The Nine Mile Run stream in Frick Park was the site of a $7.7 million, 100+ acre restoration that was managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and completed in 2006. In partnership with the City’s Department of Public Works, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Watershed Association has monitored and stewarded the restoration since its completion. Every year, through a variety of events and classes, we educate more than 500 children and adults about watershed ecology, native species, and water quality monitoring in this part of the park. Our volunteers regularly remove trash and invasive species from the stream and surrounding areas, and continue to plant native species.
Because the restored stream is in an urban area, it suffers from the ill effects of excessive stormwater runoff, including both the resulting sewer overflows, and the extreme volume and velocity of stormwater flows during every major rain event. Over time this has resulted in serious damage to some portions of the restored area. In 2009, and again between 2015-2018, the Watershed Association raised money to complete needed repairs – more than $50,000 each time. There is no doubt that future repairs will be needed. The increase in the amount and intensity of rain guarantees that. But it is more difficult to find the needed funds each time.
An urban stream like Nine Mile Run is never going to be something can walk away from and consider “finished;” it will require continued investment to prevent a return to the degraded state it was in prior to the restoration. We believe it is worth continued effort and financial investment, because this large area of the park has been transformed from a dangerous eyesore into a beautiful oasis that is frequented by dog walkers, bikers, photographers, and all manner of nature lovers who are attracted by the greatly improved habitat. It is a much loved oasis of wilderness in the city.
This is just one example among hundreds in the City’s park system of ongoing needs that are not being met by the amount of money the City is currently able to budget for park maintenance and capital projects. But many of those other examples are parks and parklets where there is no citizen group able to consistently raise funds for the work that needs to be done. For this reason, we are in support of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s campaign to pass a ballot initiative to secure an ongoing stream of funding to maintain and improve our parks.
The process leading up to this initiative has been very thorough. For more than a year, PPC has been gathering very detailed information about the needs of the 165 parks and parklets in the City, and conducting listening sessions in every part of the City to understand what Pittsburghers believe is needed. Public input has also been submitted online. Perhaps more important, they have also developed in impressive set of metrics to help prioritize how and where the funds raised will be spent; a primary goal is to insure that the funds raised will be equitably distributed and will benefit all of Pittsburgh’s residents. All of this information is available to the public on their website; if you haven’t been able to make it to one of the listening sessions, it’s really worth spending some time on the site before you vote on November 5th.
Fundamentally, this ballot initiative offers us a choice. Do we want to have a first class park system that improves our quality of life and the city’s attractiveness as a place to live and work? If so, we need to find a dependable way to pay for it, so long-term plans can be made for improvements. We strongly support this approach because it asks those who already have an investment in the City to contribute just a little bit more each year to insure that all Pittsburghers can have the parks we deserve. I’ll be voting yes on Tuesday.
Brenda Lynn Smith