This blog was written by Cassidy Martin, an intern at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
The Pittsburgh Greenspace Alliance (GSA) is comprised of 30 non-profit organizations that are committed to improving the greenspace issues that are present in Pittsburgh today. Greenspaces are things such as parks, hiking and biking trails, and natural areas that benefit the Pittsburgh area’s economy and health, positively influencing the area both personally as well as recreationally and aesthetically.
Since its formation in 2013, the GSA has developed several initiatives and areas of focus.
One of the current initiatives of the Greenspace Alliance is, “[to work] with the administration on improved relationships with the non-profit community.” In other words, the GSA collectively wants to improve the relationships between the members of the alliance so that organizations can accomplish common initiatives together, and can also be as successful as possible within their own individual projects.
One person making this initiative a reality is Gavin White, who is currently an employee at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) and at GTECH Strategies, both of which are members of the GSA. Working at both organizations gives Gavin the opportunity to experience and understand what different members of the GSA envision for the greenspaces of Pittsburgh, and how they could collaborate to improve their initiatives.
Gavin has two different titles at his respective jobs. At PPC, Gavin works as a Community Outreach Coordinator. In this position, community engagement is a critical aspect of the job. He is responsible for getting to know residents in the communities and making personal relationships. He makes himself available to people in the community so it is possible for them to have an outlet where they can voice their concerns and issues as well as give feedback on current projects. Gavin listens to the concerns of the community while making sure they have the opportunity to give input on the projects taking place in their local parks. Not only is he responsible for ensuring that residents of the community are informed about the things going on, he also participates in the work as well. Gavin explained that he works in other areas at PPC as well, such as graphic design work for printed materials and other small creative projects.
At GTECH, Gavin is a Project Coordinator where he works more hands-on, designing and building greenspace projects, especially with young people. Gavin helps design and build Green Playces, which are “outdoor classrooms and play spaces where youth can learn about their environment and how to take care of it.” Other work that Gavin does at GTECH is somewhat similar to what he does at PPC as well, in the way of community outreach, graphic design, research, writing, etc.
Gavin explained that he really enjoys working at both organizations because it allows him the chance to work at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to projects. For example, at PPC, he can work on large-scale projects and planning processes, such as the watershed planning PPC is pursuing with the city and PWSA for Four Mile Run in Schenley Park and Heth’s Run in Highland Park. He is currently managing the production of the public art for the August Wilson Park in the Hill District, which is celebrating its grand reopening on August 6. Gavin is also involved with building up the Pittsburgh Parks Prescription program. This program was created with the goal to tackle childhood obesity and other health challenges throughout the Pittsburgh area.
At GTECH, Gavin described that he works on more “affordable” projects. Currently, Gavin is focused on building and designing Green Playces throughout Pittsburgh. The Green Playces projects he is currently working on are in Wilkinsburg, Allentown, McKeesport, and the Hill District. He is also finishing up art projects in two existing Green Playces in Homewood and Northside.
Gavin says that he feels that combining his work at PPC with the Pittsburgh Parks Prescription program and his Green Playces projects at GTECH shows how the GSA could work specifically between two member organizations who have overlapping initiatives. With an overall common goal of getting kids outside and educated about the environment, these two projects could come together and have both PPC and GTECH on board with both initiatives. He is already working with these two organizations as well as Venture Outdoors and Student Conservation Association, who are also Greenspace Alliance members, to establish a “Remake Learning Playlist,” teaching kids to become “Young Conservationists.” These and other collaborations would not only most likely make each project more successful, but could also bring more awareness to them as well.
Gavin’s work at PPC and GTECH is an excellent example of how bringing together initiatives from multiple organizations of the Greenspace Alliance makes these projects more successful. Working together as a motivated, supportive group would make the Greenspace Alliance’s initiatives more effective for the Pittsburgh area.