South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Kids will 'get wet' this year in the new Arlington Spray Park


The patience of Arlington area residents was wearing thin with promises from city officials that a spray park would be constructed on the site of the closed swimming pool in Arlington Playground when they requested an update from Citiparks Director Jim Griffin.

Closed since 2003, the swimming pool had become vandalized and an eyesore for the neighborhood. On October 1, 2008, then mayor Luke Ravenstahl walked the park with Councilman Bruce Kraus and identified the playground as an area in the neighborhood in need of immediate attention. Two days later the mayor notified Citiparks the playground was to become a high-priority area.

At the time, the city had just begun installing spray parks with Troy Hill and Beechview being the first neighborhoods to receive them. Arlington was slated to follow East Hills and Shadyside as the next spray parks.

In May of 2009, city officials returned to the Arlington Civic Council (ACC) with a phased approach to renovating the Arlington Playground. Landscape architects from J.T. Sauer & Associates presented a plan that included deck hockey and basketball courts, two pavilions, improvements to the ballfield, a walking trail around the park and a spray park.

At the time, area residents were told there wasn’t money set aside for the project yet, but a proposal was needed before funding would be available.

Fast forward to 2015 when Pashek Associates held several community meetings with residents to get input for renovations to the playground. The final design they would present to the neighborhood included a 4,900 sq. ft. of “wet play” area divided into zones for teens, family and tots, each with its own age appropriate activities and water features.

The Master Plan called for rehabilitating the existing bathhouse and adding more grassy areas and trees along with a rain garden. Last September, Director Griffin said Phase 1, the phase with the spray park, would start as soon as the weather broke this year.

Councilman Kraus confirmed at the time the first phase of the project was budgeted for and completely funded.

When Director Griffin returned to the Arlington Civic Council on Monday, June 14, he was prepared with the answers to questions from area residents.

Neil Manganaro, chief of staff for Councilman Kraus, confirmed to the members of the council funding was in place and the city was in the process of hiring a contractor for the project.

“We promised you a spray park this year. I’m committed to that and I think it’s going to happen,” Director Griffin said.

He said Citiparks does the programming in the parks and recreation centers. In addition, they also operate several senior centers throughout the city.

Although behind schedule, he also confirmed the spray park is on its way for Arlington Playground. Work on the spray park was slated to begin in March or April, but was pushed back. Demolition of the former residence on the west side of the park will begin in about a week.

The bathhouse will remain, but be renovated with restrooms and a changing area.

“It will be a great amenity for the neighborhood. They spray park will be a great amenity and will serve the community well for generations,” Mr. Griffin added.

Following the demolition of the former residence, the bottom of the pool will be demolished and filled with ballast to provide a base for a new surface for the spray park.

A new ADA accessible walkway will also be added from Sterling Street.

The Citiparks director said once open, the spray park will be staffed with at least two employees on a daily basis.

“If (kids) get a scrape on their knee, scrape their elbow, get hurt feelings, we’ll have staff there to deal with anything like that,” Director Griffin said.

After the demolition is completed, it will take about two weeks before work begins in earnest. He explained much of the work will be done by Pittsburgh Public Works crews.

One delay was caused by having to abate the asbestos on the site.

The goal was to have the spray park open by the end of summer. It may only be open a few days before school starts, but the goal is to be open.

He noted city pools close on Labor Day but the spray parks are able to be open for another several weeks in September.

“Our expectation is that someone is going to get wet in that spray park, even if it’s in September,” Mr. Griffin added.

Phase II would include renovations to the playground and basketball court, possibly reconfiguring their layouts to make them more efficient from a parent’s standpoint, he said. To allow kids to move from the play area to the spray park without any blockage so parents can keep an eye on them.

“I can’t promise there’s universal support from (city) council. Council will have to approve Phase II money in the budget,” Director Griffin said.

A resident asked what the strategy was to prevent vandalism to the park, once its opened.

Mr. Griffin said their most effective strategy has been to turn the park over to the residents of the area to keep an eye on it and respect the space.

Unruly dogs at the playground were a problem according to another resident. Mr. Griffin said, according to the law, dogs aren’t permitted on Citipark’s courts or playgrounds.

“There shouldn’t be dogs up there and if it comes to it, I’ll bring a (park) ranger up here to cite people because I have that authority,” Director Griffin said. “For keeping their dogs off lease or letting them on playground or letting them on a spray park. We’re not going to tolerate that.”

To a question about the recreation center being unable to get field time in the neighborhood to play soccer, the director said they are able to play futsal, a type of indoor soccer played on a basketball court, in the centers. He added in September they are proposing limiting field time to outside groups so the recreation centers can have more time on the fields.

Before adjourning for the evening, ACC president Debbie Morgan asked Mr. Manganaro when the city was going to create and place a sign for the Wayne Lester Memorial Orchard next to the fire station on St. Patrick Street.

Mr. Lester, a fireman, planted the orchard before he died several years ago.

Mr. Manganaro said the sign order has been placed with the city’s sign shop. He’ll follow up with the request.

The next meeting of the Arlington Civic Council will be at 7 p.m. on September 12. Pittsburgh School Board representative Cindy Falls has been asked to attend to speak on the reuse of the Arlington School buildings.


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