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What does a community want in a park? Aspinwall speaks up.

Last year, the Allegheny River community of Aspinwall led a successful grassroots campaign to buy a private marina and turn it over to the public.  Now, in anticipation of the new Aspinwall Riverfront Park, project directors have turned to the community once again to find out exactly what area residents want in a park.

Top activities include walking, running, bicycling, playground areas, and nature appreciation.  According to Friends of the Riverfront (FOR), who facilitated the survey,17 percent of respondents expressed a desire to create a natural park that focuses on the river with fishing, rowing, and canoeing or kayaking.

"What was important to us is that we create something that is really valuable to the public, and that meets their needs," says Susan Crookston, of Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc.  "And by doing this survey we wanted to incorporate people's ideas and their own dreams for the park too."

But residents want the park to be enjoyed by non-humans as well.  Crookston's organization was delighted to find a river otter on the property last week, an animal which has only recently been reintroduced to the Allegheny.  Bald eagles and hummingbirds have also been spotted in the park.

"There's a really unique ecosystem…that we'd like to protect and cherish," Crookston says.  "We really want to get people back to the river and interacting with the river, so that's an exciting possibility for us."

FOR purchased the marina on behalf of the Aspinwall community last October from David Kushon, who retired after more than 40 years on the river.  The purchase was made possible through the community's grassroots fundraising, an effort which Crookston spearheaded in 2010, raising over $2.3 million.

FOR has also announced the local design team that will create a Master Plan for the park, which includes Pittsburgh-based Environmental Planning & Design (EPD) as team leader and landscape architect of record.

EPD is joined by NIPpaysage of Montreal, Quebec; studio d’ARC architects of Pittsburgh; Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering of Coraopolis; blue tomato design of Pittsburgh; and 360 Intelligent Marketing.

Crookston says there is also an interest in having canoe and kayak rentals at the site, among other amenities, but that the specifics are still being developed.

"It's an enormous task that we're trying to undertake here, to not only run a  business that generates several million dollars a year and has several employees," she says, "but what we hope will be a treasure for our community for years to come."

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Susan Crookston
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