Site OK'd for memorial skateboard park in Dormont

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A change in the makeup of Dormont council did the trick for Mary Pitcher and her plans for a skate park in memory of her two sons, who were extreme sports enthusiasts.

After months of sometime rancorous discussion, council Monday night approved municipal ground near Banksville Road as the site to build the multi-use park for skateboarding, skating and biking.

The town's tennis courts are on that site and will be relocated.

The park, estimated to cost $500,000 to $800,000, would be funded by donations and grants -- no taxpayer dollars.

Council in October voted 5-2 against the original skate park proposal by Mrs. Pitcher, who owns an antique shop in the town but now lives in Scott.

On Monday, council newcomers Joan Hodson and Heather Schmidt, along with council President Kim Lusardi and Vice President Laurie Malka, voted to approve the plan. Ms. Malka and Ms. Lusardi cast votes in favor of the plan in the fall.

The three dissenters on the issue -- councilmen Eugene Barilla, Drew Lehman and John Maggio -- did not go without a fight.

Mr. Lehman said he received 14 e-mails on the subject in the past week and all but one were against the plan.

"Dormont does not want this skate park," he said.

Mr. Lehman tried to conduct an informal straw poll among the standing-room-only crowd in the meeting room, but Ms. Lusardi struck her gavel and told him he was out of order. He also wanted to know who would pay to relocate the municipal tennis courts.

Some officials estimated it would cost about $70,000 to relocate each of the tennis courts to Memorial Drive.

Ms. Schmidt said grant money and donated funds would be sought for that work and no taxpayer dollars would be spent.

Mr. Lehman said the borough needs to be careful about how it spends its money to keep its property taxes in check.

"You're trying to bull-rush this through," he said. "You're doing something that will hurt this town and you don't care."

But Ms. Malka said Mr. Lehman did not raise any of those issues at previous meetings when the skate park was discussed.

Mrs. Pitcher plans to donate the park and a memorial wall to the borough. She's been raising funds for the project but said she was limited in how much she could do without a site approval in place.

Some in the crowd questioned how Dormont would be able to maintain the park when it is struggling to maintain the facilities it already has.

Plans are for money to be raised by the Pitcher Park Foundation to be used in a maintenance fund.

Mr. Maggio said the borough's comprehensive plan does not include a skate park. He said only about 14 percent of the borough's population falls in the age range of those who would typically use such a facility.

"That's a lot of money and a lot of energy for very few people," he said.

There is no timetable for construction, but council said Mrs. Pitcher has five years to have funding and plans in place.

Mrs. Pitcher's sons, Vincent and Stephen, graduates of Keystone Oaks High School, drowned in an accident in the Kinzua Reservoir in 2008 while on a camping trip with their father and friends.

Ken McCarthy, freelance writer: .


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