City tries to put the skids on sledding in Frick Park
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The snowy hill in Frick Park where children have whooped and careened for decades was an uncertain scene yesterday, as would-be sledders faced down five new placards with red lettering: "NO SLED RIDING PERMITTED."
Teal Fitzpatrick and Liz Potenza peered at the signs in disbelief.
"It's the best hill," said Ms. Fitzpatrick, 29, of Bloomfield. They had just been sledding there the other day, she said.
After a quiet moment and a quick consultation, she headed back to her car.
She returned with a sled.
Ms. Fitzpatrick was one of several people who went for a gleeful romp yesterday, ignoring the signs, which were posted this week by the city's Department of Public Works.
Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski said that the hill, which has been the site of numerous injuries over the years, is not a safe place to sled.
"We're not doing it to be mean," said Mr. Kaczorowski.
The hill's long, sloping bowl ends in a thicket of trees. Two sledding approaches -- one mild and one steep -- collide at the bottom, inviting crashes.
Paramedics were called to the area just last weekend, said Mr. Kaczorowski.
The department has also posted signs forbidding sledding on a popular hill in Schenley Park, where the slope empties onto a road, he said.
The news in Frick Park saddened but did not surprise neighbors, who said they frequently saw ambulances and fire trucks at the spot along Beechwood Boulevard near Nicholson Street.
Gail Wolfe, 34, who lives across the street from the area, said she had recently seen a small child on a saucer sled hit one of the hill's trees.
Jessica Sedgewick, 32, remembered seeing an ambulance at the hill a few days ago.
But she thought wistfully of her 2-year-old son, whom she has not yet taken sledding.
"I'm kind of bummed out about it," she said, remembering a truck that would stop by the hill to sell hot cocoa.
Ms. Sedgewick's ambivalence was echoed by neighbors, who felt a sharp nostalgia at the thought of the hill abandoned.
"I kind of laughed a little and cried a little. Intellectually, I understand it," said Marci Woodruff, 57, who remembered sledding there when she first moved to Pittsburgh 31 years ago. "We used to look over at this house and go, 'Oh man, what a great house,' " she said. She now lives there.
"When it snows, the first thing I do in the morning is look out the window to see who's on the hill," she said.
Janet Chepes, 68, said that all of her grandchildren sled on the hill. "I didn't see any problem with it," she said.
"It's just one of those things that they're taking away," said Mildred Markowitz, 75.
Ms. Markowitz lamented the loss of what she described as a family activity, treasured for generations. "There are worse things that kids have been hurt doing," she said.
Mr. Kaczorowski said it is unlikely that people who disregard the signs will be penalized, and they will not be arrested.
But while Ms. Markowitz and others suggested padding the trees or taking other measures to make the hill safer, Mr. Kaczorowski said that was not a sufficient way to deal with the hazard. "Legally, we can't do that," he said.
Ms. Woodruff said she understood his reasoning, but she was still disappointed.
"It's a 'burgh thing," she said. "It's one of the lovely things about Pittsburgh. People here don't take to change well."
First Published January 13, 2010 12:00 am