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This summer, the city plans to address complaints by Northside residents about the proper use of Allegheny Commons Park by sticking more closely to the rules.
The major concerns voiced by residents in February related to disruptive noises during events, insufficient clean-up after events and illegally parked cars on park lawns.
Their complaints led to a petition that was signed by nearly three dozen area residents for a hearing to address the way park permits are issued and enforced. The petition sparked conflict between residents and community groups, specifically the Northside Oldtimers, who regularly hold events in the park.
Since the hearing, Councilman Daniel Lavelle has engaged in conversation with community group representatives and the Allegheny Commons Initiative to discuss ways to resolve the argument between the Oldtimers and Northside residents.
Rather than changing park rules, Lavelle said that the city intends to enforce the existing rules more firmly. Part of that strategy will involve communicating the rules more clearly to the community groups and alerting residents to planned events well ahead of time.
“We’re trying to get notice out to community groups earlier about what will actually be occurring in the park. We’re also trying to streamline the rules in the park so that there is no misunderstanding,” Lavelle said.
In addition to clarifying and communicating park rules more carefully, Lavelle said that the city is considering other ways to reduce noise and maintain the quality of the park.
“The council had a noise task force put in place recently and we’re studying noise level issues from a larger city perspective,” he said. “Noise velocity in the parks is something that we’ll be looking at.”
This summer, the Oldtimers event will run from Aug. 5 to 7. To accommodate dog park users during that time, the city plans to move its off-leash area rather than closing it off completely.
Laurie Charlton, who filed the petition in February, told The Chronicle then that the hearing was meant to address permitting for all park events, not one in particular.
The Northside Oldtimers, an anti-violence organization, holds its annual Unity Day gathering in the off-leash area of West Park. In the past, dog park users have complained about not being able to use the off-leash area during the event, as well as improperly disposed chicken bones, which can be hazardous to dogs, on the grounds after the event.
Though the petition does not name The Oldtimers specifically, the members were particularly upset because they believed that the petitioners were singling them out for being a mostly black organization.
In February Oldtimers Board Member William Thompkins told The Chronicle, “If we were a non-African American association, would we have been responded to in the same way? I don’t know, but I don’t think so.”
Jeanette Lee is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying Professional Writing and Investigative Journalism.