Four years ago the previous County Executive made a public pronouncement that the County park system-comprised of 20,000 acres-would undergo a shift in thinking that looked more at private and non-profit solutions but would not involve selling off the parks. This came on the heels of a 2007 study commissioned by the County which examined revenue generating opportunities in the parks.
The reason? Primarily because maintenance had fallen behind and were neglected. A foundation akin to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy called the Allegheny County Parks Foundation was established, but there was an emphasis on establishing "public-private partnerships to operate some of the parks’ major amenities and attractions (emphasis added)". The Parks’ Department website still lists requests for proposals for operating some of those amenities and the County Parks’ Foundation is soliciting a bid for redesign of the South Park fairgrounds, but private involvement in the parks is still minimal.
Meanwhile the City of Pittsburgh Council’s new chair of parks and recreation completed a tour of parks in the City and much of the same was encounter: deferred maintenance, unused space, and an ongoing planning effort to determine what is being used and what is not.
The parks at both the City and County level are intertwined in a rather complex arrangement: proceeds from the 1% RAD sales tax go to the parks, there are the non-profits acting as recipients for donations and coordinating projects, there are formal parks departments and the public works departments handle most of the maintenance. Where exactly do outside private and non-profit interests fit into that quite crowded chart?