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North Park improvement plans move forward

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 2:01 p.m.
Pine Creek Journal
Developers are working on plans to enhance the gateways to North Park along Ingomar Road, which includes improving the area around Babblebrook pavilion at the intersection of Ingomar and Babcock Boulevard. Bethany Hofstetter| Pine Creek Journal

Plans are starting to take shape for the improvement of North Park.

With the completion of the North Park Lake Area Master Plan last year, the Allegheny County Parks Foundation now is looking for ways to put that plan into motion.

At a public meeting last week, residents and park users commented on the first outlined project proposed by the county to improve the park gateways at the west and east end of Ingomar Road.

“The master plan created a bigger vision; improving the entry experience was one of the overreaching ideas,” said Ron Schipani, capital projects and program manager for the Parks Foundation.

The proposed plans include improving the intersection of Ingomar Road and Babcock Boulevard with a park sign and creating trails around Babblebrook Grove and better access to the lake for fishing.

Developers also proposed interpretive signs near the water and a rain garden to manage water runoff from the road, hillside and trails.

At the west end of Ingomar Road, developers proposed a similar park sign at the park gateway at Ingomar and Kummer roads.

Initially, developers and residents from previous meetings wanted to create a trail system close to the water, near the groves off of the west end of Ingomar.

“The idea of some of these side trails was to get some of the users off the lake trail for a different experience,” said Todd Brandt, of GAI Consultants, lead designer for the North Park master plan.

However, when the developers met with representatives from Departmental Environmental Protection earlier this month, a large portion of the plan was rejected.

Developers planned for a footbridge across Pine Creek downstream from the bridge across Kummer Road to help pedestrians and runners move away from Ingomar Road and closer to the water.

But DEP officials rejected the proposal because there is no way to construct the bridge without affecting the waterway, wetlands or floodplain.

“This was a big downer,” Schipani said. “It just couldn't be done.”

So developers quickly created an alternative to present at last week's meeting that created a promenade, or pedestrian bridge, along the Kummer Bridge, for which the county currently is working on a renovation plan.

Many residents indicated that they would prefer the money that would have been spent on a trail system around the Ingomar Road groves be spent on other improvements in the park because the footbridge is off the table.

“Physically, we'd be bumping (the money) to a new phase,” said Andy Baechle, county parks director.

County officials also are working to create a partnership with PennDOT representatives to improve the section of Ingomar Road between Kummer and Babcock for vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic.

“There could be something there in 2014 in terms of dirt moved or pavement, but it's under contract,” Schipani said. “Nothing is signed yet.”

The design phase of the gateway projects will continue through June.

Parks Foundation representatives said they hope to put the projects out for bid between August and December and have the construction of the gateways done during the spring of 2014.

The Kummer Road bridge project and promenade would follow in 2015.

Christine Fulton, executive director of the Parks Foundation, said she hopes park users will continue to provide input to create the best plan for those who use the county asset.

“The purpose of the Foundation is to preserve and improve the county parks,” Fulton said. “We strongly encourage you to speak up because we need your input.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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