Onorato preps new parks organization
By Justin Vellucci, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato charged the new county Parks Foundation with repairing and maximizing the potential of 12,014 acres of park land.
"I'm glad that we're finally here at this point," Onorato told board members Wednesday at the nonprofit's first meeting. "We are talking about rethinking the whole park system."
The foundation, formed in September to help clean up county parks while privatizing some operations, includes a dozen members representing regional groups and businesses -- from the University of Pittsburgh and the Eat'n Park Hospitality Group to Mascaro Construction Co. and U.S. Steel.
Onorato budgeted $1 million to get the group running and find its executive director. An additional $10 million is available as matching dollars for projects and deferred maintenance the county has neglected for the better part of 30 years.
"It's a huge number," Onorato said. "We'll start picking it off project by project."
The board's first projects will address North Park's boat house, the stables at Hartwood Acres, the South Park fairgrounds and Boyce Park's activity center, Onorato has said.
The idea of forming a park foundation dates back to at least 1998, and was endorsed by then-Chief Executive Jim Roddey and County Council around 2002.
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, a city entity similar to what Onorato has created for the county, has tended to Schenley, Frick, Highland and Riverview parks for several years.
North Park, at 3,000 acres, is the county's largest park and nearly seven times larger than Schenley Park.