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Portion of Aspinwall's Riverfront Park to open to visitors

| Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Workers put the finishing touches on the amphitheater stage at Aspinwall Riverfront Park.
Jan Pakler | for Trib Total Media
Workers put the finishing touches on the amphitheater stage at Aspinwall Riverfront Park.
Though the west side of the park will be open to the public, construction will continue at the Aspinwall Riverfront Park site.
Jan Pakler | for Trib Total Media
Though the west side of the park will be open to the public, construction will continue at the Aspinwall Riverfront Park site.

After about four years and $7 million in fundraising, a portion of Aspinwall Riverfront Park will open to the public on Saturday.

The west section of the park, which includes gardens, a wetland, boardwalk, amphitheater and walking trail, will open Oct. 18. A procession to the park from the lower ball field in Aspinwall will begin at 11:45 a.m., and a ceremony at the riverfront park will begin at 12:15 p.m.

Pets are not permitted.

Susan Crookston, who has led efforts to develop the park, said a larger grand opening event will occur later, once work is finished. Construction is ongoing.

“Our goal is to open something that can be usable as soon as we possibly can,” Crookston said.

Efforts to turn the eight-acre space into a park began in 2010, after developers originally eyed the area for a parking lot. Crookston led efforts to buy the land from David Kushon for use as a park for $2.3 million. The sale also included a marina business, which is still active. The borough contributed two acres in 2012.

Friends of the Riverfront took ownership of the land in 2011 and transferred ownership to Aspinwall Riverfront Park Inc. last year. Groundbreaking took place at the park a year ago.

Davitt Woodwell, president of the Aspinwall Riverfront Park board, said the partial opening is impressive considering the short amount of time since work started.

“To be able to really turn this whole thing around is really phenomenal,” Woodwell said.

Organizers surveyed residents during the design process to see what features they wanted at the park. A.J. Schwartz of Environmental Planning and Design, which did design work, said because the community was so active in fundraising, it was easier to get responses from those surveys.

“I think once people got a survey, they were much more apt to give a response because they took ownership in it,” Schwartz said.

Fundraisers included the annual “River Rocks” social event, lemonade stands and other community events.

The program for Saturday's event will include a drum circle, DJ, bake sale, food truck and face painting.

John Harford, a member of the Pittsburgh North Optimist Club, will assist with the drum circle. “It's a great way to reduce stress,” he said.

The Pittsburgh North Optimist Club has sponsored several fundraisers for the park. Harford said the project fit into the club's desire to help local community projects.

He said he hopes people appreciate the park's proximity to the Allegheny River.

“I think it's going to be a fabulous asset to the community,” Hartford said. “A lot of people don't even know about it yet.”

Mayor Joe Giuffre said even though only part of the park is opening, people are excited about seeing the project come to fruition.

“It's definitely going to be an asset,” he said.

Parking will be limited while work continues.

“We would really prefer people to walk at this point,” Crookston said.

The eastern part of the park will remain closed to the public as work continues. That part includes a $1 million statue that children will be able to play on, and other recreational features.

Tom McGee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513, or

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