Projects Underway: Schenley, Cliffside and Frick Park Updates

The parks as you know them are getting even better.

With four Parks Conservancy Capital Projects currently in the works, areas that you know and love (and maybe some that you don’t!) are undergoing exciting changes. Get the scoop on what’s going on with these projects:

Project: Westinghouse Memorial and Pond

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Rendering of the restored Westinghouse Memorial and Pond.

What’s happening: 
Nearly 85 years after its original dedication in Schenley Park, restoration of the Westinghouse Memorial and the surrounding landscape are underway. The $2.5 million plan includes aesthetic and structural improvements to the monument, Lily Pond restoration and aeration system installation, and stormwater projects to better the overall health of the Panther Hollow Watershed.

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Parks Conservancy President/CEO Meg Cheever and Mayor Bill Peduto unveil the Westinghouse Memorial rendering at the groundbreaking ceremony.

How to learn more/stay involved:


Project: Panther Hollow Watershed
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What’s happening:
For more than a decade, we’ve been working to restore the health and ecological function of the Panther Hollow Watershed in Schenley Park. Most recently, we’ve been working with the community and designers to reduce stormwater runoff along Schenley Drive. The Schenley Drive Green Street Project aims to improve the health and function of the park by curbing stormwater and creating a safe transportation corridor for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

How to learn more/stay involved:


Project: Cliffside Park

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Rendering of the revitalized Cliffside Park.

What’s happening:
We’re proud to be partnering with a coalition of Hill District partners on a comprehensive plan for green space in the neighborhood. Called the Greenprint for the Hill District, this plan includes a renovation of Cliffside Park, a beloved community playground. This month, community kids are helping shape this project by contributing to a children’s art piece to be displayed at the park.

How to learn more/stay involved:


Project: Frick Environmental Center

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The new Frick Environmental Center, reaching for the sky.

What’s happening:

Currently in the first phase of construction, the Frick Environmental Center will serve as a welcome facility and a gateway to the woodlands of Frick Park where educators use the parks as classrooms. The new Center is quickly taking shape. Designed to meet the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum standards for energy efficiency, each feature of this unique building is more exciting than the last. Most recently, a 15,000-gallon rainwater harvesting cistern was brought to the site!

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Our Zone Gardener Rosie stands beside the rainwater cistern for scale.

How to learn more/stay involved:

Get updates on these and other exciting projects and programs in the parks by signing up for email updates here!

9 Ways to Get Your Kids Exploring Nature — Anywhere!

Parks are not only some of the very best playgrounds, but also amazing classrooms. By observing, touching, smelling and hearing the natural world, kids (and adults!) are learning, sometimes without even knowing it.

This year, our Homewood Naturalist Educator and Parks Conservancy educators have been taking the parks to communities, showing kids and their adults that nature is wherever they are. Through Buzzword, Nature in Your Neighborhood, and Raising Reader events, we’re working with partners and getting kids active, learning, and jazzed about the outdoors.

Want your kids to stay curious? Read on for some of our favorite family friendly activities that you can do on a walk through your neighborhood, a hike through the park — anywhere!

Cloud grin by Teri Clark

Cloud grin by Teri Clark

1. Keep Your Head in the Clouds

Is that a bird? A plane? What about a big fluffy marshmallow? Find a nice comfy spot on the grass, look up, and let your imagination do its thing.

2. I Spy with My Little Eye…

Nature! Keep your eyes peeled in your backyard or sitting on a park bench when you play “I Spy,” and you’ll be surprised at all that you see.

3. Match Swatches

With just a few color swatches from a hardware or paint store, you’re ready for a color scavenger hunt. Let the kids match colors from the swatches with those they find in a garden or even in a business district. The greater the variety of colors, the bigger the challenge.

4. Make Words Jump off the Page

Kids and parents had a blast bringing books to life on Raising Readers and Nature in Your Neighborhood hikes. After reading aloud books with outdoor themes, they took a walk to spot (and reinforce) what they read. Some fan favorites are Something Beautiful, Tree Pittsburgh’s If We Were to Plant a Tree, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

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Raising Readers hike with Parks Conservancy and PAEYC educators.

5. Pack a Lunch

The ingredients for the perfect picnic are simple: One large blanket or sheet; one basket of sandwiches, drinks, and fruit; and whoever wants to eat! Picking a spot is easy — grab the best patch of grass you can find, then sit on it.

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Painting a flower pot in Frick Park.

6. Have a Crafternoon

The limit to the number of projects that can be done with a little glue, paint, construction paper, and objects found on a hike is imagination. Paint a rock like a rockstar, make a daisy chain crown, or draw a picture of something you see in the parks.

7. Be a Good Helper

We all love to live and play in places that are beautiful. Your little ones can have a hand in making their favorite playground even better by being a good helper and cleaning up litter. Who knows, maybe this will even inspire them to clean their rooms!

8. Bug Out with Entymology

Creepy crawlies aren’t so creepy crawly when we give them a closer look. How many insects can kids find on a walk through the woods? Sweep insects into a net or a bug jar to get a closer look before setting them free.

9. Rain, Rain, Go and Play

Whatever the weather, there’s fun to be had outside. In fact, rainy days are sometimes extra special. Galoshes? Umbrellas? Mud puddles to jump into? Count us in!

Have more suggested outdoors adventures for kids? Leave them in the comments section below!

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Summer camp kids aren’t afraid of a little mud!

Healthy Watersheds, Greener Streets

Imagine for a moment that you’re a doctor. But instead of treating people, you’re charged with healing a watershed.

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The meadow at Bartlett Street in full bloom.

Like the human body, watersheds are complete systems; one part of the system influences another. If you get a fever, it’s usually the result of a chain reaction inside resulting from any number of ailments. Likewise, too much runoff, pollution, and chemicals like pesticides cause a ripple effect throughout a watershed.

Keeping watershed ecosystems healthy requires work and persistence. Over the past decade, the Parks Conservancy, along with partners Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and the City of Pittsburgh, have been nursing back to health an ailing Panther Hollow Watershed. Read more about the history of this project here.

Some symptoms are visible (sediment build-up in Panther Hollow Lake), while others are below the surface (combined sewer overflow, or CSO events after major rains).

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Two of the last remaining above-ground streams in Pittsburgh flow in Schenley Park.

So, what’s the prognosis?  With a holistic approach (a comprehensive restoration plan), it’s looking better and better. The recently installed meadow at Bartlett Street and infiltration berms at the Bob O’Connor Golf Course will help absorb rainwater, naturally letting it replenish the water table.

The next treatment to better the health of the watershed involves Schenley Drive.

Making up a large portion of the impervious surface of the park, Schenley Drive acts as a sort of autobahn for rainwater, channeling gushing gallons into the sewer system every year. Estimates for the Schenley Drive Green Street project that 70,000 bathtubs of water would be diverted from the sewer system every year. Plans for this road are just starting to take shape, with the second public meeting having been held on July 29th. Thanks to the feedback of so many park users, bikers, walkers, neighbors, and community members, this project will be shaped not only to better the health of the park, but to better serve as a “complete street,” accommodating all park and road users.

Help us in shaping this next step in the Panther Hollow Watershed restoration — give your feedback on what you’d like to see happen on the Schenley Drive Green Street!

Click here to take the Green Street Survey.

Keep abreast of projects going on in Schenley Park here on our website.

5 Outdoor Summer Concert Spots

Stifling humidity. 90 degree days. Not a rain cloud in sight.

Step in to the parks, feel the temperature drop. Spread out a blanket or unfold a lawn chair, kick off your shoes. During these dog days of summer, de-stress and cool down at free concerts in the parks.

Mellon Park

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Sundays in Mellon Park are classy and classical. The popular Bach, Beethoven and Brunch series serves up some tasty live music with a side of brunch every week from 10:30am until noon, courtesy of Citiparks. Enter your entree in the “Best Brunch” competition, or take it easy and order up from the Bagel Factory food truck on site.

Find the Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch concert details here.

Highland Park

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After a brunch-induced food coma, make your way over to Highland Park for a change in tune at the Reservoir of Jazz. Setting Pittsburgh’s local talent center stage, Reservoir of Jazz is the best way to close out the weekend. Keep your feet tapping (and really, your whole body moving) afterwards at Summer Soul Line Dancing immediately following the show.

Find the Reservoir of Jazz concert details here.

Riverview Park

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Elevated on Observatory Hill with the Allegheny Observatory and area jazz musicians, you’re a little closer to the stars at the Stars at Riverview concert series. Park your lawn chair for your fill of live music, then stick around for Cinema in the Park afterwards. Shows are every Saturday, now through the end of August.

Find the Stars at Riverview concert details here.

Mellon Square

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Need a break in the workday? Want to get some fresh air and out of the office? Grab a lunch and make a midday outing to Mellon Square for Wednesday Acoustic Music with Bobby V and Thursday Summer Concert Series.

Find the Mellon Square concert details here.

Schenley Plaza

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With its emerald lawn, delicious dining and central location, Schenley Plaza is a fantastic venue for concertgoers, impromptu musicians, and summer shows. The lawn fills up fast, so make sure to stake out your spot for the monthly WYEP Final Fridays, and don’t miss First Thursdays with Calliope.

Find the Schenley Plaza concert details here.

Creatures of the Night: Moths in the Parks

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Hummingbird hawk-moth in Schenley Park

Spend time outdoors on a dark summer evening, and you will likely see the flickering dance of moths around street lights and other sources of light.

Moths — Lepidopterans to the science-minded — are plentiful in Western Pennsylvania, with about 300 different types making their homes in our area and in our parks.

Most people are more familiar with butterflies than moths. Although they are related, there are distinctive features that will enable you to tell them apart. One way is to look closely at their antennae. Butterflies have little balls at the end of their antennae, while the antennae of moths do not.

Moth wings may look like they have tiny scales, but they are actually modified hairs. These colorful hairs can come off on your fingers, making it harder for the moth to fly, so it’s best to observe but not touch. When moths are at rest, they typically flatten their wings against their bodies or spread them out like the wings of a fighter plane. Butterflies usually fold their wings back.

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A good way to observe moths is with a simple setup of lights pointed at a while sheet.

The sound of a moth bumping up against a light or a window is a familiar one. This repeated collision is due to “transverse orientation.” Moths navigate by flying at a constant angle relative to a distant light source, such as the moon. When they are around man-made lights such as a campfire or a flashlight the moth’s angle to the light source changes as it flies by. This confuses the moth, causing it to lose its orientation.

Like butterflies, moths undergo the wonderfully amazing process of metamorphosis. Their metamorphosis is holometabolous, meaning that they go through a complete body transformation to become an adult. Inside their pupa — or, cocoon — much of the caterpillar actually breaks down, changes form, and reforms into a moth.

Spend some time with these creatures of the night this week in celebration of National Moth Week, July 18th through 26th!

This week’s post comes from our Let’s Talk About Parks series, featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Read more from this series on our website.

Parks Prescription: Uniting Public Lands with Public Health

Which would you prefer: a day out in the parks, or a day in your doctor’s office?

Just like most adults would rather not spend their weekend in an exam room, kids would also rather be playing, especially outdoors. Turns out, encouraging them to spend time outside may keep them out of the doctor’s office after all.3456393613_9f5862d47b_z

This approach to health has spawned “parks prescription” programs in cities around the U.S., successfully getting kids outdoors and physically active. Soon, Pittsburgh will be joining the nationwide effort to combat and prevent childhood obesity through the incredible assets of our parks.

3457097892_f4d7dc1057_zThrough Pittsburgh Parks Prescription, or Pittsburgh Parks Rx, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is teaming up with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Lawrenceville United, Pittsburgh Public Schools (Arsenal PreK – 5, Arsenal Middle and Woolslair), the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Parks and Recreation, and other partners to create a pilot project that we hope will soon be a city-wide effort to tackle childhood obesity and other health challenges.

More than 80% of Americans are physically inactive; nearly one in every three kids in the United States is overweight or obese. Pittsburgh is no fitter. The roots of lifelong obesity are poor diet and excessive time spent in front of screens at a young age; kids are learning to lead inactive and sedentary lifestyles while they’re young. Inspiring kids to play in Pittsburgh’s many parks could lead them down a healthier path.

The project, currently in its early stages, will encourage children and families to fill prescriptions for parks, given to them through their primary doctor, school, or community center. Community leaders like primary care physicians, school nurses, physical education teachers, and counselors will write kids a prescription to spend time outside, and share with them a host of information and resources to keep it going. Their enrollment in Pittsburgh Parks Rx will come with a passbook filled with nature-oriented activities and maps to the nearest parks, as well as lots of opportunities to connect to the outdoors through school, after-school and community offerings.

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Armed with these resources, kids can fulfill their prescription through fun activities that encourage exercise and time outdoors. Kids and their parents can check back in with their doctor, nurse, or counselor frequently to track progress and advance their prescription. Follow-up visits will also measure weight, BMI, and blood pressure to monitor health improvement.

The pilot Pittsburgh Parks Rx is set to take off in Lawrenceville this fall. We are very excited to encourage Pittsburgh youth to explore the parks and lead healthier lives.

Who would’ve thought a prescription to play today would lead us to a healthier tomorrow?

Maddie Taylor

What’s in Bloom — July 2015

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

If gardens and libraries are everything you need, then you have to love Schenley Plaza. With the main branch of Carnegie Library just across the street, the Plaza gardens are the perfect spot to hunker down with a tasty book.

And all season long, the garden blooms put on quite a show.

These gorgeous flowers don’t happen by accident. Chosen based on bloom times, pest/disease tolerance and color, the flora in the Plaza are actually All-America Selections varieties. Qualified as an official display garden, the Plaza beds are tended frequently by Parks Conservancy gardeners, the flowers rotated throughout the season. Here are some that are in bloom right now:

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 Blanket flowers looking sunny.

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Four colors of zinnias.

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A pop of purple from purple coneflowers.

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A plethora of petunies.

A short way from the Plaza is the newly established meadow at Beacon and Bartlett streets. Seeded with native plants, the meadow is also in blossom. Stop by now to see for yourself this incredible field of black-eyed Susans (click the image below to enlarge!)

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Black-eyed Susans. Click image to enlarge.

Want to help us keep park gardens growing? Interested in learning more about what’s growing, and where? Find our new garden guide here on the website, and while you’re there, sign up as a horticulture volunteer!