South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

South Side Park Master Plan process now completed


The master plan for South Side Park was unveiled on April 19 at the Arlington Recreation Center. 

Among the 40 elements chosen for the park are: An ADA-accessible boardwalk; open-air pavilion over small building; amphitheater; renovated entrance with parking; renovated bathrooms, concessions, and scoreboard; public art opportunity; trail for BMX access; renovated Arlington Recreation Center; seating at Jurassic Valley overlook; Mission Street connector trail; ropes course; basketball court and play area renovations; and east /west connector trail.

The next step is to apply for funding to turn the dream into reality.

Project manager and neighborhood planner Felipe Palomo of the city’s Dept. of City Planning said applications will be made to the state Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for some elements. Funding for other items will be sought through grants.

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

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

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.

At the first meeting, participants were asked to express their concerns about the 65-acre park. Responses included: address illegal dumping and ATV use, hunting, homeless camping; park and trail maintenance; safety; and more.

At the second meeting, participants were asked to choose their favorite elements from around three themes: environmental education; arts, culture, and history; and recreation and adventure.

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.

Popular elements from each of the three themes were incorporated into the draft plan unveiled at the third meeting.

The master plan reflects the responses to the draft plan with support of specific items.

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:” a great idea, needed, not needed, not a good idea, or I’m not sure.

The evening’s public input and that from a March 19 meeting, plus the comments on an online survey, resulted in the master plan.

Phase 1 of the master plan, should funding be obtained, is envisioned as acquiring the parcel north of the Mission Street Bridge, and developing parking along S. 21st St. (30 spots).

Another Phase 1 focus would be the ADA-accessible boardwalk; segment 1 of the shared-use bike path; meadow; and green infrastructure: stormwater ponds and bioswales.

Phase 1 also includes basketball court and marble rings; children’s discovery garden; public art opportunity at the 18th St. entrance; and green infrastructure: rain garden.

Sample stand-alone projects are the public art opportunities under the Mission Street Bridge and on the 18th St. parcel, and interpretive art along the 1040 trail.

For the stand-alone projects, Mr. Palomo said grants will be sought by the city and the Friends.

He also said a stewardship group might be started to oversee implementation.

With adventure recreation projects, a for-profit company might be obtained to operate elements like the BMX pump track, trail for BMX access, and ropes course.

Mr. Palomo said all of the city groups will work on behalf of South Side Park, such as the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), which will help with stormwater; and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which will tackle damaging invasive species.

Among the attendees at the unveiling of the master plan was Joe Balaban, of the South Side Slopes, who said the plan was a “great opportunity to take unused land and make it fun and useful as a service to the community.”

A walker, he likes the plan’s trails; nurturing the existing landscape; accentuating the view; and removing invasive species.

Christine Carvajal, of the South Side Flats, is thrilled about the marble rings in the children’s discovery garden area as she lobbied for its inclusion.

Her daughter, Lauren Shuty, 14, was the runner-up in the 2017 national marbles competition held in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Ms. Carvajal said her daughter can practice at the marble rings as well as mentor other children in the activity.

“It’s such a small sliver, but our area has a deep history of champions,” she said.

Christopher Serra, of South Side, loves the idea of making the park a usable space for South Side residents who never knew it was there before.

He said it “offers a place to get out of the house and sit in the grass and read a book and enjoy ourselves.”

His wife, Janice Serra, is a member of the Friends.

The prior Sunday the Friends, community, and University of Pittsburgh student volunteers spent four hours creating a connector trail from the Tombstone Trail Head to the Quarry Trail Head. At the same time, they removed garbage and debris.

She recalled that about 15 years ago she started proposing attention to the largely neglected park.

Once the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) became involved noticeable improvements occurred.

“I’m really excited the park is already so much better – the trails, debris being cleared, people finding out about the park.

“It will just keep getting better and better,” she said.


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