Schenley upgrades: The park's improvements deserve financial support

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The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy knows full well that water flows downstream, and that's the idea behind plans that could restore Schenley Park's historic Panther Hollow Lake to its former glory as a site for boating, fishing and winter skating.

Before the conservancy can tackle the problem at the bottom of the watershed in Oakland, it needs to make improvements upstream, so that silt and poor-quality water don't keep running down from the park into the 2-acre lake.

The conservancy, which was founded in 1996, has a partnership with the city to restore its four regional parks -- Frick, Highland, Riverview and Schenley. It is proposing three pilot projects to improve the management of water runoff in Schenley Park:

• Installing a stone- and soil-covered trench to catch stormwater and spread it through a meadow along Beacon Street and regrading the lawn near the Bartlett Street playground, where a wildflower meadow would be added;

• Resculpting sections of the Bob O'Connor Golf Course;

• Reducing the width of Schenley Drive in that part of the park from 40 feet to 26 feet.

The plans along Bartlett and Beacon won't affect the entire lawn in the park, which is used by picnickers, sunbathers, Frisbee players and others on spring and summer days. The plans won't impinge on the Vintage Grand Prix's annual race and car display in the park either, and the changes will bring aesthetic improvements and provide a walkway for pedestrians.

Narrowing the road through the golf course not only would reduce the amount of hard surface, which cannot absorb water, but also reduce the speed of vehicles traveling through the park. Planners also hope to provide a separate bike path so cyclists won't have to compete with cars for lane space.

The conservancy has proved its worth with projects that included transforming a former parking lot near Pitt's Cathedral of Learning into a green oasis and grand park entrance. Now, it needs cooperation and money from the Allegheny County Sanitary and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer authorities, as well as the city's parks department and local foundations.

The conservancy's worthwhile pilot projects deserve their support.

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