Pittsburgh Technical Council

Our Parks, Critical Assets

Our Parks, Critical Assets

Article Published: September 23, 2015

By Audrey Russo, Pittsburgh Technology Council President and CEO

I was asked to provide a quote for the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, with the intent of conveying support for the work they do. It was an easy, simple request. What flowed from me were words that perhaps I had not ever articulated, in a way that was both personal and economically important.

This is my quote for the foundation:

One of the biggest surprises that visitors and new transplants consistently remark about Pittsburgh is the variety and sheer number of parks that the community has access to all year long. These parks make a statement about the Pittsburgh of today: a commitment to the importance of beauty, sanctuary and natural havens for everyone. The Pittsburgh of tomorrow is resting on the work we do today to support the lifestyles of people who demand that their lives be filled with the pleasures that parks provide.

On a personal note, I relish being able to walk one block and be at a city golf course where my dog Gracie runs free before the wake of the early rising golfer. We often then traipse to Schenley Park for a brisk walk so my guilt doesn’t overpower me when I leave her home for the many long days.

I see people running (have you noticed more people running these days?) and cyclists and walkers and dogs and people with yoga mats heading in many directions. When colleges are back in session, the runners are out in droves, laughing and whipping by. Even Gracie, who races up and down the golf course like a jack rabbit, is overtly frustrated with me when we don’t have a significant time at the parks in our neighborhoods. If I try to sneak in a “fake out” due to a time crunch, I suffer her frustrated moods.

When I think about living in Pittsburgh, I often use terms like: easy, stunning, walkable neighborhoods, architectural musings and an abundance of people who are driven to make an impact through every imaginable outlet. Determined to shake off the soot that still punishes us in the eyes of the world outside of these hills, we remain wrestling with the status of air quality issues. Like all information democratized in our data-driven existence, the world knows of our lingering woes. What about the history of our parks (both city and county), long embedded into the geographic fabric of Pittsburgh’s industrial growth?

In quick walking distance, I can enjoy 450 acres of a city park in one direction and then a few more blocks to more than 600 acres. The parks play a crucial role in our lives across southwestern Pennsylvania, not just in the urban core. However, as the density of cities increases, so does our need for outdoor space, which provides access to a life well-rounded and diverse. Gathering spaces are not just coffee and tea shops and bars. While they certainly serve as  important pieces of a connected life, outdoor spaces for year-round enjoyment provide the respite that each and every one of us regularly needs.

The innovation economy has certainly driven a profound shift in the landscape over these last 10 years. However, access to the region’s beauty draped with rolling hills, abundant foliage, twisting roads and architectural structures, paired with an old-world city figuring out how to blend the best of the old and new, is what will make Pittsburgh a legendary place for people to live.  

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