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PG: Aspinwall Riverfront Park opens Saturday

Aspinwall Riverfront Park opens Saturday

Aspinwall Riverfront Park has been on fast forward compared to other park projects.

On average, it takes 10 years to create a park, according to Susan Crookston, but on Saturday, a major section of the Aspinwall Riverfront Park will open only three years after the the property was purchased.

Ms. Crookston, of Aspinwall, is overseeing the development of the park, which is privately owned, but open to everyone.

“This is so exciting for us,” she said. “From the beginning, we wanted to move on the park so that the children in this area could appreciate the park now. The community support has been amazing.”

Last winter, an ice skating rink opened. On Saturday, a four-acre section will be the first permanent section of the park. It has a hillside amphitheater for outdoor performances in summer and sledding in winter.

“It is designed to accommodate up to 500 people sitting on blankets on the hill. And it is just a lovely place for people to come and sit and relax,” Ms. Crookston said.

A quarter-mile section of a flat walking trail also will open for walkers, bike riders and runners. It will become part of the Riverfront Trail System.

The park covers 10 acres along the Allegheny River and was home to the former Aspinwall Marina. Aspinwall Riverfront Park purchased the site, which will open access to the riverfront for year-round recreational activities.

Chip Burke, park vice president, said it will be an amenity for people from Sharpsburg, Blawnox, Etna, Fox Chapel and others in the region.

“It is giving us a green area in a place where not a lot of green space is available,” he said.

Mr. Burke of Fox Chapel has been involved in the project since its inception.

“That we are already opening a large section of the park just shows what can be done when a community works together, especially at a local level. This is just incredible,” he said.

The park also will be home to a bronze playground statue by Tom Otterness, a sculptor who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. The sculpture will be in a future playground section of the park.

The public support has been another aspect that Ms. Crookston said has been overwhelming. Groups have hosted fundraisers such as the annual Rock the River event, bake sales, lawn cutting, lemonade stands, car washes and other donations.

Maya Tuttle and her family have been involved in fundraisers. Her twins, Wylie and Ella, 6, asked their friends to donate money from their piggy banks instead of giving gifts.

“They received $1,000 that we are going to donate to the park this Saturday. We were all so happy,” Mrs. Tuttle said.

Mrs. Tuttle said one reason she, her husband, Chris, and their children have been so involved is the sense of community the project has generated.

“I think with technology, we have lost a lot of that feel of a village. This has created that sense of village. Everyone is working together and there is so much excitement. And the people that I have met through the park are wonderful,” she said.

Mrs. Tuttle, of Fox Chapel, said the park means a great deal to her family already.

“We are working together and building a park. We are building something that is going to be a legacy,” she said.

Raindrops to River has been the theme of the development of the park. Several gardens designed with this theme will be in the new section. Gardener Carol Pappas designed the gardens with the hope of getting people to think differently about gardens, Ms. Crookston said.

“We have a wetland area that the land radiates out from and will have gardens like rivers of flowers going over the hills and mounds in the park,” she said.

Ms. Crookston said the garden and park design was created to be environmentally friendly and sustainable, so the wetlands act as a filter for the water from the site to protect the river.

“We don’t want people to think this is a beautiful pond, but it is a beautiful, sustainable area,” she said.

The ceremonies on Saturday begin at 11:45 a.m. with a parade from the lower Aspinwall Ball Field to the park, led by Glenna Van Dyke, who will play the bagpipes. At 12:15, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We have over 350 feet of colored ribbon and lots of scissors, so we hope everyone will be able to help cut the ribbon and take home a small piece,” Ms. Crookston said.

The event also will feature a drum circle, a Native American tradition to thank the land for its offerings, Ms. Crookston said. Guests can participate in the drum circle and help plant bulbs. There also will be a bake sale and food trucks.

The park will not be open to dogs and other pets until the landscape is intact.