While the origin of the expression, “a walk in the park,” is unclear, it’s a safe bet the author wasn’t a planner trying to stitch urban parks and trails together to create flowing greenways throughout a city like Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s bountiful and diverse parks range from popular destinations, such as Schenley Park in the heart of the city and Emerald View overlooking Downtown, to more than 150 smaller ones tucked into city neighborhoods. But linking them in a network that touches neighborhoods in ways that make it easier for residents to visit them remains a challenge.
Connecting urban parks to improve access is a concept embraced long ago in some cities, such as Boston, where planners in the late 19th Century started designing the Emerald Necklace with seven miles of parks and pathways from the Boston Common to Franklin Park. That wasn’t the case in Pittsburgh.
“When the parks system was built out in Pittsburgh it wasn’t really thought of as a system of parks,” said Jayne Miller, president and CEO, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit advocacy group and fundraising arm for the city’s parks. “They didn’t think about how to cross the city and get from place to place. How do we provide 100 percent access, so that everyone is a 10-minute walk from a park?”