South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Duquesne students present findings on Dillworth Park


April 22, 2008

Duquesne University psychology students have been studying Mount Washington Park for one of their college courses recently.

Two professors and 22 students taking the senior course "Psychology of Social Engagement" attended the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation forum meeting held on April 17.

The intention was for the students "to report their findings from their survey (of residents living near the park) and to promote the use of the park," said Marco Gemighani, who attended along with colleague Dr. Eva Simms.

The park, sometimes called Dillworth Park, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and was founded by citizens wanting recreation; although at that time the city was reluctant to provide it according to the student presentation.

There are 49 residents living in the vicinity of the park who were surveyed and half never use the park at all. Three quarters of the respondents said they had safety concerns.

Another problem is that residents do not know what is available there. Some were unaware that the park had trails. A block watch and a new committee promoting and improving the park should help change things around.

Student Sean Gavin said the "beautiful baseball field and playground" impressed him.

One summer event planned will feature the CitiParks' Art Cart which will encourage youngsters to decorate the park fountain with mosaic.

The students requested that a roadblock barrier, originally set there to discourage litter, be removed from Grace Street to give access from there to the park. Students Gavin, Kathy Jehn, Brandin Brooks and Amanda Thomas made the presentations.

In other business, Chris Beichner, the new MWCDC executive director, introduced himself to the forum audience. He said he observed a lot of passion during the past three weeks and he enjoys working with passionate people. He said that during past employment he has written grant requests and obtained grants totaling $5 million. "I look forward to being part of many, many years of progress," he said.

Accountant Jessica Minkus of Bookminders, the financial adviser recently hired by MWCDC, also spoke. She said the yearly audit would be soon and she expected no problems; her firm worked with that auditor on behalf of other clients.

Lisa Johnson, hired by MWCDC to write the text of signs to be posted along the Grand View Scenic Byway, said there would be a public meeting to get residents' input at 7 p.m. April 30 at the senior center. "The signs will help visitors understand more about the people living here," she said.

Program manager Greg Panza spoke of the volunteer project by employees of the Burt Hill architect firm to upgrade the garden in the small parklet near the neighborhood fire station. The official name is the Charles Lewis Memorial Park although residents usually call it Firemen's Park. Mr. Panza said any volunteer help for the plantings, occurring mainly on weekends, would be greatly appreciated.

Frank Valenta, president of the MWCDC board of directors, allowed time for discussion of changing the zoning of a section of Virginia Avenue from R2, residential, to Local Neighborhood Commercial. This matter was discussed at recent Map Pittsburgh meetings. He intervened to stop arguments and interruptions. "We can all sing together but we can't all talk together," Mr. Valenta said.

One side of the argument opposes the change and said commercial development can happen elsewhere in the neighborhood. More commercial development on Virginia would create litter, traffic and crime. "It will ruin the residential neighborhood," said Rosemary Mateer.

The other side claims that the main business street, Shiloh Avenue, is now limited mainly to nightlife entertainment, and that more businesses, like bakeries, meat stores and bookstores, are needed. "Don't blame business owners for societal issues," said Pete Karlovich. He and others said those problems exist elsewhere in the neighborhood.


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