact of land use.

    ·        Ecological Assessment and Action Plans for Settlers Cabin Park and Hartwood Acres Park. In partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, ACPF has launched a systematic evaluation of the natural resources and ecological assets in Settler’s Cabin Park and Hartwood Acres Park. They began in the spring of 2017 and a final report is expected in late 2018. These plans provide a framework for project implementation to protect, preserve and improve the environmental health of the parks.

    ·        Installation of Signage at Deer Lakes Park. Following the comprehensive sign guidelines established by ACPF, a new set of directional signs will be installed in Deer Lakes Park to serve as a pilot project for signs in all the nine County Parks. These signs were designed to enhance the park experience for visitors by providing accurate and visible details about the locations of park facilities and amenities.  

    ·        Planning for Restoration of Hartwood Acres Sculptures. ACPF is nearing completion of design alternatives to restore, relocate and provide a proper landscape setting for these valuable and historically significant sculptures. The design will incorporate most of the 14 sculptures in the park with the creation of a sculpture park that will unify and showcase the artwork while offering visitors a place to gather and celebrate.

    ·        Senior Connections: Creating a Culture of Health and Exercise. To promote greater visitation to County Parks by older adults, ACPF launched a pilot program in 2017 to help older individuals gain the benefits from increased activities in the outdoors. In collaboration with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, ACPF is creating a mobile-friendly and printable map and information app to help seniors and service providers navigate our nine parks and identify trails, activities, facilities and events. If successful, the South Park app will be expanded to include all nine parks.

    ·        South Park Green Design Parking Lot.  The Allegheny County Parks Foundation has received a Growing Greener Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to design a green parking lot to replace a paved parking lot at the South Park Fairgrounds Oval. This proposed lot incorporates sustainable features, such as a minimal footprint, storm water management, innovative surface materials and plants. 

    ·        Settlers Cabin Mine Pollution Clean-Up. Since 2014, ACPF has partnered with Trout Unlimited to study the environmental impact of pollution coming from old coal mines in the park, mitigate its effects to restore water quality and encourage the return of fish to Pinkertons Run. Biological data gathered over the course of many months is providing an overview of organisms living in the stream and helping us to gauge the outcome of a potential pollution remediation strategy we will implement.

    ·        Adaptive Reuse of the South Park Corrigan Drive Pool Facility. This site was an architectural masterpiece built into the natural landscape in the 1930s that saw thousands of visitors daily. It closed in 1977 to make way for the wave pool and the facility evolved into the VIP and accommodated various uses. The reuse design and economic feasibility study process is expected to provide a guide to implement a successful project that creatively capitalizes on viable new economic uses, historic site features, and park program needs.

    ·        South Park Cascades Restoration. The Cascades are an historic, naturalistic rockwork designed in 1931 by Paul Riis, a landscape architect with a national reputation. Build with stone quarried on site, the Cascades were a popular grouping of wading pools and waterfalls built into the setting to look as if they had always been there. These pools were eventually closed in the 1970s when the wave pool was opened, but generations of park visitors still recall relaxing at this stunning attraction. In partnership with Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, ACPF is reviewing design options for the restoration of the Cascades. The goal is a renovation that brings this significant artifact back to a close resemblance of its original appearance but incorporating modern mechanics and convenience.  

    ·        North Park Pearce Mill Road Design. This new project renovates and improves the final one and one-half miles of the North Park Lake Trail adjacent to Pearce Mill Road. The purpose of the project is to improve usability and safety by increasing trail width, better separating pedestrian, bicycle users and vehicles, and providing updated trail marking and signage. Once again, ACPF is partnering with Allegheny County on this project to improve an enormously popular trail used by millions of visitors annually.  

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