Thoughts on the construction of the new Frick Environmental Center

Almost exactly twelve years ago, in 2002, tragedy struck in Frick Park in Pittsburgh. I was on a long evening run in Frick Park when I unwittingly came across what had happened earlier in the day.

From my journal, August 4, 2002

“91 degrees, heat index 93. The Frick Park entrance was closed off for some reason with tape, so that I could not access the water fountain I had counted on using, so I ran up to Forbes instead and to Braddock to get a fountain at that end of the park.”

Later in the evening, I found out what had happened:

“Whoa!!! The Frick Environmental Center was burned down in the morning. No wonder it was all closed off when I tried to run to the water fountain.”

This was reported the next day in the Post-Gazette.


Yesterday, construction of the new Frick Environmental Center began, finally, after twelve years of uncertainty and controversy.

On my evening run tonight (very cool, in the 60s, this summer, unlike the summer of twelve years ago!), I checked out the construction site.

Road sign on Beechwood Blvd:

Road sign for Frick Environmental Center

Old burned building still there:

Old Frick Environmental Center

Some trail detour signs:

Trails detoured for Frick Environmental Center construction


There was controversy because of concerns about the impact of the major development planned on Frick Park, which has been prized by many (certainly by me!) as the “wildest” space in Pittsburgh.

I understand the concerns, and realize there are some major tradeoffs in creating a new, fancy Environmental Center. It is argued by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy that there are potentially tremendous benefits to having a modern community facility for education, especially for children. While I regret that some of the wildness of this part of Frick Park will be demolished, I hope that bringing interesting programs to children, especially urban children who might otherwise fail to ever appreciate nature, will be worth the development.

I will miss not accessing some trails of the park from this direction for a while, but having sadly seen the old burned building lying around abandoned for twelve years, I look forward to its being replaced.


If you live in the neighborhood of Frick Park, how do you feel about the controversy over the new Frick Environmental Center? Do you believe the risks are uncertain or not worthwhile? What do you think will be the actual outcome and impact, to the environment as well as to the community, of the development and of the planned educational center?

If you do not live in the neighborhood, how do you feel about these fancy developments in general? Have you seen them turn out badly somewhere else? Or turn out well?

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