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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy



Community Roots Grow Stronger Through New Greening Opportunities

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has extended its reach to improve the local quality of life through gardens and other green spaces within cities and towns throughout the region. In addition to its successful community floral gardens that have positively highlighted Western Pennsylvania
counties since the late 1980s, the program has launched three new initiatives to enhance our local
landscapes. Each of these greening strategies opens up new directions for improving our communities.
Downtown Greening
To support the city’s interest in attracting residents to downtown Pittsburgh, WPC is working on several aspects of the Golden Triangle’s environment. Last fall, WPC ompleted
an assessment of opportunities to add green features to the downtown area; the assessment identified numerous opportunities, large and small, simple and audacious.

With the longtime support of the Laurel Foundation, WPC expanded the number of hanging flower baskets throughout the downtown region, bringing the total number of baskets to 450. We have added baskets along the Rachel Carson Bridge and some new areas in Gateway Center. PNC Firstside also added baskets along the perimeter of the new park on Grant and First.

“This year we’ve been able to extend to other Pittsburgh business centers,” said Judy Wagner, senior director of the Community Gardens and Greenspace Program. “In addition to the 450 hanging baskets we have downtown, we’ve placed 105 baskets on the South Side and another
26 in East Liberty. This is a wonderful example of how the leadership of the Laurel Foundation has inspired other community leaders to take action. It’s becoming clear that greening our streets and communities is a powerful tool for revitalization.”

Thanks to a generous Colcom Foundation grant in honor of the city’s 250th birthday, WPC was also able to add 400 large flower planters throughout the pedestrian areas of the Golden Triangle.

In the future, WPC will be working with city leaders to pursue other opportunities to add greenery to downtown, making it more livable and attractive to those who work and visit as well as to new city residents, who are a pivotal part of the city’s revitalization.

School Greening
Studies have found that children spend 20 to 25 percent of their school time in the schoolyard...the equivalent of 257 days by the end of sixth grade. Evidence further suggests that greenery, including views from classrooms, play spaces, school landscapes and even interior spaces, can:

  • ignite a child’s curiosity and overall sense of wonderment;
  • engage, lengthen, and sharpen attention span;
  • reduce agitation and disengaged behavior;
  • establish a healthy connection and understanding of the way natural systems work.

All of these benefits can have a positive impact on learning.

Since 1996, the Conservancy has worked with The Grable Foundation on school greening projects, and it is with their continued support that the new School Grounds Initiative came
into being. In 2007, the Conservancy and The Grable Foundation approached the Pittsburgh School Board with a new concept that would include working directly with school grounds’ staff to add sustainable, low-maintenance greenery to school properties, to enhance the experience
of students and the adjacent neighborhoods. Late last year, Superintendent Mark Roosevelt
endorsed the proposed project and The Grable Foundation awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Conservancy to support a four-year effort that will increase the green components of 65 school grounds.

This project will add several types of greenery on each school property. Some examples of green additions include: raised beds to provide easier access for ongoing school projects, quiet spaces with plants and seating for teachers and students, “green” fences and walls enhanced with
vegetation, additional trees, and active play spaces with natural surfaces.

A 2005 street tree inventory revealed that Pittsburgh currently has one street tree for every 11 residents, far below the 1:3 ratio found in 22 other cities surveyed in a U.S. Forest Service study. In some Pittsburgh communities there are as few as one tree for every 22 people.

Trees enhance neighborhoods, produce oxygen, reduce pollution, capture rainwater and provide habitat for animals and other creatures. The new TreeVitalize Pittsburgh program will help significantly improve the quality of life in the Pittsburgh region by planting up to 20,000 trees
by 2012.

“The urban forest is an environmental workhorse,” said TreeVitalize Director Marijke Hecht. “Community forestry brings these environmental benefits together with the simple and wonderful act of neighbors planting trees together. With TreeVitalize Pittsburgh we are building stronger
communities and improving the environment for the people who live here in Allegheny County.”
TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, launched this year and funded by the Heinz Endowments and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), is a joint
project of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, and DCNR. TreeVitalize will also rely on partnerships with community groups, nonprofits and other municipal agencies. WPC coordinates the efforts of the TreeVitalize partners and
provides support for community outreach, volunteer activities, media relations, planting logistics and fundraising for the project.