South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

So. Side Park closer to final master plan


March 20, 2018

South Side Park moved a step closer to having a master plan following the presentation of a draft plan on March 15 at the Arlington Recreation Center.

Among the 33 draft new items and renovations are: acquire parcel for stormwater management; 30-spot and 60-spot parking; open air pavilion; bicycle push ramp; new basketball court; embankment bleachers; trail for BMX access; renovate Arlington Recreation Center; ADA-accessible trail; boardwalk and wetland; canopy overlook; and new bathrooms and scoreboards.

Existing features for which no changes are proposed are: Arlington baseball field; field at the Fort; spray park and playground at the Fort; and the Bandi Schaum community garden. Proposed for removal is the most paved area around the former ice rink, and the basketball court and playground at Saber Way.

Attendees were asked to respond to the draft plan with their support of specific items, or contributing their own ideas, concerns, and desires for an improved park.

A survey with multiple choice responses was also available, such as, “A bike route through the park to connect the Flats to the Hilltop neighborhoods is” (circle one or more:) a great idea, needed, not needed, not a good idea, or I’m not sure.

The evening’s public input and that from a scheduled March 19 meeting, plus the comments on an online survey, will result in a final plan presentation on April 19.

The goal is to create a master plan that presents a strategy for the implementation of achievable projects that may be funded by future city budgets or other sources.

“We feel the community is very excited,” said neighborhood planner Felipe Palomo of the city’s Dept. of City Planning, who explained the process and answered attendees’ questions.

“A lot of neighbors treasure the park and are able to see the elements to accentuate the beautiful things it already has, and improve areas that have been neglected,” he said.

It was the third of four planned community events conducted by the city, Studio Bryan Hanes, and the Friends of South Side Park to solicit input for the master plan process.

At the first meeting, participants were asked to express their concerns about the park. Responses included: addressing illegal dumping and ATV use, hunting, homeless camping; park and trail maintenance; safety; a need to include more voices besides those at community events; a need for increased programming; and a concern the city will erect a tall building at the end of 21st St.

To a question about what is special about South Side Park today, responses included: undeveloped woods and wildlife; great views and beautiful scenery; trails; history; ballfields; community garden; small wetlands, streams, and springs; rock cliffs and topography; and “It’s a hidden gem.”

To fund the master plan process, a $40,000 grant was received from the state Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The city matched the grant, for a total of $80,000 to design a plan.

The draft plan was developed around three themes: environmental education; arts, culture, and history; and recreation and adventure. The elements in each were chosen by participants at the second community meeting on Feb. 15, and in the online survey.

Popular elements from each of the three themes were incorporated into the draft plan.

The environmental education theme garnered 20 proposed items, including an outdoor classroom, bio retention (pools and wetlands); and native plant nursery.

The arts, history, and culture theme included proposals for an overlook sculpture, mining museum, heritage tower, amphitheater, 75-space surface parking, and wetland boardwalk.

Respondents in the recreation and adventure theme proposed a 5,000-square-feet visitors center, 21st St. playground, 200-space parking garage, pump track, Quarry Field renovation, new bleachers and bathrooms, and more.

Among the March 15 attendees was Mike Whaley, of Carrick, who rides his mountain bike weekly in the hilly park during dry weather.

While he has noticed improvements the past few years, like cleared brush and less vandalism, he would like to see more trails and the wet areas cleaned up to enhance connectivity and flow.

“It’s a gem for biking, but more people just don’t know about it,” he said.

Austin Schlechter, a Hilltop Alliance intern who relocated from central Pennsylvania, said he has “fallen in love with Pittsburgh.” He hikes in the park a few times a month for the trails and the views.

He would like to see attention to the water seepage as the trails get muddy.

“But I would not be unhappy to see any of the [draft plan] ideas implemented,” he said.

Lucy Aubrecht, of the South Side Slopes, visits the park a few times a year to walk and to enjoy the gardens. She would like to see the community gardens maintained; safety improved; and the trash cleaned up.

“I like basic stuff, and whatever else they decide I will be excited about,” she said.


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