McKinley Park, the largest Pittsburgh Citipark south of the Monongahela, is about to get a whole lot greener. A new $437,500 grant will help capture stormwater and store it underground for slow release. The 79-acre Beltzhoover park will also gain improved park entrances and trail connections to a community gathering space.

The National Recreation and Park Association and the American Planning Association awarded the grant to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy through the Great Urban Park Campaign. The City of Pittsburgh is also a partner on the grant along with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and Alcosan.

“The City of Pittsburgh is a proud partner in this model collaborative demonstrating how investing in our parks and addressing regional stormwater issues can together provide a strong foundation for neighborhood development,” says Mayor Bill Peduto. “It’s work like this that will help ensure that every Pittsburgher benefits as we grow as a city. And it’s work like this that shows that strategic investments can have many collateral benefits.”

mckinley park rain garden
Example of a rain garden at McKinley Park. Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Green infrastructure is an efficient way to reduce flooding, improve water quality, improve wildlife habitat, and increase biodiversity, all while providing opportunities for access to nature and outdoor recreation. The project is also within the Saw Mill Run Watershed area and the project will significantly improve water quality in the stream and help mitigate flooding along State Route 51.

“We know how important it is to support green infrastructure projects that improve water quality across the watershed and bring additional community benefits, such as access to greenspace, neighborhood improvements and workforce development opportunities,” says Brendan Schubert, PWSA manager of external affairs.

McKinley Park stormwater
Recent green infrastructure installed in the park by the Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh. Permeable membrane asphalt captures stormwater so it can absorb into the ground as opposed to running it off into the sewage system. The grant will allow for more green infrastructure to be created in the park. Photo by Jeremy Marshall.

The Parks Conservancy’s previous work in McKinley Park includes creating a parking lot area surfaced with porous asphalt that allows stormwater to be absorbed into the ground, rain gardens that receive water from the parking lot, and the restoration of a 1930s stone wall in the park. Accessible walkways from the street to the playground and the basketball court were also added during this previous phase.

“The Parks Conservancy’s green infrastructure work brings value to Pittsburgh through stormwater management and improved health of park ecosystems, supportive habitat for plants and animals, and visual enhancement of the park landscape,” says Heather Sage, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy director of community projects.

The public input, planning and design phase will continue through 2016. Construction is expected to start in early 2017 and be completed that same year.

Maya Haptas has an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and is a freelance writer covering various topics from architecture and urban design to wellness and skateboarding. She is currently the assistant editor of Bigfoot Skateboarding Magazine.