As an alternative, or supplement, to a community-owned land trust, the BGC has spoken with the Allegheny Land Trust about transferring large parcels of land into their care. In its over 20-year history, the Land Trust protected more than 2,000 acres of green space in the Pittsburgh region, including 24 acres on Mount Washington that is now part of Emerald View Park.
“ALT looks forward to working in partnership to implement a Garfield Greenway,” says Roy Kraynyk, VP of Land Protection & Capital Projects, who notes that ALT has the experience and institutional infrastructure to protect land that a community wants to remain as green space.
The issue has been presented to local residents at a series of community meetings beginning in late 2014. Swartz says that a number of community members, while supportive of a green zone, worried that it was part of a larger strategy to fuel gentrification in the neighborhood.
“We had to convince people that this isn’t intended as a regional amenity,” he says. “If we create this green zone, and it’s only used by people in the community, we’re happy with that.”
The most recent community meeting, on April 21, lasted over two hours and ended with a near unanimous round of applause from the 30+ people in attendance when they were asked if residents would like to see the neighborhood pursue a green zone managed by a community-owned land trust.
Ultimately, the size and scope of the project will vary greatly depending upon discussions with Pittsburgh City Planning over land ownership, the amount of funding that can be secured from state and nonprofit agencies, the number of volunteers in the community willing to take on such an expansive project, and which parcels of land are purchased or developed by third parties in the interim. Furthermore, Garfield residents must submit a petition if they wish to see any vacant parcels rezoned as a greenway.
Despite so many obstacles, the neighborhood is not deterred. “It’s making people feel as though the neighborhood belongs to everybody,” says Swartz.
“We don’t have a lot right now, but you can see right here it’s a rather substantial space,” he says, gesturing toward a map of the proposal. “Can we do something to make it nicer? Attractive? Usable? I think we can.”
A PDF of a 2015 green zone report can be found on the BGC’s website.