In the weeks leading up to the Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council will feature each of this year’s five awardees, along with a local group receiving special recognition. The Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance, Crawford County Riparian Restoration Program, Green Building Alliance, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, and Edward Schroth will be honored as this year’s award recipients, while the Garden Club of Allegheny County will be presented with special recognition at the May 26 ceremony at Pittsburgh’s Westin Hotel and Convention Center. Special recognition recipient, the Garden Club of Allegheny County, is featured in this installment.
Garden Club of Allegheny County
For over a century, the Garden Club of Allegheny County (GCAC) has been a guiding hand in environmental education and conservation, stewardship, and horticulture whose goal is the establishment of values and practices that support and sustain civic improvement.
Founded in 1914 by a small group of men and women who recognized the importance of gardening and horticulture in reclaiming Pittsburgh’s industrial urban landscape, GCAC has remained steadfast to its mission of restoring and protecting the environment throughout the region.
GCAC has been involved at both the local and national levels wherever there is a need to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening through education, conferences, publications, and grants. Working with a wide range of local partners, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Audubon Society, Tree Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Allegheny Land Trust, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Phipps Conservatory, and many others, GCAC has raised and distributed millions of dollars back into the community for programs and projects that advance the cause of environmental stewardship and beautification in and around the Pittsburgh area.
Throughout its history, GCAC has been a driving force in community gardening to provide sustainable sources of fresh produce in inner city neighborhoods. GCAC worked in association with the Garden Club of America in leading the way to address sight pollution with the “Billboards Must Go” highway beautification project in the 1920s, half a century before the first Earth Day focused public attention on this problem.
More recently, GCAC celebrated its 100 years of service to the region with a special centennial project at Point State Park. With the help of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), GCAC planted a way station that will emphasize plants native to the site and that also serves as a habitat to birdlife, butterflies, and other fauna. This project also includes a bioswale to demonstrate current best practices for managing stormwater runoff.
With a membership of only 170 members, the work of the GCAC has attracted the involvement and support of some of Pittsburgh’s greatest benefactors and continues to be an important asset for ensuring the effective utilization of philanthropic resources for environmental conservation in the region. These resources fund a wide variety of community garden projects, conservation and education programs, scholarships, and local renovation and restoration projects.
GCAC’s signature fundraising event, PIZZAZZ, attracts thousands of visitors for three days each October. Through this event, over $1 million has been donated for Pittsburgh-area environmental programs and projects.