ShareThis Page
Valley News Dispatch

Deer Lakes Park boasts $2.2M in upgrades from fracking revenue

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, 12:54 a.m.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald tours Deer Lakes Park with county officials on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald tours Deer Lakes Park with county officials on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.
In this file photo from Dec. 1, 2016, Allegheny County Parks landscape architect Joel Perkovich, (center) points out to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald some upgrades and improvements made to Deer Lakes Park. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
In this file photo from Dec. 1, 2016, Allegheny County Parks landscape architect Joel Perkovich, (center) points out to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald some upgrades and improvements made to Deer Lakes Park. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.
Allegheny County Parks employees Brett Bishop and Sean Walker finish a walkway as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and other officials tour Deer Lakes Park. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Allegheny County Parks employees Brett Bishop and Sean Walker finish a walkway as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and other officials tour Deer Lakes Park. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald looks over the lower lake at Deer Lakes Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 during a tour to see upgrades and improvements. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald looks over the lower lake at Deer Lakes Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 during a tour to see upgrades and improvements. County officials say the $2.2 million in improvements made at the park are a result of natural gas revenue the county receives from granting fracking rights there.

Deer Lakes Park is looking pretty spiffy these days, and Allegheny County offi­cials attribute its $2.2 million in improvements to fracking revenue.

Among workers in hard hats, heavy machinery, white pipes and orange fencing, parts of a new green-and-yellow playground stand near the park's entrance.

A nearby lake once covered in lily pads is now clear, and visitors can see clouds and trees reflected in its surface. At another playground, cement masons are hard at work, smoothing down a freshly poured sidewalk with trowels.

“This is nice,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “The kids will have a ball.”

Fitzgerald and other county officials on Thursday toured the park to see what upgrades and improvements have been made there with the funds generated from an off-site shale gas extraction contract with Range Resources.

So far, the park has added 24 benches around two of its three lakes, cleaned up the lake waters to make them more fishable, added bathrooms, upgraded pavilions and made trail improvements.

All $2.2 million-worth was paid for by fracking, Fitzgerald said.

“No taxpayer dollars are going into this,” he said. “It's never happened before. I don't think there's ever been an investment this big, certainly not in the last few years, in any park. For this park to get that much. … This is really going to be — already — going to be fantastic.”

Allegheny County Council approved leasing the oil and gas rights under the park, which straddles Frazer and West Deer, to Range Resources in 2014. The Fort Worth, Texas-based petroleum and natural gas company drilled under the 1,180-acre park from a well pad on private property across the street.

Fitzgerald said previously he does not have plans to allow fracking under the eight other county parks. The county has a fracking deal with another firm at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Range paid the county $4.7 million when the deal was signed. It also agreed to donate $3 million to a Parks Improvement Fund in installments and pay 18 percent in royalties once natural gas production started. The lease will last as long as the well produces.

Gas production began last March, Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said. He said the gas company has since paid the county more than $503,000 in royalties.

Allegheny County Manager William McKain said the royalties will be used for other park projects.

Additional improvements consisted of a new bathroom for the Wagman Observatory, where visitors once used portable outdoor toilets.

Joel Perkovich, a landscape architect with the county Parks Department, called the new playground the “crown jewel” of the improvements.

It will be the largest playground in all of the county's parks and have play equipment for youth ranging from toddlers to teenagers.

Work on it began in September. Crews plan to finish it before Memorial Day.

Crews also got rid of overgrown vegetation and cleaned up the shoreline of a nearby lake. Anglers can now cast a line from new or refurbished fishing platforms scattered around its rim.

Perkovich said crews will replant native species along the shoreline in the spring.

Allegheny County Councilman Ed Kress said area residents have not complained about the drilling, and he hopes the improvements will show that the area has not been forgotten.

“The concern you have with people out in West Deer (is) they feel like they're being neglected,” said Kress, of Shaler. “This is showing that we're not neglecting them.”

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7822 or mczebiniak@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me