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Plans unveiled for facelift of South Park Fairgrounds

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Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The large oval track and the fields within it at the South Park Fairgrounds could get a major face-lift starting this spring, under two possible plans Allegheny County consultants presented Wednesday night.

The $3.2 million project to make over the oval off Corrigan Drive would involve tearing out the dilapidated bleachers overlooking the track, replacing the cinder track surface with crushed stone and planting native shrubs, trees and grasses along the hillsides and corners to cut down on the amount of mowing and maintenance county workers must do, said John Burkle, a consultant with North Side-based Pashek Associates.

“We're investing a lot in mowing; investing county resources that maybe we could set aside and use for other things,” he said. “Our long-term goal is to turn the oval into a picturesque landscape similar to what (South Park designer) Paul Riis wanted back in the '20s and '30s.”

Two options were presented. An “informal and flowing” plan would include more trees and shrubs on the hills on either side of the track, and the track would be replaced with a more meandering half-mile trail. A smaller 0.2-mile loop would be tucked into one end of the trail, surrounding one of three baseball/softball fields that would share the inside of the oval with a multipurpose rectangular field.

The second, “formal and axial” proposal would retain the geometric oval shape of the track, while still upgrading its surface and the fields.

Consultant Sara Moore emphasized that, based on public input like what was gathered at the meeting in South Park, elements of each proposal could end up in the final project.

Dave Buchewicz, 73, chairman of the Friends of South Park and one of about 50 people at the meeting, said he worried that breaking up the field and oval with meadow grass and the smaller inner trail loop would disrupt the flow of games between the fields, or restrict special events such as the County Rib Fest.

County Councilman Vince Gastgeb said council had set aside about $2.6 million in its capital budget for park improvements and would match contributions from the nonprofit Allegheny County Parks Foundation.

Burkle said work on the oval could begin this spring and be done by June 2014.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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