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South Park Fairgrounds plans presented

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Allegheny County has presented plans for substantially renovating the track, bleachers and field at the South Park Fairgrounds. The bleachers would be removed and the stairs replaced. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Allegheny County has presented plans for substantially renovating the track, bleachers and field at the South Park Fairgrounds. The bleachers would be removed and the stairs replaced. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

A $3.6 million makeover of the recreational heart of the South Park Fairgrounds, known as the oval, could start this year, the first phase of what officials hope would be a restoration of the Allegheny County park to its bucolic original design.

Consultants from North Side-based Pashek Associates presented two plans at a public meeting last week. Input from the public is now being considered in planning. Christine Fulton, county parks foundation executive director, said most favored including a mix of both designs.

Both would involve renovating the oval track, the playing fields within it and the surrounding bleachers and hillsides, mostly by replacing bleachers and short-cropped lawns with native shrubbery, trees and knee-high meadow grasses that would require less maintenance.

John Buerkle of Pashek Associates said the project would not involve renovating the lighting system, retaining walls, the round barn next to the oval, where Allegheny County Police keep their horses, or Catfish Run, a stream by the oval.

One plan, dubbed “informal and flowing,” would include more trees and shrubs on the hills on each side of the track, and the track would be replaced with a meandering, half-mile trail.

A smaller, 0.2-mile loop would be tucked into one end of the trail. That would surrounded one of three baseball/softball fields to be built inside of the oval, along with a multipurpose field.

Meadow grass would run alongside the trails and cut across the current field.

The second plan, called “formal and axial,” would retain the track's oval shape but upgrade its surface and the fields.

Based on public feedback, Pashek and the Allegheny County Parks Foundation will combine popular elements of each design, with a goal of starting construction around Labor Day, Buerkle said.

Completion is planned by June 2014.

Vince Gastgeb, a Republican from Bethel Park who until Tuesday represented District 5 on county council, said the county committed $2.6 million to park improvements in this year's capital budget. Gastgeb, who served on the parks committee, said the improvements would be covered by the allocation.

At last week's meeting, Terry Tressler, 61, of South Park said the oval is not used enough to justify keeping the wide-open fields proposed in plans.

“I don't think you should build something for Saturday and Sunday when it's empty Monday through Friday,” he said.

“The formal concept is utilitarian — ‘How many ball games can we fit on the field?' ” said Bob Fragasso, 67, of Bethel Park. “The informal plan has a real sense of place.”

Plans also call for removing dilapidated bleachers and stairs, replacing them with greenery.

Since the stairs are popular with joggers, they will be replaced with wider staircases connecting oval trails to the parking lot off of Brownsville Road, the playground across Corrigan Drive and trails on the other side of Catfish Run.

Two county seals on the hill next to the oval would be removed, and the three baseball fields and multipurpose football/soccer field would be regraded and rearranged with removable bleachers.

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

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