South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporer Editor 

Armstrong playground on track for improvements

New safety surface, spray feature in plans


Renovations to Armstrong playground on 12th Street will include replacing the swing set, upgrading the water spray feature and putting in a new safety surface.

Armstrong Playground on 12th Street in South Side is about to undergo a facelift, and hopefully be open for business by the time school is out for the summer.

City officials met with members of the community last week at the South Side Market House to go over the costs of what has already been worked on at the park and what is planned for the spring.

"We have had numerous requests over the years to do some updating in the Armstrong Park playground. Clearly we had to take a look at it to see that updates are due," Councilman Bruce Kraus began.

Jennifer Presutti, from the City of Pittsburgh Office of Management and Budget, explained that some preliminary work has already begun at the park and playground. The "no dogs allowed" signs have been replaced, lighting has been added to the back of the building and the always on drinking fountain has been replaced with one that is on only when used.

In addition, some trimming of trees has been completed although more is needed. Pruning of the canopy for some of the trees is still needed along with the trimming back of the root structure.

The still to do list includes updates to the horseshoe pits; painting of the playground equipment; replacement of the swings and benches; and, landscaping with shade tolerant ground cover.

Councilman Kraus added when they looked at the existing swing set, it was evident it needed replaced and not just repaired. Fencing and the safety surface for the playground are also slated to be replaced.

Ms. Presutti, said they are also planning to replace the water spray feature with something that would be more visually pleasing, perhaps something in a flower design. The new spray feature would include an on and off switch to activate the water.

Pointing out the current spray feature is a tripping hazard, she said the new one would remove the wall to be more accessible and could possibly utilize a "bowl feature" to capture the water.

"We're not showing you a wish list, we believe we can fund this," Ms. Presutti added.

Before the safety surface can be replaced, it will have to be removed and the asphalt beneath it examined to learn if it is in good enough condition for the new surface to be installed. If the asphalt needs to be replaced, it will add approximately $61,500 to the cost of the renovations.

Questioned about the ability of the safety surface to resist cutting and other vandalism, Thomas Paulin, superintendent in the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works, said they are using a product that has been proven over the years to be durable.

Councilman Kraus added nothing is vandal proof, but they will "do our best" to light and discourage the vandalism. Officials are also considering limiting access to the playground to a 12th Street entrance, eliminating an entrance from Roland Way which has been considered a contributing factor for problems in the park.

Another part of the project will be to repair the cracks and color code the basketball court. In addition, Ms. Presutti said they are thinking about eliminating the four-square court and extending the green space in the park.

Attendees objected to taking away the space pointing out it is used by younger children for bike riding, paddle ball and other activities.

Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable suggested Bubble Ball as an alternative for younger kids in the space.

An area resident said he didn't agree with, but has heard from other residents about making the area a small dog park.

Councilman Kraus pointed out it is illegal for dogs to be in any city park and South Side already has a large dog park in South Side Riverfront Park.

Director Gable said the city's Park Ranger program is going to be expanded and Armstrong and other South Pittsburgh parks would be the "perfect place" to have rangers to explain the rules. The rangers would ticket only if were deemed necessary and would primarily be there to make sure those enjoying the park followed the rules. However, he pointed out it's "going to take a while" before the new rangers are in place.

Ms. Presutti said the projected cost for the renovations is about $130,000, not including asphalt. Currently, there is $30,000 allocated with another $100,000 Councilman Kraus is planning to reallocate from a stalled project in Oakland. The reallocation requires legislation be approved by City Council.

If new asphalt is needed in the playground, city officials are exploring whether it can be included as part of Council District 3's street paving for 2016.

The timeline for the renovations is weather dependent, but could start almost immediately with the removal of the old swing set and play surface.

Mr. Paulin said if new asphalt is needed, the plants are expected to be open by mid-March. The asphalt would then need 28 days to cure before the new play surface could be glued down.

Another consideration he said would be whether the new play surface is installed above grade like the current surface or for another $25,000 it could be placed even with the asphalt.

In either case, the swing set and playground equipment would be lost to the community for up to two months.

If all goes well the safety surface could be installed by May 1, but Mr. Paulin pointed out, the timeline is weather dependent and it would have to be dry with no rain coming in to be completed, "and that's hard in the spring."

Councilman Kraus is also looking into the matching the paint color on the park's building. The building has been tagged with graffiti and is in need of repainting. If he cannot locate the original paint's color code, he will take a sample in to a paint company to have the color matched.


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