Projects to improve North Park discussed

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Widening Ingomar Road through North Park to create a bike lane and pedestrian path is one of the safety improvements that could be made as soon as 2014, according to landscape architect Ron Schipani.

Mr. Schipani, capital projects and program manager for the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, made his comments at a public meeting about North Park improvements held Jan. 23 in the Rose Barn.

A new master plan for the 650-acre area around the lake calls for a $2.9 million upgrade to the Ingomar Road portion of the Lake Trail. It would create a wider shoulder with room for a 6- to 8-foot bike lane and a separate 8- to 10-foot pedestrian path between Babcock Boulevard and Kummer Road.

The road, which is a state highway, would be widened as one of the first four priority projects recommended in the lake-area master plan.

Christine Fulton, foundation executive director, addressed a room of about 50 visitors and county representatives.

"It takes multiple stakeholders [to make the improvements happen], and you will be heard," she said, pointing to the representatives from park advocate groups, including Gary Rigdon, chairman of Friends of North Park; Mike Rodack, trail steward for North Park's Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group; and architect Todd Brant of GAI Consultants, who originally developed the park's master plan.

County Councilman Matt Drozd, R-Ross, told the group that he is an avid hiker and biker.

"I share your interests in the park, and I want to make sure we preserve and accentuate the treasures we've got," he said. "We want to build the kind of facilities you want to use."

One of new facilities expected to open soon will be the Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe inside the boathouse on Pearce Mill Road in the McCandless portion of the park. Similar to a cafe that is open in South Park, the new establishment will offer casual dining and will have a liquor license.

County Parks Director Andrew Baechle said a side benefit of the cafe for park users will be year-round access to the public restrooms in the boathouse.

Venture Outdoors, the nonprofit organization that operates the Kayak Pittsburgh rental concession, will move into another part of the boathouse. The boathouse's second floor can be rented from the county for dinners and receptions.

Mr. Schipani, who worked on the park's trail feasibility study in 1990, said among the goals for the park are improvements to Lake Trail safety; the transformation of roads into parkways, landscape preservation, an improved entrance, enhancements to the boathouse area and creation of a central park.

Mr. Schipani provided several options for new walking trails but most of the group said the trails should stay the way they are. One resident asked that the county focus on the area of trails behind the park's swimming pool.

Also discussed was a proposed treetop course that would consist of a series of zip lines, rope ladders, tarzan swings and tree stands between Pearce Mill Road and the tennis courts.

"This would be the fourth Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course in the country," said Mr. Baechle, noting that the course would be a revenue source for the county. Such courses are in Indiana, Virginia and Maryland.

Suzanne Broughton, 76, of Franklin Park, a longtime parks advocate and founder of the North Area Environmental Council in 1969, said county officials face a challenge in implementing changes to accommodate the different interests of the park users.

"This was a very interesting meeting," said Mrs. Broughton, acknowledging that park users come from different walks of life. "There are the nature lovers who prefer to walk the deer trails up on the hill, while the lake walkers seem to be more interested in fitness. The people who show up at these meetings are really interested in making the park a better place."


Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: First Published January 31, 2013 10:45 AM


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