McKinley Park Master Plan outlined
The third public meeting on the McKinley Park Master Plan and Haberman Corridor Study wrapped up this stage of the planning process.
The outline presented to area residents and stakeholders at the Beulah Baptist Church on June 25 was more strategic in nature, allowing the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Hilltop Alliance to begin fundraising to implement the plans.
Carl Bergamini, senior associate with Pfaffmann + Associates, part of the team charged with developing the related plans. The Haberman Corridor Study takes in Haberman Avenue from Warrington Avenue near the recreation center up the hill past Beltzhoover School and terminating at McKinley Park.
The corridor consists now of disjointed city streets separated by steep slopes, walking paths and overgrown steps in need of repair.
McKinley Park is the largest park in the southern city neighborhoods and has both a neighborhood and regional draw of people using its facilities.
The presentation would include discussion on the landscape and recreation plan for McKinley Park along with improvements to facilities and storm water management.
Some of the goals talked about in earlier meetings included improving connections to the park, establish conservation strategies with the natural and recreation systems. Also, to improve the storm water management in the park to meet not only the park's needs, but also the city's needs under the combined sewers issues with ALCOSAN.
Another goal is to promote equitable resources in McKinley Park on a neighborhood and regional scale.
Using the Griswold Plan for the park, completed in the 1930s, as a base for discussion for McKinley it was pointed out the park is separated into two sections: the upper McKinley Park used by Beltzhoover residents and the lower McKinley Park along Bausman Street which is more of a regional park.
In a quick overview, Michele Adams from Meliora Design explained The Haberman plateau or "Chicken Hill" at the top of the park is a traditional and potential gathering area and the recreation building could use some updating. Existing trails and improved ADA trails beginning at the top could connect down through the "cove" to the Bausman corridor.
The recreation amenities in the Bausman corridor and entrances to the trails coming down from Knoxville could be rearranged. At the very bottom of Bausman, near Saw Mill Run Blvd., storm water mitigation needs to take place.
"One of the things that we've been coming to terms with in the programing for the park is that the park is both a neighborhood park that serves Beltzhoover, Allentown, Knoxville, Bon Air neighborhoods, but it also has regional amenities that attract a slightly larger pool of audience," Mr. Bergamini said.
Using drawings to illustrate the proposed changes, Ms. Adams said they're proposing two new trail connections at Conniston and Arabella streets. The trails would wind their way down the hill to a new, better connection at Bausman. Two new mid-street crossings would be added to get across Bausman also.
Connections would also be renewed on the Beltzhoover side of the park off of Haberman Avenue.
Jumping up to the Chicken Hill and the cove area, there is a potential to terrace down the hill developing into a series of amphitheater areas. Ms. Adams said it could be a flexible space used for picnicking, seating or any number of things.
Mr. Bergamini said what they heard from residents, was the space was once used for ball playing and gatherings but has since been washed away by storm water and they would like it to be returned to usable space.
They segued into a discussion of why taking care of storm water is important to the park and important to the city. Currently, storm water enters the combined sewer system and causes overflowing problems with the sanitary sewers.
One of their goals was to find ways to capture the Bausman corridor runoff and redirect it to another storm water system at the bottom of the hill. In addition, to take care of the drainage that is coming off of the steep slopes, which is causing erosion and damage in the park, and channel it into a storm water system in the park.
Water coming down between Eldora and Michigan streets, about 80,000 square feet of area, translates into 223,000 gallons of water in one inch of rainfall, about 25 tanker trucks full.
A storm water system could be placed under the community improvements to the park to capture the rainfall instead of having it go down the sewers.
"You don't want to have storm water take away programmable space for the neighborhood," Mr. Bergamini said.
Moving back up the hill, the group talked about a vision for the community center. At the first meeting at the center it was noted there wasn't light or views, poor acoustics and wasn't very inviting.
"I think it could be called multi-purpose to a fault," Mr. Bergamini added. "It didn't do anything well, even though it was supposed to do everything reasonably well."
One of the things they were asked to do, was to bring light and views into the building and to allow program elements to "spill out" into the park.
They proposed adding clerestory windows into the roof and garage doors to allow indoor/outdoor programing. In the back of the building, they would like to open it up to the views of the valley with garage doors and activate the overhang to improve the connection to the park.
"Keep in mind what we're doing is trying to come up with a broad vision for both the park and the corridor. Some of this may not get funded now," he said.
They also looked at rearranging or repurposing some of the recreation areas in the Bausman corridor. They came up with two different options, with basically the same amenities but designed differently.
The first option would turn the existing field into more of a multi-use field with underground water storage to capture some of the storm water. The oval walking track around the field would be replaced with a longer winding walking trail through the lower end of the park, possibly with exercise stations along the way.
The retaining wall would be removed and the hillside would be graded for a new wall that would incorporate seating. Currently there isn't any bleacher seating available at the field.
In the central part below the field there could be a children's area and a community garden.
The basketball courts would be rearranged in the area and a picnic area would be added and expanded in the central part of the park. A picnic grove could be located at the bottom of a trail that leads to upper McKinley Park.
The alternate version flips the children's area to the lower part of the park and the basketball courts to the upper part of Bausman. A plaza could be located next to the community garden. The plaza could be used for neighborhood functions or possibly the location for a farmers' market.
Both plans would include a potential drop-off area on Bausman, something that is lacking in the current park and increasing the size of the skate park.
As far as the Haberman Corridor Study, Mr. Bergamini explained the importance of the connection between the corridor, the park and the South Hills transit junction. The corridor will remain a series of urban streets, walking trails and stairways providing greenspace and an opportunity for water features to capture some of the storm water.
The existing bus routes circling the corridor could be improved with new sidewalks and street trees to encourage own investment in the housing stock. The transit routes provide an easier walking/biking path for people making their way around the community.
Investment in the existing housing stock on the streets around the park is also looked at a priority toward rebuilding the neighborhood.
With the plans in place they will now start applying for grants to implement portions of each project.
"That timeframe is now upon us," Mr. Bergamini said.
At a final upcoming community meeting, a more complete timeline should be available to let neighborhood residents know which parts of the projects will be the first to have grant applications placed.