New plans, grants sought for kayak park in Oakmont
Oakmont officials are seeking new plans for a proposed kayak park in the borough.
Original plans for the park — a 1.53-acre borough-owned lot along the 1000 block of Allegheny Avenue near the Brenntag Northeast facility — stalled after council approved preliminary designs by Pittsburgh architectural firm Environmental Planning and Design in June 2017. Final approval never was granted, and construction did not take place.
A recently formed ad hoc committee of council members, kayakers and other aquatic travel enthusiasts said the plans were flawed and made things inconvenient for potential users.
Councilman Tim Favo said original designs included a 700-foot serpentine walkway from a proposed parking lot to the launch site, as well as the possible removal of a retaining wall near the riverbed built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1930s for flood control.
“We’re looking to redesign and hopefully get it developed,” Favo said. “We need to do more and better than what was discussed on the first phase of that. No one’s going to carry a kayak 700 feet.”
Chip Fisher, a committee member and an avid kayaker, echoed Favo’s points.
“This was something they were not going to use because of the hike,” he said. “If you go to any of the access points that have been provided along the river, all have parking lots close to the river. This particular section of the river is terrific for its scenic value.”
The park would serve as a launching point for kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and other non-motorized watercraft into the Allegheny River and as an access point to the Three Rivers Water Trail.
Water features in the area include Sycamore Island in Blawnox and state park islands north of Oakmont.
The estimated total cost was $140,000. Friends of the Riverfront received a $40,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the project in 2017.
Favo said those funds no longer are available because they were for the original designs. The committee will seek new grant funding.
New plans could be drawn up by borough engineers at Senate Engineering.
Fisher said he hopes they include a turnaround where people can unload their kayaks between 16 and 20 feet from the water then head up to a parking lot. He also does not want the retaining wall disturbed.
The proposed kayak site is part of the former Chateau Beach, operated by the Chateau Canoe Co. at Hulton.
Dolly Provenzo, borough recreation board secretary, said it was one of the major recreational locations in the borough during the 1920s and ’30s.
She said the chateau at the time was much larger than the 1.53-acre lot being evaluated, and it included space currently occupied by Brenntag.
“They held dances along the boardwalk,” Provenzo said. “I don’t think we’ll get back to that with the space. It’s a valuable space to make use of the river. There’s a lot of history there, and I think it’s exciting to see it come alive again.”
Favo said there is no timeline for the project.
“It will all depend on money, as all things (do),” he said. “Our goal for 2019 is to get a plan together, get rough designs and go for grants to see what we can do.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .