Menu Contact/Location

Allegheny County Park Structure Inventory Requested Health, Safety Issues Concern Council

Thursday, June 10, 2010
By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

An old horse barn in North Park is a good example of a structure that has outlived its usefulness, according to Allegheny County Councilwoman Jan Rea.

“We have a lot of buildings in our parks that have not been used for as long as 20 years,” the McCandless Republican said. “Their windows are boarded up, and some pose a health and safety hazard to residents.”

Allegheny County’s nine parks are home to hundreds of structures, and council has asked the Parks Department to prepare an inventory of every one of them.

Council unanimously passed the building-survey ordinance last week.

It calls for preparing an inventory that will include information on location, condition and maintenance needs for every structure.

The final report is to include a recommendation and cost information on either maintaining or demolishing each building. The measure sets a 120-day deadline for completing the work.

Parks Director Andrew Baechle told council that members his department could make that late-September deadline. The county Department of Public Works is to assist in the effort.

“If it is cost-prohibitive to get a building into usable condition, we should take it down,” Ms. Rea said. “Some of them are crumbling, and they have animals living in them.”

Councilman Nicholas Futules agreed.

“We should know the condition and value of all our buildings,” he said. He is chairman of council’s Parks Committee, which recommended approval of the survey ordinance.

The parks department has a total of 341 rental facilities, which includes groves, shelters, gazebos, houses and other various buildings.

Hundreds of structures have to be painted, patched and updated. North Park, for example, has 119 picnic groves and shelters and at least two dozen other buildings.

The measure defines structures to include offices, barns, houses, picnic pavilions, swing sets, restrooms, changing facilities and locker rooms, greenhouses and nature centers. Creation of the oldest of the parks began in the 1920s and 1930s, and some structures from that era remain in use.

Maintenance is expensive and work on some structures has been deferred, Mr. Baechle said.

Restoration efforts involving one North Park landmark got a boost this month, thanks to a Hollywood movie company.

At the same meeting at which it approved the survey ordinance, council authorized DreamWorks Studios to film scenes for a science fiction movie called “I Am Number Four” in Deer Lakes and North parks.

The production company will pay the county a $10,000 fee.

Most of the money will be used to restore decorative terrazzo tile on North Park’s water tower. The 100-foot tower, or standpipe, was built in 1937 as part of the park’s water supply system. It is recognizable by its exterior spiral staircase that leads to a now-closed observation platform.

While the DreamWorks funds will help with renovation costs, additional work will be necessary before the platform can be reopened, Mr. Baechle said.

That work will include removal of lead-based paint and stairway repairs. The county has no timetable for the project, he said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633