$1 Million Will Enhance Pittsburgh Parks, Trees, Trails

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, September 23, 2008 (ENS) - On the occasion of Pittsburgh's 250th birthday, the state of Pennsylvania will invest $1 million to enhance parks, plant trees and improve trails in the Pittsburgh region, an industrial center that is now in the process of growing greener.

The million dollar announcement made by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Michael DiBerardinis on Monday crowned an exciting four days for Pittsburgh parks professionals and advocates.

They have hosted 500 of their counterparts from across the United States and around the world at the International Urban Parks Conference.

"Body and Soul: Parks and the Health of Great Cities" is the theme of the conference that opened Saturday, co-sponsored by City Parks Alliance, the National Association for Olmsted Parks and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Participants from as far away as South Africa, Mexico, Pakistan, Germany and the United Kingdom toured Pittsburgh parks to view some of the recent improvements and explore areas where further work is needed.

On Saturday, conference delegates marked the inaugural World Parks Day, organized by Parks for Life, an international initiative created by the International Parks and Green Space Alliance.

The conference, which concluded today, considered environmental sustainability, preservation, maintenance and accessibility of parks as well as acquisition and management of public and private funds to cover the needs of parks in a tightening economy.

"As we work to address the impact of global warming, our urban areas offer tremendous opportunities around already existing infrastructure and transportation," DiBerardinis said at an event at Mellon Square announcing the grants.

"It's the parks, trees and recreational opportunities that make them places where people want to work and live, and that's what we are supporting with our investments today," he said.

The money will come in the form of Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the City of Pittsburgh for TreeVitalize, and the Regional Trail Corp. for the Great Allegheny Passage.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will receive $250,000 to help restore historic trails and bridges in four parks and to erect new signs.

"We are very grateful to DCNR for this generous grant," said Meg Cheever, president and chief executive of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. "This funding enables us to conduct much-needed repairs to improve drainage infrastructure and reduce soil erosion along trails in Frick, Highland, Schenley and Riverview parks. It will also help cover the costs of installing new signage that will significantly enhance visitors' enjoyment of the parks."

The City of Pittsburgh will receive $250,000 for the TreeVitalize partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Allegheny County and others to continue efforts to increase the region's tree canopy.

"TreeVitalize is making an immediate impact on the quality of life by improving the environment in urban areas," TreeVitalize Director Marijke Hecht said. "DCNR's leadership on this project has been invaluable for making TreeVitalize a reality."

The Regional Trail Corp. will receive $500,000 to help construct 1.3 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage which includes a new bridge to cross over an active railway line.

"DCNR has been our most important partner in this 30 year saga of building the Great Allegheny Passage and has provided tremendous financial support throughout these decades," said Hannah Hardy, president of the Regional Trail Corp. "We are close to completing the last section through the Mon Valley and this grant will be a tremendous help."

Funding for the grants comes from the state's Growing Greener II bond issue and Keystone '93, a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources fund generated from a portion of the state's realty transfer tax.

"Our local partners are critical to our successful efforts to protect our natural areas," DiBerardinis said. "Our grants help them meet the vision they have for their communities and regions."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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