Whenever the topic of merging or consolidating City and County services comes up, there is a regular recitation of what has been done (think 911 and purchasing) and what could be relatively easy to do in the future (think parks). Since both the County and the City have park land this has always been mentioned as a slam dunk.
Earlier reports that have extolled the elimination of duplicative services (the 1996 Competitive Pittsburgh report, and the 2008 merger report come to mind). The 2009 Act 47 plan instructed the City to "explore the creation of a non-profit park commission to oversee all City and County RAD-supported parks". There has been some talk that the current County Executive and one candidate for the Mayor’s office would like to see cooperation on parks.
Since the 2009 directive the County has created its own non-profit to help the County parks separate from the non-profit that assists with fundraising for City parks and the City is working on its OpenSpace plan under its 25 year planning document. The document has a section under "Policy Framework" and the "need for partnerships" but there is no mention of partnering with the County. It is possible that should an accord between the City and the County come to fruition that there might be changes to the planning document, the relationship between the separate non-profits, the respective departments that provide services to the parks, etc. but that seems a long way off.
What exactly would be up for grabs? The nine County regional parks have a combined 12,014 acres. The City’s four regional parks have 1,972 acres: adding in the acreage of community, neighborhood, riverfront, and special use parks the total acreage is 2,887. Only the County parks and the four regional parks receive RAD funding and it is those parks that are usually included in discussions.
The Trust for Public Land measured the City’s parkland, added in Point State Park, and calculated that Pittsburgh had 10.1 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents, which was third highest according to the Trust’s segmentation of cities based on population density. Producing a similar measurement for the remainder of the County (895,000 people) and not including the acreage that exists in municipal parks in the County and outside the City the acreage per 1,000 non-City residents in Allegheny County would be 13.4.