Monday, July 25, 2005

Neighbors at odds over rules in city park. I've been at odds with the park's master plans for years.

Here is another great reason why we need to have a new, Pittsburgh Park District. The problems in the parks can be settled by those most interested in the parks. The coaches, neighbors, professionals and volunteers need places to go to work out their concerns.

Neighbors at odds over rules in city park: "Neighbors at odds over rules in city park
Westinghouse Park signs add to confusion over what is permitted

Monday, July 25, 2005
By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Playing football is not allowed in Westinghouse Park, but you'd never know that from the posted signs. They read, in part: 'Permit is required for sporting activities and organized sports.' That would imply you can get such a permit.

My knee jerk reactions are as follows:

The park can't be trashed. The kids, parents, coaches and organizers of the sports teams need to leave the fields and areas in conditions that are better than then they arrived. The teams need to not only clean up after themselves, but they need to help sustain the park setting in other ways. This upkeep needs to happen every hour, if not ever minute.

I'm going to assume that the park gets trashed. When an event and practice happens, trash is bound to pile and gather. Work needs to occur.

The city could provide some large cans. Perhaps the city could provide a dumpster if necessary. But, the city does not need to have a litter crew hit the park every day. That should be the role and responsibilities of those that use the park.

Enforcement is a seldom used concept in the city behavior efforts.

But most of all, I want to use the parks for programming. I want to see the kids in the parks with coaching, supervision, conditioning, practices, workouts, drills, and play. I want teaching, learning, striving and teamwork to be a bigger part of the lives of our kids, coaches, volunteers and communities.

If the kids need a place to practice -- let them practice in the park.

Finally, the park's master plan for ball fields is a joke. The process was lame. The outcome documents are little more than a way to pay off some consultants. There is little, if nothing, good that I can talk about to support the overall planning for our park's usage and understandings.

We need a Pittsburgh Park District.

We also need a city council representative to work in the parks and offer a dedicated vision of engagement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Neighbors at odds over rules in city park
Westinghouse Park signs add to confusion over what is permitted

Monday, July 25, 2005
By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Playing football is not allowed in Westinghouse Park, but you'd never know that from the posted signs. They read, in part: "Permit is required for sporting activities and organized sports." That would imply you can get such a permit.

Lake Fong, Post-Gazette
Homewood Bulldog football players practice at Westinghouse Park on Wednesday. The Homewood Community Sports organization has been using the park for years but North Point Breeze residents who live nearby say it's not an athletic field and can only be used by groups of 25 or fewer.
The park sits in a square block of North Point Breeze facing railroad tracks that define the boundary with Homewood.

In past years, the Homewood Community Sports organization has sought permits for its football-playing and cheerleading youngsters to use the park, said Kahlil Morris, chief executive officer of the sports group. It has been foiled.

"[The city Department of] Parks and Recreation told us there were no permits" for sports activities at Westinghouse, he said.

The Homewood group's continued use of the park has prompted calls from neighbors to police, most recently last week. Officers have shown up, but witnesses say they were less than sanguine about rounding up 200 little boys in football helmets.

The situation pits a group trying to assert its right to use a city park on its border against a neighborhood trying to keep a passive park passive, and in the middle of it all are the confounding signs. Not only do they suggest a permit would allow sports in the park, the list of dos and don'ts go further, reading: "Only one permit per day."

Asked why signs would be posted requiring permits for activities for which permits are unattainable, Duane Ashley, director of Citiparks, said, "Those signs will probably be restated. I'm going to talk to Public Works and we'll make sure the correct verbiage is in place."

He said city planners have been considering a master plan for the park and that it was necessary "to mitigate some of organized athletic activities that have been going on there."

But even if the signs were clear, bigger issues would remain.

The Homewood sports organization -- now at about 600 children 5 to 14 years old playing football and cheerleading -- spills over from the smaller Stargell Field across the tracks and the field at the Homewood Montessori school on Hamilton Avenue.

Besides Stargell, Homewood and Brushton together share a few tiny parklets.

"These are kids trying to do something positive, and we're young black men trying to help kids, while across the tracks, they're getting killed," said Monte Robinson, president of Homewood Community Sports. The children are scheduled for these activities every evening, Monday through Friday, from May until November. "I can't believe some technicality would keep us from doing this."

Several parents of the Homewood children say the signs are an effort to keep Homewood kids out of North Point Breeze, but North Point Breeze residents say Homewood residents, as anyone else, can use any city park; it's the activity that's at issue. Westinghouse is one of several passive parks in the city.

The signs were put up two years ago, after park neighbors met with city officials, to state what had once been an unspoken understanding of passive use.

Alaina Howard, who has two children in the Homewood sports program, said her neighborhood was not consulted. The streets around the park, North Murtland Avenue, North Lang Avenue and Thomas Boulevard, are considered North Point Breeze. A footbridge connects the park to Homewood's Stargell parklet across the tracks.

"Who gives North Point Breeze the authority to say what kind of park it is?" Howard said. She added that police told the group that "we needed to move to the other side of the tracks. This is not North Point Breeze's park. This is a city park."

Passive use means walking, picnics and gatherings of fewer than 25 people, even playing catch or tossing a Frisbee, said Mike Gable, deputy director of the Department of Public Works.

"But no public meetings or parades, no high-energy games or sports. Westinghouse Park is not an athletic field," he said. "There are fields all over the city."

Cheryl Hall, head of the North Point Breeze Planning and Development Corp., said this flap could be "an opportunity to start resolving some of these issues. Homewood and Brushton are doing good work for their children, and they could use more green space to do this work."

North Point Breeze does not want to control the park, she said.

"We want the city to maintain control of it, but we do want a passive park." She added, "I can see how people would be confused" by the signs. "The bottom line is for them to say what they mean."

Scott Peterman, who has lived in North Point Breeze for five years, said the football playing, as well as rugby activities, by the Homewood group has become "a quality-of-life issue."

"If you go to other parks where there are recreational facilities, they are usually set away from homes," he said. "Most of us live 50 feet from the park. Last Wednesday, they had four games going, and when they left at 8 p.m., the whole park was completely littered with trash. The residents of Point Breeze are the ones who go out and clean it up."

He said the crowds also blare radios and scream.

"[Homewood Community Sports is] a great organization, a wonderful community service, and I would hope they would be a responsible organization and obey the law rather than disobey the law for a good cause," he said.

(Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626.)