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City planners back plan for park

By Tom Barnes,
Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 08, 2002

The city Planning Commission has endorsed a proposal to create a 10-mile-long “grand urban river park” called Three Rivers Park along the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers.

The commission yesterday unanimously supported the idea, which was first proposed in October by the Riverlife Task Force, a 2-year-old, 40-member group trying to find the best uses for the 200 prime acres of land and water stretching from the West End Bridge over the Ohio to the 10th Street Bridge over the Mon and to the 16th Street Bridge over the Allegheny.

The task force’s vision for the riverfronts extending several miles from the Point contains nine principles, which the commission also supported.

One states that the three rivers “are Pittsburgh’s premier public domain” and “diverse river uses” should be encouraged, as long as they don’t conflict with each other.

Another principle says that the city’s “history and traditions [should] inspire” whatever new development occurs along the rivers, and public opinion should play a key role in what goes in along the riverfronts.

The plan also calls for making the many bridges spanning the rivers a key aspect of Three Rivers Park, for connecting public parks and green space to the edge of the water, and for “minimizing industrial obstacles along the rivers.”

“These are the guiding principles” of developing Three Rivers Park over the next 10 to 20 years, said Lisa Schroder, task force director. These tenets will form a framework for “evaluating riverfront development projects” as they come up in the future, she added.

Having the Planning Commission endorse the goals, Chairman Tom Armstrong said, will give additional emphasis to future developers that the city is serious about improving the look of the riverfronts.

Besides the long-range vision statement, Schroeder said, there are three immediate goals to be pursued as part of creating Three Rivers Park.

One is getting $8 million in state and federal funds to continue building Allegheny Riverfront Park from Ninth to 11th streets north of the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which is currently an underused section of riverfront. The task force is working with the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority on that project.

Another goal is improving and renovating Point State Park, which the task force is working on with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

The third short-term goal is lighting the Clemente Bridge over the Allegheny. The task force is working on this with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and Duquesne Light Co. Duquesne Light is providing about $350,000 to buy new light fixtures and apparatus and to maintain it for 10 years.

Backers had hoped to begin lighting the bridge this spring, but now it looks like it won’t start until summer or fall. John Laudenslager, Duquesne Light spokesman, said he hopes the lights, wiring and related equipment can be erected in July and the lights turned on by August.

But Cathy McCollom of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation said the August date might be too optimistic.

“We can’t control when some of these lighting fixtures arrive,” she said.

The project is quite extensive, she said, involving replacing all the lights on the bridge and adding a considerable number of new lights.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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