Pittsburgh deserves great parks. They matter to people, neighborhoods, and cities. Parks belong to the people, are free, and are the most democratic spaces in a community. This sentiment was supported by thousands of Pittsburghers who voted in favor of additional parks funding in the recent election. For those who supported the parks referendum – thank you.
I’ve also heard from fellow Pittsburghers who opposed the referendum. I respect your stance and hear your concerns. We worked hard during the campaign to ensure that the key concerns we heard were addressed — transparency, governance, privatization of the parks, and equitable investment. We are committed to ensuring transparency, accountability and governance of public funds, and citizen input and guidance in parks investments. All Pittsburgh parks are owned and under the control of the City and will always remain so. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is committed to investing equitably in all of Pittsburgh’s parks—addressing the needs in parks and communities that have historically been underfunded and underserved. You can find this information in the Parks Plan section of our website: www.pittsburghparks.org.
Now that the referendum has passed, many of our neighbors have asked what’s next and when can they expect to see improvements in their parks. The next step is for us to work with the Mayor and City Council to negotiate an agreement for what role the Parks Conservancy will have in implementing the Parks Plan. Remember, it took decades of neglect for our parks to get to this point and major changes won’t happen overnight, but little by little you can expect to see a resurgence in Pittsburgh’s park system.
Since our inception in 1996, we’ve raised nearly $126 million for Pittsburgh’s parks, completed 21 major improvement projects, served thousands of residents through our education programs and provided hundreds of public special events in parks. The Parks Conservancy has also reduced combined sewer overflows through green infrastructure projects, improved air quality through tree plantings, and restored parks through ecological work. Now more than ever, we will continue raising private funds and making improvements to all 165 parks.
Our goal is to match the estimated $10 million that will be raised from the parks tax annually. This will generate an additional $20 million to support the parks every year. I’m pleased to tell you that we’ve already secured a $500,000 grant from Heinz Endowments that will help us in achieving our $10 million fundraising goal for 2020. We thank Heinz Endowments for their incredible generosity and support in restoring Pittsburgh’s parks.
There is still a long way to go in order to address the $400 million backlog of much needed repairs and annual $13 million maintenance shortfall, but this is a positive start.
This referendum is about more than Pittsburgh’s parks. I believe this will improve the quality of life for every Pittsburgher in every neighborhood. There’s much to do in order to restore all 165 parks, but the work and challenge that lies ahead excites me.
This is just the beginning of a brighter and more equitable Pittsburgh. I’ll see you in the parks!
President & CEO, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy