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Allegheny County Parks Foundation Enriches Residents’ Lives

Photo provided by Allegheny County Parks Foundation
Photo provided by Allegheny County Parks Foundation

Chances are no matter where you live in Allegheny County, there is a county park nearby. With nine county parks and over 12,00 acres, the Allegheny County Parks system is one of the largest in the country.

Joey-Linn Ulrich, Executive Director, Allegheny County Parks Foundation
Joey-Linn Ulrich

The Allegheny County Parks Foundation (ACPF) serves as the nonprofit partner to Allegheny County in their work with the parks. Joey-Linn Ulrich, Executive Director, shared information about the Allegheny County Parks Foundation with North Hills Monthly to help us learn more about their important work.

North Hills Monthly (NHM): Can you tell us a bit about the history and how the Allegheny County Parks Foundation was started?

Joey-Linn Ulrich (Ulrich): In September 2007, then-County Executive Dan Onorato announced the formation of the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, the nonprofit partner to Allegheny County that would improve, conserve, and restore park facilities and open spaces by raising funds, designing projects, and supporting educational, recreational and cultural activities in the nine county parks. This action was recommended in 2002 by the County’s comprehensive master plan for the parks to address deferred park maintenance and develop new funding opportunities from corporations, foundations, and individuals.

In February 2009, ACPF and Allegheny County entered into a formal agreement in which the county pledged $10 million to match private funds for capital projects raised by ACPF. To date, ACPF has raised over $12 million, matched by Allegheny County and other sources, for a total project investment of over $19 million in the Allegheny County Parks. The Parks Foundation continues to value its partnership with Allegheny County, now under the leadership of County Executive Sara Innamorato. All park improvement projects are undertaken in collaboration with parks department staff, and the county has continued its commitment to match project funding.

NHM: How do you work with the parks, and how are you different?

Ulrich: Allegheny County has one of the largest, most established park systems in the country spread across nine regional parks­—Boyce; Deer Lakes; Harrison Hills; Hartwood Acres; North; Round Hill; Settlers Cabin; South; and White Oak. The Parks Foundation is the nonprofit organization that partners with Allegheny County on improvement, conservation, and restoration projects to help ensure that every acre in the park system is both understood and nurtured. We raise public and private funds from foundations, corporations, state and federal grant programs and individuals to design and implement projects in the parks. We commission and conduct surveys, plans, and ecological assessments of our individual parks and park system which guide the strategic development of improvements in all nine county parks. Allegheny County manages all aspects of the parks including maintenance, programming, special events, shelters, and facilities.

NHM: What are some of the activities that you host?

Ulrich: Each year we hold Park ‘til Dark, free, family-friendly days spent outdoors in the parks. These events offer something for everyone by featuring engaging activities such as yoga, bicycling, fishing, kayaking, tree plantings, project walking tours, native garden chats and so much more. Park ’til Dark is capped by our widely-heralded Pour at the Park events. These ticketed regional brews and bites fundraisers are unique in the region because they are family-friendly, offering a children’s fun-zone and live, local music right inside your parks. All proceeds are poured directly back into the parks.

NHM: Why is the foundation so vital for our community?

Ulrich: We strive to cultivate safe, beautiful, and fun spaces for park users to use, learn from, exercise in, find peace with and enjoy. We believe that by fostering a healthy environment, we can foster strong, well-connected communities because our parks are for people, and we are the people for the parks. This commitment extends to promoting access to these parks, achieved through active engagement, attentive consideration of park survey feedback, and the establishment of green spaces and trails that connect communities.

Collaborating closely with park stakeholders, we prioritize projects based on their potential to generate significant positive outcomes. For instance, our efforts in North Park along with Allegheny County include enhancements to the five-mile lake loop, where pedestrian and bike lanes were widened, signage was installed, and pavement markings were added to enhance visitor safety. Moreover, our ongoing North Fork Pine Creek Riparian Buffer project, also in North Park, exemplifies our dedication to environmental conservation. By bolstering the riparian buffer along Pine Creek, we not only benefit the entire watershed but also mitigate sedimentation and filter pollutants from stormwater runoff, thus safeguarding the health of our streams and the communities they support. Lastly, an example of our work to create spaces for culture and learning is the Carol R. Brown Sculpture Garden in Hartwood Acres Park, which is a stunning collection of 14 large-scale artworks that can be viewed from pedestrian and wheelchair-friendly paths and trails.

NHM: What upcoming events are the ACPF hosting in the near future?

Ulrich: Our annual gala, Twilight Picnic for the Parks, will take place at the meadow in Hartwood Acres Park on Saturday, August 17. We hope this year to surpass the $3 million mark for dollars raised for the parks since the event started.

On Saturday, October 12 we will be hosting Park ‘til Dark and Pour at the Park in North Park. We hope everyone can join us at one or all of these events.

NHM: Anything else that you wish to share with our readers?

Ulrich: Our county parks receive 23 million visits each year thanks to their 200 miles of trails, 23 creeks, four lakes, beautiful meadows, natural forests and so much more. These parks are close enough for easy exploration and yet far enough removed that they provide a perfect opportunity for peace, reflection, and community. We invite you to explore all nine of the county parks and all they have to offer. If you have feedback or want to share your favorite park story with us, we are listening:

To learn more about Allegheny County Parks Foundation, visit our website:, or by connecting with them on social media.

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