Above: Children explore "Cloud Arbor."(Photo courtesy the Children’s Museum).
Circus performers, politicians, musicians, children and Northsiders gathered on June 23 to celebrate the opening and dedication of the Buhl Community Park at Allegheny Square.
The park, at the intersection of Federal and Ohio streets, was transformed into a green, public space this year as a part of the Children’s Museum’s Charm Bracelet Project.
To celebrate its opening, the Children’s Museum offered free admission all day on Saturday and had roaming acrobats from Cirque-tacular and performances by the River City Brass Quintet throughout the day.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, City Council President Darlene Harris and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald attended the event.
“I’m just so excited,” said Harris, who recalled coming to Allegheny Center as a child to visit the library and the park. “It’s great to see so many people here, like it used to be.”
Harris said the city hopes to reconnect Ohio Street and East Ohio Street to make the park even more accessible.
Before its rebirth as Buhl Community Park, the 1.5 acre space between the Children’s Museum and Allegheny Center apartments was a poorly maintained cement park that residents described as somewhat of an eyesore. Despite the size, the park had only 20 trees and was 65 percent concrete.
“I believe many of you have been looking at that sunken plaza for the past decade, and I believe it’s taken a turn for the worse,” said Chris Siefert, deputy director of the Children’s Museum, when he presented the new plans for the park and moderated the community meeting last July.
After 10 months of construction that began in August of 2011, the park is now reverted back to the original “X” shaped pattern that it had in the 1890s and now has over 100 trees, 200 shrubs, 5,000 flowers and is 70 percent grass.
Frely Shea and her husband watched the official opening from their Allegheny Center apartment’s balcony after watching and hearing the park’s construction for through the fall and winter.
“Clearly it’s fabulous for us because we can see it,” said Shea. “We’ve been here through all the construction, and it’s just fabulous now.”
The highlight of the park is a 32-foot-tall art installation by Ned Kahn called “Cloud Arbor.”
“Cloud Arbor” is a series of metal poles that release a cool, fine mist every few minutes to simulate a cloud hovering nine feet above the ground and moving with the wind.
At the June 23 opening, children in attendance waited between the poles for the mist to come out and screamed with delight when it did.
The piece was funded by The Charity Randall Foundation and will operate year-round.
In addition to “Cloud Arbor,” the park also has green features like solar lamps, a rain garden, bio swells and meadow grass. Additional tables and chairs as well as blue stone benches were installed for seating.
“I think throughout the park, you’re going to find little details that will really make you smile,” said Bill Schlageter of the Children’s Museum.
The park was funded by the Children’s Museum, the Buhl Foundation, the Grable Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and many other donors.
The Children’s Museum and the City agreed on a shared maintenance contract, and that the park will be serviced by landscapers for the first year.
Additionally, part of the park’s 6.5 million dollar project cost, will include a maintenance fund to keep the new park clean and safe.