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By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Parks, parklets and park groups plans presented at Allentown CDC

 


Parks, parklets and friends of parks highlighted the April meeting of the Allentown CDC.

Guest speakers included Erin Tobin, community outreach coordinator for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy; Sarah Baxendell, project manager, Greenspace Asset Development for the Hilltop Alliance, and Siena Kane, Allentown business district manager.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Tobin said the Parks Conservancy applied for a grant from the National Recreation Parks Association. In a highly competitive process, 200 applications nationwide were made for the grant, they earned a grant for green infrastructure storm water management project in upper McKinley Park.

Specifically, the “Chicken Hill” area of the park near Delmont and Michigan streets.

The purpose of the project is to manage storm water more environmentally at the top of the park before it gets to the Saw Mill Run Watershed, one of the critical watersheds in Pittsburgh, she said.

In addition to managing storm water better, the plan also calls for improved green infrastructure to make the park more useable.

As part of the project, they will be replacing the historic stone on the Eldora Place side of the intersection of Eldora and Michigan Street. Off of Michigan, plans call for a slide as part of the storm water management and also a shelter.

The Parks Conservancy is also looking to restore the tree canopy by planting additional trees in that part of the park. A grassy area, known as passive recreation area, where people can “hang out,” sunbathe or picnic, is planned for the part of Chicken Hill that once was a ball field.

The terms of the grant require the project to be designed and completed this year, Ms. Tobin said.

Currently they are finishing up the conceptual design phase and going into the final design phase which will require City of Pittsburgh Art Commission approval. Once all approvals are received, they plan to go to construction in late summer or early fall.

However, there will be some spring planting next year after construction is completed this year.

“We’re looking at a pretty fast timeline,” Ms. Tobin added.

She asked for participation from Allentown residents at the final design meeting to be held at the McKinley Park Delmont Street activity shelter at a date to be announced.

To a question about additional projects in the park, Ms. Tobin said while other projects were identified in the McKinley Park Master Plan, this area was the only one currently funded. They are continuing to work toward identifying funding sources to complete the Master Plan.

Ms. Tobin was questioned why the Parks Conservancy was starting at the top of the park instead of the Bausman Street area with its ballfields and heavy usage. She said the top of the watershed was identified by both the funders and the Conservancy in their master planning process for a starting point for green infrastructure projects in McKinley Park.

ALCOSAN is also working on a green infrastructure project at the corner of Bernd and Bausman streets, she added.

Ms. Tobin said they are working with the Urban Kind Institute to establish a Friends of McKinley Park group. For information on joining the Friends group or to get updates on the park projects, contact her at: etobin@pittsburghparks.org.

Keeping with the “green” theme, Ms. Baxendell began her presentation by asking anyone interested in joining the Friends of South Side Park to contact her at sarah@pghhilltopalliance.org.

She said the Hilltop Alliance is launching a new project this spring called “Lots of Flowers.” With so many vacant and uncared for properties in the Hilltop, they hope to plant them with native wildflowers.

“If they’re not going to be something we can build on or turn into a park, at least we can turn them into something beautiful,” she said.

Native wildflowers were chosen for their ability to retain storm water in the soil and support “bees and butterflies and gnats and all the little pollinator bugs,” Ms. Baxendell said. Wildflowers are able to hold more water in the soil than non-native species.

As an added benefit, the wildflower lots keep maintenance low, she added.

The Hilltop Alliance is piloting the program in four neighborhoods this year: Allentown, Beltzhoover, Knoxville and Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair.

Ms. Baxendell said they have identified a “handful of places” in Allentown, but the ability of the program to be successful hinges on being able to recruit site stewards. The stewards can be individuals or community groups and their duties include watering the lots and keeping them free of litter and trash.

She said the wildflowers chosen for the lots are low maintenance and require little help.

Several sites already identified include: a lot in the 700 block of Warrington Avenue for a strip of wildflowers behind the fence and another lot next to Dollar Bank in the 800 block of Warrington.

Ms. Baxendell also said the planters along Warrington Avenue will be moved and replanted. Several business owners have pledged to take care of the planters this year.

Ms. Kane announced plans for an Earth Day clean-up in the neighborhood on April 22. The Hilltop United Methodist Church is leading a clean-up effort that day along with additional activities planned depending on the number of volunteers that day.

The next public meeting of the Allentown CDC will take place on Tuesday, May 2, 6 p.m. at the Allentown Senior Center, 631 E. Warrington Avenue.

 

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