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Riverlife studies go overboard

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2002

When it comes to Pittsburgh's parks, we often prefer studying them to actually using them.

Take Point State Park, for instance.

A consultant will soon develop a master plan for the 37-acre, state-owned Downtown space, best known for its towering fountain and numerous funnel cake vendors who congregate there each Fourth of July.

The consultant will be hired by the Point State Park Planning Committee, an arm of the Pittsburgh Riverlife Task Force. This organization craves studies the way a junkie kicking the habit craves methadone — the key difference being many methadone consumers have realized their predilection toward addictive behavior.

Less than three months ago, the Riverlifers released a study advocating the creation of Three Rivers Park, a sprawling $90 million riverfront common extending along the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. The group spent $2.4 million to determine that Point State Park and a new $47 million North Shore riverfront park is insufficient to meet our riverfront park needs.

Now after determining the best use of city riverfront property is park space, the study-happy Riverlifers now want to determine the best use of the considerable park space already fronting city rivers. This is one thorough bunch, this task force.

Less than a year ago, the city and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy released their own study indicating four major city parks — Frick, Highland, Schenley and Riverview — collectively need $115 million in improvements.

This came on the heels of an October 2000 study of our local parks system released by the conservancy and Carnegie Mellon University disclosing that adequate park space is essential to attract new workers to the city.

Oddly enough, though, our inadequate parks certainly haven't kept the bevy of consultants who have recommended expanding and improving our parks over the past few years from coming to town. Looks as though more are on the way. Why?

Aside from the hot sausage and greasy gyro fanatics who pack the place during the Three Rivers Regatta, Three Rivers Arts Festival and Independence Day festivities, Point State Park often can be a lonely locale. Sort of like a death-row jail cell with better ventilation.

If you don't believe me, just stroll through the place some time when the weather is more conducive to such a jaunt. Even with a personality as pleasant as yours, you won't make many new friends.

With more than $200 million in proposed and largely unfunded local park improvements already on the drawing board, some may consider it silly to spend thousands on yet another park proposal. One that likely will recommend millions in improvements to underutilized Point State Park.

Some may consider it silly, especially after absorbing the fully functional proposal I devised myself in about three seconds. Here then, is the only master plan Point State Park really needs:

Prune trees, cut grass, clip shrubs, maintain walkways, turn on fountain when weather permits. Repeat as needed.

The plan is not grandiose, but who says simplicity and felicity can't go hand in hand• Apparently, the Riverlife Task Force and the consultants that stand to profit from this pointless Point State Park study.

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