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‘We want the park to stay a park’

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Brian C. Rittmeyer
Monday, March 5, 2007

Dormont residents rallied in winter conditions Sunday in hopes of saving a summertime favorite.
Efforts once aimed at saving the borough’s landmark pool are now set on saving the whole of Dormont Park from the threat of development.

“We want to raise awareness and let council know we don’t want them to develop our park,” said Dormont resident Sarann Fisher. “We want the park to stay a park. We don’t want them to develop the park into retail or more residential.”

The roughly 75 protesters who made their way from the pool parking lot to Banksville Road found support from passing motorists, who honked their horns in response to their signs and chants of “Honk your horn, save our park.” They’re expected to take their fight to the Dormont Council meeting at 7:30 tonight at the borough building.

Two developers have made park proposals. One would renovate the 87-year-old pool in exchange for permission to build townhouses and retail buildings in the park. The other would build a smaller pool and a community center in exchange for retail development in the park.

Opponents want the 25-acre park to stay as it is, and they want efforts to repair the pool to continue.

“We don’t need a strip mall down here,” said John Maggio, president of Friends of the Dormont Pool. “We’re hoping they’ll get the message.”

Karen Gottschall, 40, carried a sign saying “No Walgreens,” which is rumored to be an anchor of a proposed development.

“We need more green space, not less,” she said. “The park is the jewel of Dormont.”

“It’s not about the pool anymore. It’s about the park. They want to pave over our park,” she said. “The developers don’t want to save our park. They want to make money. That’s what they want to do, and they want our land to do it. Our council, unfortunately, might let them.”

The pool remains a focus, however. Pete Popowicz, 57, boasted of the 15 pool passes he had on his car and compared the pool to the likes of Kennywood in stature.

“Even though it’s winter now, we talk about how much the pool means to us in the summer,” 12-year-old Samantha Fisher said as snow swirled about her. “It means so much to me. I’d risk coming down here in the middle of a blizzard just to save this place.”

Donna Rosleck, 68, said the park is a landmark, where her family picnics and her two grandsons come to swim and play.

“I don’t want to see the property sold and the swimming pool go,” she said. “If they take all the property, the kids don’t have any place to go in Dormont.”

This is not the first time Dormont residents have rallied to preserve the park. Fifty years ago, residents fought off a plan to build apartments on the land, said Jim Rutledge, 79, a lifelong borough resident.

Rutledge said he’s confident the latest development proposal can be defeated, too.

Brian C. Rittmeyer can be reached at or (724) 779-7108.

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