Like a Phoenix: Rebuilding a New Frick Environmental Center

June 26, 2014 by Parks Conservancy Staff

This spring, we invited Parks Conservancy supporters to write letters expressing their desire to see grant funding to aid in the construction of the new Environmental Center in Frick Park. We had previously engaged more than 600 people in public meetings and planning opportunities to shape the design for the center, but we had no idea how many people we'd hear from.

The results were astounding.

In total, well over 100 people wrote in in support of the Environmental Center. Many were neighbors of the park and parents with children in our education programs, excited to see the old, burnt building replaced with a modern, sustainable center. We had so many great letters to read, and each one touched our heart. We have shared each and every one of those letters in our meetings with elected officials and funders-- and they have made a huge impact. Read on for a few that we just had to share:

The old Frick Environmental Center, which burned in 2002, will soon be replaced with an innovative, sustainable new center.

There are an abundance of reasons why this grant should be awarded, but I would rather focus in a rather personal way. The park, and within it the the location of the proposed center, are located inside the city of Pittsburgh, in 600 acres of woods and streams, within walking distance of the poor to working class neighborhood of Homewood where I grew up... In a family with an unemployed father and sickly mother, a family without a car, or even very often a dime for bus fare, I would often walk a few miles to get to the park and the old nature center in it.

streamCrossing through the gatehouse at the park entrance over 60 years ago was like crossing the threshold into another dimension for me, like entering a new, clean, wild, world, where birds and flowers I had only ever seen in books abounded, where the noises of the city were dulled by a heavy forest. The relief and fun I and my neighborhood friends had there was magnified a thousand fold when we discovered the nature center, and we soaked up whatever the naturalists taught us about the park. I went on to a career in chemistry, moving into positions in higher education. I and all my friends were affected for the better, starting with a love and enjoyment of the outdoors.

All that happened in the late nineteen forties and early fifties. The nature center evolved into an environmental center, with an even more intense and varied program. and now shows promise of being a major focal point for learning about science and nature, and more importantly, a place where children find out such learning is fun, rather than a tedious chore.

This is a time when ignorance of nature, indeed of all of science, is reaching critical proportions. Please help reverse that tide by funding this project. -J. Solomon

Habitat Explorers after throwing 'seed bombs' in front of the old Environmental Center.

The plans for Frick Park are very exciting and will make many improvements to a very beloved area. Improvements have been a long time coming for Frick Park.

An Earth Day hike walking the grounds of the old Environmental Center.

For years, all of the programming and events for the park have been operated out of two small gatehouses. The amazing staff was always able to make the most of these circumstances and provide amazing environmental education opportunities for the public. I can only imagine what they will be capable of if the new construction plans go through. Please support the Frick Environmental Center.

Frick Park is a special city park that has touched the lives of so many residents of Pittsburgh and beyond. It is time to devote some resources to a park that has gone without proper programming space for a long time. -J. Stewart

Schools like Community Day are taken out into the parks by Parks Conservancy education staff to learn about nature in nature.

I have lived just a block away from the site of the Frick Environmental Center for 17 years. It was a wonderful asset to the community prior to the devastating fire, but it has also amazed me how the staff has managed to carry on the programming as best they can even without the building, using a wholly inadequate trailer as their home base. After ten years of this it is certainly more than time to rebuild a new and better Environmental Center for the citizens of Pittsburgh.

Even before moving to this house, we took advantage of the offerings of the center. When my son we little he attended day camp at the Environmental Center for three summers in a row. The programming was of such high quality that it was well worth driving across town so that he could participate. With the plans that have been put together for the new center, the next generation of children will benefit even more. -B. Smith

A High School Urban EcoSteward journaling in the park.

I urge you to award the largest possible grant to fund the Frick Park Environmental Center in Pittsburgh, which is a project of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

I am a daily user of Pittsburgh's parks, and I see how beneficial the new Environmental Center would be for expanding environmental education. The design of the Center brings the outdoors in, and engages park users in ways that complement the landscape.

Most importantly, the Frick Park Environmental Center will make nature and conservation education accessible to children from all neighborhoods and backgrounds, increasing the likelihood that they will experience the peaceful and revitalizing pleasure of interacting with nature. These young people will enjoy better health, will be inspired to care about and for the world around them, and will feel a sense of community in sharing a love for the outdoors and for the city that provides them with such an amenity. -M. Hershey

Observing an insect caught on an Earth Day hike.

The new Frick Environmental Center will be an exceptional classroom with doors open to all of Pittsburgh and a draw for the entire region -- a place for every person, for all ages -- but most importantly for our children. We're excited to be providing this first-class living building -- because Pittsburgh's kids deserve the best!

The Environmental Center will be an important way to keep the vision of Helen Clay Frick alive and well since the gift of Frick Park to the City of Pittsburgh was intended to be a place for children to learn within the woods. Stay updated on the project (beginning this summer) by checking our website.

And of course, comment below to tell us your thoughts about the new Environmental Center!

Learning and Education, Environmental Center at Frick Park, Frick Park, Kids and Families