A Legacy Made: Celebrating Parks Conservancy Founding President, CEO Meg Cheever

March 31, 2017 by Pittsburgh Parks

After 20 years of restoring and improving Pittsburgh's greenspaces, Parks Conservancy Founding President & CEO Meg Cheever has announced that she will be stepping down in March 2018. 

For those of us who have worked alongside Meg each day (some of us for 15 years!), we're amazed to look back on what will be her legacy: the decades-long transformation of Pittsburgh's parks.

While Meg's passion and innovative thinking will be present here for another year, join us in celebrating the remarkable achievements that she has spearheaded thus far:

nearly $100 million has been raised for your parks

Meg at the annual Spring Hat Luncheon fundraiserIn the mid-90's, Pittsburgh's parks were in serious disrepair. Meg and a handful of community members rallied together to restore their nearby park - Schenley. When they approached the City about forming the Schenley Park Conservancy, they were challenged to go even further to also help Highland, Frick, and Riverview.

Says Meg, "I founded the Parks Conservancy because the parks needed help. The City faced a huge budget challenge and in some other cities -- particularly New York -- a private non-profit partner to the city seemed like a great addition."

The Parks Conservancy more than rose to the challenge. To date, nearly $100 million has been raised and reinvested into park places that can be enjoyed by all

17 major improvement projects have been completed

Our parks are rich in history, make up the fabric of our communities, and make Pittsburgh the world-class livable city that it is. Much time, effort, and fundraising has gone towards restoring the monuments, buildings, trails, and greenspaces that make these places so remarkable. See the before-and-after photos of our 17 completed park projects here.

"People want to come here and to stay here because they have the benefit of a great system of 160 parks and trails just within the city itself," says Meg. "My best reward is to walk by a completed project and see people enjoying the space."

The completely renovated Mellon Square

we're currently active in 22 parks

At the beginning, the Parks Conservancy focused on the then-regional parks: Highland, Riverview, Schenley, and Frick. The mission of the organization has since expanded to community and neighborhood parks as resources have permitted. Working in close partnership with city officials and community stakeholders, we're striving to elevate parks across Pittsburgh.

The restored August Wilson Park in the Hill DistrictMuch work has been done, but these efforts are far from over. "We'd like to see a city where the entire system of 160 parks was beautiful, safe, healthy and clean," Meg says. "If we find the resources to bring every park in every neighborhood of the city to excellent condition and the resources to keep them that way, and we connect the parks to each other and to the riverfronts and to the neighborhoods, I think we’ll find that all Pittsburghers are happier and healthier. We’ll have equity across our park and trail system and our city will be the envy of other cities worldwide."

partnership and ideas that have put pittsburgh on the map

During Meg's tenure, the Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh have developed a partnership unique in its close collaboration. This partnership - a public entity working closely with a private nonprofit - is not only unique to our city, it's notable across the country. This close connection has enabled both sides to work more effectively for your parks.

"The City of Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have leaders like Meg Cheever,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “For over 20 years, the Parks Conservancy has been a great partner in our efforts to improve the extraordinary park system in Pittsburgh."

Meg with Mayor Peduto during the Westinghouse Memorial project groundbreakingA project spawned from this partnership is the Frick Environmental Center, slated to be the world's greenest municipal building. Engineered to meet the Living Building Challenge and achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the Center is managed by the Parks Conservancy on public land. Completely free, it's an invaluable asset for all.

Under Meg's leadership, the Parks Conservancy has always been your nonprofit partner in the parks. Along with our projects and programs, we advocate for issues important to you. That's why we've established a new unit called “Parkwaters” to implement green infrastructure projects in parks focusing especially on Four Mile Run connecting Schenley Park and Oakland to the Monongahela River. 

49 dedicated staff are working for your parks

Each day,educators, horticulturists, grant writers, outreach coordinators, fundraisers, marketers, arborists, ecologists, database experts, gardeners, naturalists, facilities and site managers, parks curators, administrators, communicators, project managers, and accountants work to make your parks better and better. 

From just a handful of dedicated staff to now 49, those of us at the Parks Conservancy will be carrying on Meg's vision of a well-maintained, equitable parks system for many years to come. 

Parks staff at Allegheny Commons Park

We're so appreciative of Meg's invaluable leadership. Over the next year, we hope that you'll join us in celebrating the passion she has shared for parks and thanking her for her time at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy!

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