By Sean P. Ray | Managing Editor
OBSERVATORY HILL — After a long delay, Friends of Riverview Park (FOR Park) held their second community meeting on May 22 to give the public the chance to offer feedback on the re-envisioning of the Grand Avenue entrance and Kilbuck Valley of Riverview Park.
The delay between this meeting and the last — which was held on March 3, 2020, just before COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns hit America — was acknowledged at the opening by FOR Park Chair Mark Masterson.
“Our last meeting was the last public meeting I was at before the pandemic shutdown order came in March of 2020,” Masterson said, “and it’s taken us a while to get back to it because people changed companies and jobs that were helping us with it and we needed to raise extra funding to help pay for this.”
The meeting was made up of two parts. The attendees were given a tour of the Grand Avenue entrance and Kilbuck Valley, followed by an open discussion in which the public provided feedback.
“Really we want to have input from you guys for what this should be,” Masterson explained.
The issues facing the Grand Avenue entrance and Kilbuck Valley are myriad, as revealed on the tour. There are multiple Pittsburgh Department of Public Works facilities along the entrance — including a garbage dump — that can obscure the fact that people are driving into a park. Many residents at the meeting told stories of being unsure they were in the right area when trying to reach the park and instead seeing those public works buildings.
Those facilities are supposed to be removed at some point, according to Masterson, but an exact date is unclear. Even once they are removed, however, that will leave an empty space with an unclear purpose.
Other problems are ecological in nature. A landslide along the Kilbuck Valley brought down many of the old trees, resulting in invasive Japanese knotweeds, as Brad Hazelwood, a landscape architect with Eisler Landscapes, explained during the tour. Hazelwood and Tim Nuttle, an ecologist with Oikos Ecology, were the two tour leads during the meeting.
Additional problems brought up during the meeting include issues with drainage — the main roadway is eroding due to water not being absorbed by the earth and instead flowing down the street — how to make the area more compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, the lack of connection with other areas of the park and figuring out the best amenities to draw people to the park.
“How do we activate this space?” Hazelwood said. “How do we get people back here using it?”
Public feedback included suggestions for putting in some kind of educational nature center as a replacement for the public works facilities. There were also requests for better signage along the entrance to let people know they were on the right path to the park, as well as making the entry roadway safer for pedestrians.
One area of concern was keeping people out of the park after dark for potentially illegal or illicit purposes. A gate was suggested as a solution, closing it at dusk to keep cars from driving up the road.
Overall, the re-envisioning team expressed positivity about how the meeting went and the ideas they received from the public.
“I thought it was fantastic feedback,” Nuttle said.
Nuttle brought up the fact that traffic and safety issues weren’t discussed at the first meeting three years ago as a sign of how useful this most recent meeting was.
Hazelwood said he was particularly interested in the suggestions for some kind of educational component being installed.
The re-envisioning team plans to create a set of alternatives for how Grand Avenue and Kilbuck Valley will look and present them at a follow-up meeting some time next month. Once a preferred alternative or alternatives are selected, the team will narrow the ideas down into a final plan to be presented in October.
For more information, visit the Friends of Riverview Park website or email Erin Tobin, at email@example.com.