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Statement on R47

April 12, 2017

Statement by Trish Klatt
Board President, Aspinwall Riverfront Park

On behalf of the Aspinwall Riverfront Park Board, I want to thank Councilman Mark Ellermyer for encouraging The Mosites Company and our Board to consider an alternative to the highly-debated Eastern Avenue access point through the park to connect pedestrians and motorists to the R47 riverfront development. We appreciate his advocating for community partnership as a priority in decision-making, and he has been passionate and unrelenting in guiding a collaborative, deliberative process among the park, city leaders and the developer.

The Park Board listened to the councilman’s concerns, which reflect the voices of Aspinwall families and small business owners who believe that an entrance at Brilliant Avenue would better connect the park and development with Aspinwall’s business district, be safer and less disruptive for traffic, and perhaps most importantly for park-goers, provide an access road that skirts the park’s edge instead of going deep into its green spaces.

We’re also excited about the possibility of a third access point to the development via a Route 28 on/off ramp near the Highland Park Bridge. This could mean better connection with our neighboring municipalities and, ultimately, minimal additional traffic through Aspinwall.

We recognize that the Park Board previously voiced support for an entrance at Eastern Avenue, and I want to explain why we are supporting both Brilliant Avenue and the exploration of a third entrance. Three key things have happened, resulting in a position that has adapted to new information and community input:

1. PennDOT traffic engineers in March presented to Mosites the state’s requirements to avoid having traffic stack at the railroad tracks. When Mosites showed our design committee schematics for two entrances that met PennDOT requirements, it was clear that Brilliant Avenue’s entrance is safer and less disruptive of the park’s core property.

2. We are all sensitive to the community’s concerns and, over the past six weeks, the Park Board has concluded that the Brilliant Avenue entrance is the best solution for everyone, including Aspinwall families who look forward to the day when they can bike from our park to Downtown Pittsburgh.

3. Aspinwall Borough’s zoning regulations require developments to tie into the existing street grid, to connect economic development with business districts. A Brilliant Avenue entrance would help to ensure the greatest benefit for Aspinwall’s businesses. In addition, Mosites has offered the park 1.75 acres of green space and access through its property for the regional trail system.

Let me reiterate our support for this sustainable riverfront development. It’s hard to imagine that seven years ago, Aspinwall residents lived a stone’s throw away from the river but did not have access to this wonderful amenity. The property was a private marina with abandoned buildings and mostly overgrown acreage. The neighboring parcel that Mosites proposes to develop was a scrap yard.

The hard work of volunteers, community support and private donations have brought us to the point where we can proudly invite families from Aspinwall and throughout the region to share the green space, recreational areas and waterfront access we’ve created. We continue to make improvements and are eager for the warm weather season to open next month. With Mosites proposing a development that will have park-like qualities, our park will gain a safer entrance, additional riverfront property, an extension of the bike trail, and a good neighbor.

Important Information about our Park and Riverfront 47

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT ASPINWALL RIVERFRONT PARK AND RIVERFRONT 47

To:       Friends and supporters of Aspinwall Riverfront Park

From: The ARP Board of Directors

Thanks to you, Aspinwall Riverfront Park has been an extraordinary success. It took our community only two years to open part of the park and three more to create what The Post-Gazette named “one of the top five parks to see in the region.” As those of you who have been involved since the beginning can attest, we’ve set and met ambitious goals year after year.

At its core, the Park’s mission has always been to create an independent, self-sustaining community treasure and catalyst for trail expansion. That’s why the purchase of the neighboring scrapyard – 47 acres of precious riverfront land – presented an extraordinary opportunity for our Park and the surrounding communities, and it is why we support the development proposed on that site by Riverfront 47 (R47).

Among many benefits to the park, R47’s proposed development would give us a new, improved, safer and more visible entrance to the existing park, add acres of publicly accessible green space, and connect our community to miles of additional trails.

Regrettably, this plan has caused some controversy we simply did not expect. While we believe the discussion of issues is the mark of an engaged community – and we’re proud to be part of such a community - unfortunately, some the dialogue has become personal and far removed from fact.  Individuals associated with the Park – our Board of Directors and Susan and Currie Crookston, who were instrumental in founding and building our Park - have been subjected to malicious comments and behavior which have no place in any debate among people of character. Personal attacks, threats and accusations are not useful or productive in achieving a fair and balanced outcome.

Given the misinformation circulating, we want to go on the record with some facts:
·      Susan and Currie Crookston have never been on the Board of Directors.

·      Each member of our board of directors submits a conflict of interest statement annually.

·      Aspinwall Riverfront Park is audited annually.

·      No member of the Board of Directors has a financial interest in Riverfront 47.

·      By design, the Park’s board has always included a member of Aspinwall Council.

·      The Park has no employees. In order to mitigate the Park’s risk and liability, the Crookstons formed a company to serve this function and execute board decisions.

·      From 2012-2015, Aspinwall Riverfront Park paid Susan and Currie Crookston’s company Allegheny Development Partners (ADP), between $428,201 to $483,403 annually to develop the Park and operate the marina. These funds paid for the salary and benefits of 4 to 6 full-time marina employees (to operate the large, full-service marina at the Park with its repair shop, ship store, gas station, boat storage, and overnight dockage), as well as the fundraising, construction management, marketing, programming, book keeping, volunteer coordination, part-time workers, and various office and building supplies for the Park. For perspective, in the years prior to its purchase in 2011, the Aspinwall Marina alone cost over $500,000 to operate annually.
  

·      To respond to allegations by a community member, The Post-Gazette spent several weeks investigating how and why the scrapyard was purchased as well as the Park’s finances and found no impropriety.

It is important to understand that the Crookstons began their involvement with the scrapyard next door by first unsuccessfully trying to convince them to put a trail through the property. When the scrapyard came up for sale, they spent nearly a year lobbying local nonprofits (including ARP) and foundations to purchase it and convert it wholly into a Park. This was unsuccessful because apart from the millions of dollars it would take to acquire and develop the property, it was estimated that $500,000 a year would be required just to maintain it.

Concerned that the property would be acquired for industrial use and unable to find a group willing to purchase it as a park, the Crookstons personally secured an option on the property to safeguard it. Because they did not have the money to buy the property themselves, their next step was to interview a number of commercial developers to find one that would purchase the property and commit to significantly expanding the Park and the trail system. They were introduced to award winning developers, The Mosites Company (TMC) by the Heinz Endowments. TMC was willing to make that commitment. As the controlling partner of Riverfront 47, TMC is responsible for the development of the land. The Crookstons remain involved the project as minority partners. We believe this partnership is beneficial as it ensures that someone at the table shares our values and vision for an expanded, trail-connected Park.

Having been through the process of building a park, our Board of Directors has first-hand knowledge of the challenges. We’re proud of the fact that ARP has used your contributions efficiently and effectively, developing and maintaining our Park for less cost per square foot than most parks*. Thanks to the generosity of the members of the board and foundations, we’re also planning for the future and have raised almost $1.5 million towards a $2 million endowment. But we, like other nonprofits, clearly do not have the financial wherewithal to take on this expansion, so we are pleased that a private developer is willing to work with us to achieve our vision.

We’re also proud of the support we’ve received from the Aspinwall community and Council’s openness to objectively deliberate the proposed Eastern Entrance. We want to make it clear that R47 presents the best opportunity for the rapid expansion of the regional trail system.   We want additional parkland and a trail to the City which will be completed quickly.

Eastern Avenue will not be the primary access into R47. It will be a beautiful, safe entrance into the Park, that you can actually see from the road. A narrow road will run from the Park’s parking lot on the upper portion of the Park along the train tracks that will allow those who enter the park to continue towards R47 to access additional parkland and the riverfront trail that heads towards Millvale.  In addition, our current 8.3 acre park will net 2.27 acres of additional green space, nearly 2 of those acres on the water.   We can’t wait.

We are grateful for your ongoing support and look forward to continuing to discuss our position on any issues associated with this project. Thank you very much for your commitment to our mission.


* According to Environmental Planning and Design, ARP cost $8/square foot to develop. In comparison, Cliffside Park and Point State Park cost $16/sq.ft.; Southshore $28/sq.ft.; Mon Wharf $61/sq.ft.






Plans call for more green space at Aspinwall Riverfront Park

Plans are under way to convert three acres at the Aspinwall Riverfront Park, currently covered by concrete, into green and usable space.
The land now is occupied by the Aspinwall Marina and a parking lot.
“We want to renovate the buildings and we envision space to hold camps and events,” said Aspinwall resident Susan Crookston, whose Allegheny Development Partners oversee the 10-acre park along the riverfront.
“We want to concentrate on green space and river access.”
Costs are expected to be about $500,000.
Park leaders are relying on donors to assist with the goals for 2016. The park does not receive municipal funding. Income is generated by rental space at the marina.
With that building now limited to services for small boats, Crookston said there may be other potential uses for the facility.
Aspinwall resident Nancy Stack, head of the park's design committee, said plans will focus on river access and green space.
“We want to make the best use out of the existing space with an eye toward as much green as possible,” Stack said.
Plans include a welcome center, adequate parking for future amenities and handicapped-accessible restrooms, which are lacking in the park. Educational space and event rentals could help generate income to maintain the park.
Stack is planning to meet with architects next week.
It has been five years since Crookston spearheaded the $2.3 million purchase of the land. An early survey of about 1,800 people indicated interest in trails, nature and a play area.
Three acres in the western portion opened last year to offer passive recreation such as gardens and a walking trail. Three acres on the opposite end opened this summer with a playground.
It's time to capitalize on the “beautiful river views,” she said.
Crookston said public river access is the most significant offering missing.
“We should be able to grow up doing things on the water,” she said. “That was our primary motivator in recapturing this property.”
Currently, park users can't launch a kayak or cast a fishing line into the water from the park. Or, “simply dangle their feet in the water,” Crookston said.
“If we can get the funding, we will change that this year. Our focus is to create a simple river access to enable people to start enjoying our river as soon as possible.”
Crookston said the cost of utilities, insurance, maintenance and taxes reaches about $100,000 each year.
The board has committed to building a $2 million maintenance endowment, of which $1.4 million is already in place.
“Maintaining a park is very expensive and we are planning for it,” she said. For details on donating to the park efforts, visit aspinwallriverfrontpark.org/donate.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
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Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourfoxchapel/yourfoxchapelmore/9643472-74/park-space-crookston#ixzz3y7sK7oq6
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Plans call for more green space at Aspinwall Riverfront Park

Plans are under way to convert three acres at the Aspinwall Riverfront Park, currently covered by concrete, into green and usable space.
The land now is occupied by the Aspinwall Marina and a parking lot.
“We want to renovate the buildings and we envision space to hold camps and events,” said Aspinwall resident Susan Crookston, whose Allegheny Development Partners oversee the 10-acre park along the riverfront.
“We want to concentrate on green space and river access.”
Costs are expected to be about $500,000.
Park leaders are relying on donors to assist with the goals for 2016. The park does not receive municipal funding. Income is generated by rental space at the marina.
With that building now limited to services for small boats, Crookston said there may be other potential uses for the facility.
Aspinwall resident Nancy Stack, head of the park's design committee, said plans will focus on river access and green space.
“We want to make the best use out of the existing space with an eye toward as much green as possible,” Stack said.
Plans include a welcome center, adequate parking for future amenities and handicapped-accessible restrooms, which are lacking in the park. Educational space and event rentals could help generate income to maintain the park.
Stack is planning to meet with architects next week.
It has been five years since Crookston spearheaded the $2.3 million purchase of the land. An early survey of about 1,800 people indicated interest in trails, nature and a play area.
Three acres in the western portion opened last year to offer passive recreation such as gardens and a walking trail. Three acres on the opposite end opened this summer with a playground.
It's time to capitalize on the “beautiful river views,” she said.
Crookston said public river access is the most significant offering missing.
“We should be able to grow up doing things on the water,” she said. “That was our primary motivator in recapturing this property.”
Currently, park users can't launch a kayak or cast a fishing line into the water from the park. Or, “simply dangle their feet in the water,” Crookston said.
“If we can get the funding, we will change that this year. Our focus is to create a simple river access to enable people to start enjoying our river as soon as possible.”
Crookston said the cost of utilities, insurance, maintenance and taxes reaches about $100,000 each year.
The board has committed to building a $2 million maintenance endowment, of which $1.4 million is already in place.
“Maintaining a park is very expensive and we are planning for it,” she said. For details on donating to the park efforts, visit aspinwallriverfrontpark.org/donate.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
 
 


Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourfoxchapel/yourfoxchapelmore/9643472-74/park-space-crookston#ixzz3y7sK7oq6
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Diana Nelson Jones' Walkabout: Aspinwall Riverfront Park a testament to tenacity

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By Diana Nelson Jones / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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In just five years, 10 acres of land between the Allegheny River and Freeport Road in Aspinwall have gone from a concept to an extraordinary amenity for the borough. That’s an amazingly quick turnaround and can be explained in large part by an all-for-one mentality that gripped its populace when in the summer of 2010, resident Susan Crookston proposed a use other than a UPMC parking lot.

At Sunday’s grand opening of the Aspinwall Riverfront Park, I considered the power of collective enthusiasm.

The place attracted thousands who turned out on a gorgeous day to take it all in. A playground covered with mulch was crawling with kids. Blackened railroad trestles looked sculptural in the setting, like majestic ruins straddling a loop of trails. The trails do not link yet to the regional heritage trail, but Ms. Crookston said that connection is a goal.

Several stormwater retention gardens show us beautiful solutions to our sewage overflow problems. A large part of the park is a nature reserve.

Allegheny Riverfront Park Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) that owns the park, which is meant for passive use, with dawn to dusk hours.

“Isn’t it amazing what a dream can become?” Ms. Crookston said on Sunday. “My husband heard a little boy say, ‘Look what I bought!’ ” The boy was referring to the birthday money he had donated to the park during the fund-raising drive. “What I love about that is how people think about what they can accomplish.”

From atop a steep mound of grass that was formed by a pile of debris from excavated foundations, Aspinwall’s main street and the background layers of dormers and rooftops from homes on parallel streets spread out like a Norman Rockwell panorama.

A child ran wildly down the slope when John Hook was there with his mother, Pat.

“I wish I’d had a sled-riding hill like this when I was a kid,” Mr. Hook said. “I never knew this was back here or how bad it was until Susan asked us to come look.”

“I’m overwhelmed, and I’ve lived here all my life,” Pat Hook said.

At the end of 2010, eight acres belonged to the Aspinwall Marina and two belonged to the borough. The marina’s owner, David Kushon, wanted to retire and sell, and UPMC sidled up to him quickly. Ms. Crookston was right behind, proposing a community park.

When I visited the site with Ms. Crookston in 2011, the site surrounding the marina was a huge gravel parking lot and an enormous expanse of overgrowth.

Mr. Kushon said he favored Ms. Crookston’s idea, but he wanted to get a move on, and he was asking $2.3 million.

He gave Ms. Crookston’s dynamic little band of dreamers eight months to raise the money.

Kids sold lemonade and T-shirts and mowed lawns. Eight-six women and their mates donated $20 each to recreate a high school prom.

There were bake sales, car washes, parties to raise money. Businesses donated proceeds, money boxes were posted at community events and people delivered jars of change to Ms. Crookston’s house. A landscaper donated his services for early designs.

Childrens’ gifts totaled $12,000.

The borough donated its two acres.

The only significant chunk of public money was a $250,000 Allegheny County Infrastructure and Tourism grant.

By July 2011, the park organizers had raised all but $256,000. By the first of September, Highmark supplied the last big chunk — $200,000 — and they were ready to start digging.

At the time, Tim Inglis, president of the Colcom Foundation, said it was this old-fashioned, unified spirit that inspired the foundation to give $250,000 as a matching grant to nudge other big players. The Hillman Foundation came in with a matching grant of $150,000.

The park has support from the R.K. Mellon, Grable and Benedum Foundations and Heinz Endowments and “and many corporations and individuals,” Ms. Crookston said. “Many many many individuals.”

The marina remains private but Ms. Crookston said there may one day be public water access.

A lot of people think something this big has to be done by government with a lot of public money. The chronic responses to the big dreams of our peers are often cynical: Pie in the sky. Get real. I won’t live to see it. The people of the Aspinwall area had a life-affirming response: We can do this.

The truth is, a few dogged visionaries with persuasive grass-roots support can move faster than the plodding vehicles of government.

Never underestimate the power of unified enthusiasm.

Diana Nelson Jones: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-263-1626.

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