Allegheny County adding parking at North Park

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Visitors to Allegheny County's North Park this weekend likely will find more parking spaces and fewer pricey parking tickets.

County manager William McKain said Tuesday that the public works department has begun adding more parking spaces to North Park after receiving complaints from people who parked on the grass last month and received steep fines.

Work began Monday to add 85 new parking spots in two locations off Pearce Mill Road, Mr. McKain said. Weather permitting, the work is expected to be completed by the weekend, he said.

"We're allowing other convenient options for our visitors," he said.

The park, one of nine green spaces operated by the county, has seen an increase in visitors in recent months, especially with the arrival of the warm weather. The Go Ape Zip Line, which opened in spring 2013 and started its second season in April, and the OTB Bicycle Cafe at the North Park Boathouse have become popular draws for the park.

The boathouse cafe saw 33,200 visitors in its first eight months, Mr. McKain said, while the zip line had more than 13,000 users its first year.

"It's a positive message in a way, that we have to manage our growth out here," he said. "And we're trying to do that by creating additional parking so it's convenient for our visitors."

Last month, some visitors to the park on two particularly busy weekends -- Mother's Day and Memorial Day -- parked on the grass rather than in designated parking spots. The fine for parking on the grass at a county park, set by council in 2006, is $100 to $300, based on the county police officer's discretion.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said last week that he heard from people frustrated over receiving tickets from county police that, with court fees, could add up to $370. He has asked police to issue warnings instead of tickets.

As for the cost of the tickets, members of Allegheny County Council plan to take up the issue. An ordinance that proposes lowering the parking ticket fee to $50 was on the agenda of Tuesday's regular council meeting.

Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville and one of the sponsors of the ordinance, is also the public safety chair, and he said he doesn't want to see people parking on the grass because it could become a safety issue. Mr. Fitzgerald also has said people should not park on the grass.

The issue likely will be discussed further this afternoon during a parks committee meeting chaired by Councilman Nicholas Futules, D-Oakmont, another sponsor of the proposed ordinance. Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt is expected to attend the meeting.

Council members will discuss fines in county parks in general, though specific discussion of the ordinance will need to wait until a later parks committee meeting, since the ordinance was introduced Tuesday night and does not meet the required 24 hours' notice before the parks committee meeting.

While they discuss, county public works employees will be adding to North Park's parking spot supply. Thirty-five spots will be added to the 40 currently available in a lot off Pearce Mill across from the boathouse, which itself sits beside a parking lot with 125 spots. Another 50 will be added to an area to the right of the Rose Barn, which is close to the North Park Boathouse.

The county also will add a sign making it clear there are an additional 100 parking spots left of the Rose Barn, Mr. McKain said. Additional signs elsewhere are likely, he said.

He did not have a cost estimate for the work, but he said it would come out of the parks budget.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707. First Published June 3, 2014 2:08 PM

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