The Pittsburgh Foundation

A park for today and tomorrowA community effort transforms Greensburg’s Twin Lakes Park.

Woman with short, gray hair wearing a pink athletic suit, sits on a swing outdoors on a sunny day.

Christopher Whitlach

By Christopher Whitlatch

Christopher Whitlatch is a former manager of marketing and communications at the Foundation.

Twin Lakes Park is considered the jewel of Westmoreland County’s parks system, both for its natural beauty and its public amenities designed to be accessible by all residents. Centrally located in the county, the park’s recently completed expansion is being hailed as a national model for community partnerships, planning and stewardship.

In 2000, Westmoreland County published a forward-looking plan for its park system that would drive development and management well into the future. Malcolm Sias, parks and recreation director for Westmoreland County, remembers the excitement — and also the realization that the county would need help managing such an ambitious undertaking.

“Twin Lakes Park was selected as our first priority for its location, beauty and opportunity for expanded amenities,” he says. “We realized from the outset that it would take a community effort to accomplish our goals. We decided to form a Citizen’s Advisory Board that would work with the park’s staff.”

Barbara Ferrier, a Community Foundation of Westmoreland County (CFWC) donor and board member, was an original member of the Citizen’s Advisory Board. “I remember sitting in a meeting thinking that a water feature would be a nice addition,” she recalls. “I never could have imagined all that we’ve accomplished together.”

The park’s expansion was completed in three phases. Amenities were added during each phase based on the priorities of the community and needed infrastructure, such as road access, parking and convenience facilities. The park now boasts a BMX track, a dog park, an accessible playground, a skate park, a paved “life trail” with accessible fitness stations, a dek hockey rink, and a lighted sledding and tubing area.

The CFWC and its donor funds have been active supporters of the park’s expansion. The Ferrier Family Funds at the CFWC, advised by Ferrier, provided funding to build the life trail. “The Citizen’s Advisory Board was considering a trail to go around the skate park,” she says. “My mother was in a wheelchair at the time, and when they showed me that the activities there would include accessible activities at each fitness station, I knew I wanted to support it.” The CFWC’s Now and Forever Fund supported the building of the playground, which features accessible activities for children.

“Community involvement was integral to the park’s success,” says Phil Koch, the CFWC’s executive director. “We’re proud to partner with our donors and neighbors in this endeavor, supporting the project with grants and helping to establish an endowment that will fund the park in perpetuity. 

Ferrier, who rotated off the Citizen’s Advisory Board last year, knows that while the initial work may be complete, the project is far from finished. To that end, she has contributed to the endowment for the park’s future maintenance. “It excites me to see that there are activities that engage every age and ability,” she says, noting that Westmoreland County’s residents can access the park “practically from birth.”

And thanks to the community’s efforts, residents will be able to enjoy it for a long time to come.

Original story appeared in Forum Quarterly - Spring 2016