Pittsburgh's Frick competes to be 'America's Favorite Park'

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Rapper Mac Miller has already made Frick Park popular nationally -- or at least to his fans thanks to the song "Frick Park Market."

Now, city officials are hoping the Pittsburgher's 3.7 million Facebook followers will help crown the park as the best in the country.

The largest of Pittsburgh's city parks is competing against other U.S. parks to be America's Favorite Park, a campaign sponsored by Coca-Cola to encourage an active lifestyle. With 2,170 votes, as of time of press, Frick Park is ranked 25th.

"This is a wonderful acknowledgment of the fact that residents and visitors see the value and beauty of what the Pittsburgh parks offer," said Tim Ishman, assistant parks and recreation director for the city. "It is an opportunity to showcase Pittsburgh, one of the most livable cities and for us, it just reaffirms that Pittsburgh is a livable city."

While the contest is in its fourth year, this is the first year a Pittsburgh park is participating, Mr. Ishman said. Coca-Cola reached out to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office and the parks and recreation department chose Frick Park to represent the city in the contest, which has voting until July 15.

"We identified with one park instead of diluting our efforts with multiple parks," Mr. Ishman said. "We do a lot at Frick Park -- there is a nature center, the starting line of the Great Race and it is a regional park."

The "favorite park" will receive a $100,000 recreation grant from Coca-Cola. Second and third place parks will receive $50,000 and $25,000, respectively.

If the Pittsburgh park remains in the top 25, it can be chosen at random for a $15,000 grant.

"If we are so fortunate to even get that, it would be fantastic for Frick Park and help us improve the park in some way," Mr. Ishman said.

A specific project has been identified should the park receive a grant, but as the final day for voting nears, the city's parks and recreation department will determine what projects the funding will go toward, Mr. Ishman said.

Right now, the focus is on getting the word out about the contest and moving up in the standings. The city is promoting the contest on its website, through the Great Race Twitter and Facebook pages and posters on the park's Blue Slide Playground, among other outlets, Mr. Ishman said.

"It's a telephone tree and keeps on expanding its branches," he said.

Teresa Thomas, director of marketing and communications for Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, said the organization is running a social media campaign to encourage votes for Frick Park, reaching out to the more than 8,000 members of the conservancy.

"People who love Frick Park all over the city are helping give it a boost on social media in the hope that it can win the prize," Ms. Thomas said. The conservancy is doing extra pushes around the double point voting days, today and Friday and July 13-14, she added.

People can vote in one of three ways: clicking to vote online, checking in on mobile app Foursquare at the park or by logging daily activities on MapMyFitness, a web site and mobile app used to track workouts. Five points will be added to the park's total for checking in on Foursquare and 10 points will be added if a person is actively involved at the park for 20 minutes, Mr. Ishman said.

"[Coca-Cola is] encouraging people to try to go out and be healthy," he said. "It centers around people of all ages doing a little more physical activity."

While city officials are looking to the possibility of winning the title, Ms. Thomas said it's more than just a popularity contest.

"National and local campaigns like these increase awareness of the importance of parks in our quality of life," she said. "These kind of efforts support the fact that parks are assets for a community."


Claire Aronson: caronson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1964 or on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.


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