Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Allegheny County Parks Foundation Chairman John Surma today accepted a $750,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to fund portions of two of the foundation’s signature projects—the South Park Fairgrounds Improvements and Settlers Cabin Connector Trail. Allegheny County will match the state grant from its $10 million capital fund that Onorato established when he created the foundation.
“The Allegheny County Parks Foundation affords us tremendous opportunity to raise private and public funds to help with the renovation and renewal of our park facilities,” Onorato said in a press release, “as well as the development and expansion of recreational programs.
“County Council and I have pledged $10 million in capital funds to match, dollar for dollar, the first $10 million raised by the foundation so we can quickly double the amount of funds to address deferred maintenance, recreational improvements and facility enhancements. I want to thank the commonwealth and parks foundation for helping us to start these two significant projects.”
“On behalf of the Allegheny County Parks Foundation Board of Directors, I want to thank County Executive Dan Onorato for his vision in creating the foundation and for serving as a tireless advocate of the county parks,” said Surma, Chairman and CEO of United States Steel Corporation, in the same release. “The generous, dollar-for-dollar county match helped to leverage this state grant.
“Today, we thank the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for awarding this grant to our foundation, and we also recognize and thank state Senator John Pippy (who represents part of Whitehall Borough) for advocating for the state funding.
“This money, coupled with foundation and individual gifts we have received to date, is a solid foundation upon which we can build and will allow us to begin work on our four signature projects, all of which will play an important role in efforts to secure the long-term viability of Allegheny County’s park system.”
The South Park Fairgrounds Improvement Project will receive $1 million in state and county funding to rehabilitate and redevelop the South Park Oval, including reconstruction of the track and ballfields, removal of existing bleachers, landscaping and other improvements. In 2010, the community participated in a planning process on the repurposing of the South Park Fairgrounds. The goal of the improvement project is to begin the long-term transformation of the fairgrounds into a modern, environmentally friendly facility that reflects the needs of today’s park users.
The Settlers Cabin Connector Trail Project will receive $500,000 in state and county funding for construction, benches, signage and landscaping. The trail connector will link the park to the Panhandle Trail, which stretches 29 miles from Carnegie Borough to Weirton, WV. The Panhandle Trail connects to the 46-mile Montour Trail that runs from Coraopolis Borough to Clairton, PA. The Montour Trail joins with the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile biking and hiking trail that connects with the 185-mile C&O Canal Towpath at Cumberland, MD. Together, the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath create a 335-mile traffic- and motorized-vehicle-free route between Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.
In addition to the South Park Fairgrounds Improvements and Settlers Cabin Connector Trail, the foundation’s board of directors has also identified the North Park Lake Trail and South Park Montour Connector Trail as two of its signature projects.
The North Park Lake Trail Project includes improvements to the 5-mile trail around the recently renovated lake, as well as a connection to the Rachel Carson Trail, which extends 34 miles from North Park to Harrison Hills Park. To date, the parks foundation has received $1.7 million for the project, including $300,000 from the Richard King Mellon Foundation; $250,000 from the Colcom Foundation; $250,000 from the Hillman Foundation; and $850,000 in matching funds from Allegheny County. A master planning process for the North Park Lake Trail Project will begin in October, and citizen participation is encouraged at public meetings on Oct. 13, Nov. 17 and Dec. 14 at North Park’s Rose Barn from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The final plan is expected to be completed in January 2012.
The South Park Montour Connector is a two-mile trail that links South Park to the Montour Trail. The parks foundation has received $320,000 for the project, which will be matched by Allegheny County. The connector trail is in its final design and is expected to be completed late next summer.
“Everyone associated with the Allegheny County Parks Foundation is eager to begin putting our plans into action so that these valuable assets can continue positively impacting our region’s quality of life as they have for so many generations before us,” parks foundation Executive Director Christine Fulton said in the aforementioned release.
“This DCNR grant and the matching funds it triggers from the county are important steps forward in our overall efforts, but we are far from finished. We encourage all county residents and friends of our parks to join us to ensure that these nine (county) parks covering more than 12,000 acres remain a vibrant part of our region for decades.”
The parks foundation has also received $681,072 for programmatic improvements in the county parks. This includes $250,000 from the Colcom Foundation; $25,000 from the Richard King Mellon Foundation; $25,000 from an anonymous donor; $20,536 from a PNC Charitable Trust; $20,000 from the Laurel Foundation; and $340,036 in matching funds from Allegheny County.
“On behalf of the residents of Allegheny County,” Onorato said, “I want to congratulate the Allegheny County Parks Foundation on its success to date and thank the members of the foundation board for their dedication to improving our park system and making it one of the best in the nation.”