FAQs

Where is the Park located?

Aspinwall Riverfront Park is located on the Allegheny River near the Highland Park Bridge in Aspinwall. Our address is 285 River Avenue, Aspinwall PA 15215.

 

When is the Park open?

The Park is open daily during daylight hours.

 

What amenities does the Park offer?

Aspinwall Riverfront Park is a place for all ages to enjoy all seasons. In the winter, we offer sledding and free ice skating (weather permitting) with free skates to borrow on weekends. In the other seasons, visitors can enjoy the Park’s flat quarter mile walking trail, native gardens, and a most unique playground in the region – a unique play sculpture by world renowned artist Tom Otterness. (Read more about this Playground here http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/art-architecture/2015/09/13/Playground-sculpture-invites-kids-to-clamber-at-Aspinwall-Riverfront-Park/stories/201509130070.

 

At this time, dogs and other pets are not permitted in the Park. We can’t wait to create public River access and link with the trail system- and are raising money for public River access right now.

 

How large is the Park?

The park is ten acres in total, eight from the original purchase (marina and surrounding land) and two added by the Borough of Aspinwall.

 

What animals have been seen?

Visitors have seen river otters, beavers, raccoons, deer, garter snakes, and Canadian geese. Even a bear was spotted at the Park in 2013!

 

How was the Park designed?

The property could never have been purchased without the innovative conceptual plan created by Landy Dowler. Following the acquisition, ARP solicited interest from highly qualified park and landscape planners from all over the country. After months of many interviews, Environmental Planning and Design, based in Pittsburgh, was selected.

The second step was listening to what the community wanted. One-on-one interviews were held with community leaders and a broad community survey asked about wishes and preferences. Over 1,800 responded! That feedback, the unique features and limitations of the site, and the expert guidance of Environmental Planning and Design are all reflected in the final design.

 

How does the marina fit into your plans?

Aspinwall Marina offers summer dockage for small boats. The profits generated from the marina will be used to help fund the maintenance of the Park.

Other businesses might also be a good fit, like a restaurant or bike shop. We’re exploring these options. If you have a business idea you’d like to discuss, please contact Susan Crookston scrookston@comcast.net.

 

How can I help?

Volunteers are critical to the Park’s success.  Help is needed with garden maintenance, fundraising and many administrative tasks.  To volunteer, please email Susan Crookston at scrookston@comcast.net.

 

What about parking?

We plan to have 36 spaces when the Park opens and 42 when the crossing is complete.  This does NOT include the spaces for marina patrons.  We have 52 spaces in that lot.  These numbers are based on an independent traffic study estimate that was based on Institute of Transportation Engineers standards, as well as community feedback and comparable local lots.

 

How is the Park managed?

Aspinwall Riverfront Park is an independent 501(c)3 corporation and unaffiliated with Aspinwall Borough. The Park is managed by an independent board of directors. The board has engaged Allegheny Development Partners, whose principals are Susan and Currie Crookston to carry out the Park’s mission.

 

 

FAQ Update as of November 2016:

This section has two parts:

  • The first 20 questions and assertions were submitted to the Borough of Aspinwall in August after being gathered by questions and comments made on social media.  All capitalizations and spellings are attributed to the questioners.
  • Questions 21-30 are questions that the Park compiled that were directly asked of it.

 

  1. Who OWNS the property on which the old Aspinwall boat dock is located?

Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc.

 

  1. Who OWNS the property on which the Aspinwall Riverfront Park is located?

Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc.

 

  1. Are the Aspinwall boat dock and the Aspinwall Riverfront Park both non-profit organizations? If they are each separate entities, who owns each?

The Aspinwall Marina and Aspinwall Riverfront Park are one organization. ARP is a 501©3 nonprofit corporation.

“Aspinwall boat dock and Aspinwall Riverfront Park “are owned by Aspinwall Riverfront Park, A Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation granted 501-c-3 status by the Internal Revenue Service.

 

  1. Has the Borough of Aspinwall retained ownership of the property bounded by the City of Pittsburgh PWSA (on the East) and ARP (on the West) for use by the Aspinwall DPW?

The Borough has retained ownership of that part of the property which is used by Aspinwall DPW.

 

  1. Where is the property line between the ARP and Aspinwall public works?

The Allegheny County website shows this line. This website is easily accessible.

 

  1. Assuming that the intersection of Freeport Road and Brilliant Avenue is reconstructed as originally shown on the design drawings to align a new entrance to the ARP (and presumably the DPW) where will the new parking area (for Aspinwall employees and ARP patrons) be positioned?

The new parking arrangement will be a part of the negotiations between the Borough and the City of Pittsburgh.

 

  1. Who is the Aspinwall Riverfront Park Incorporated?

It’s an independent 501©3 nonprofit corporation.

 

  1. Who are the members of the Aspinwall Riverfront Park board of directors and where does each member legally reside?

Board Members

Chip Burke, Shadyside

John Culbertson, O’Hara Township

Kevin Gordon, Aspinwall

Tim Inglis, Franklin Park

Nancy Kingsley, Aspinwall

Patricia Klatt – Aspinwall

Pete Kubiska, O’Hara Township

Peggy McKnight, Fox Chapel

Tim McLaughlin, Aspinwall

Dave Short, Cheswick

Bill Simpson, O’Hara Township

Bill Strome, Allison Park

Sarah Tuthill, Aspinwall

Davitt Woodwell, Fox Chapel

 

  1. Who is the Chairman of the Board of Aspinwall Riverfront Park Inc. and where does the Chairman legally reside?

Patricia Klatt, 21-year resident of Aspinwall

 

  1. What is the relationship between the elected Aspinwall borough Council and the elected Mayor of Aspinwall and the Aspinwall Riverfront Park Inc.?

None. The Borough has supported the concept of the park from the time it was presented to it.

In late 2010, when Susan Crookston thought of the idea to create the Park, she approached the Borough about purchasing the marina property to create a park. The Borough indicated it did not have the financial wherewithal to do so, but it was very supportive of the idea.

The property purchase was made possible by donations from individuals, corporations and foundations with residence and offices throughout western Pennsylvania. $250,000 of the $2.3 million that was raised for the purchase came from tax payer funding (a CITF grant). Aside from a $500 donation from Fox Chapel Borough and Aspinwall Borough’s contributions (see below), no other tax payer funding has been used to create the Park.

The Borough has contributed $3,500 in total to the Park since 2011 and made available some property for use as part of the park. Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. contributed $75,000 to the Borough to enable it to replace the its municipal works buildings which were sorely in need of replacement. The Park also paid for the painting of the existing building which did not need replacement.

The support and effort of the Aspinwall Borough government and the citizens of Aspinwall were critical to the acquisition of the property for and developing of the park but it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge that the park is a regional asset and that in excess of 98% of the funding for the park was generated from individuals and entities siding or having offices outside of Aspinwall.

 

  1. What representation does the Aspinwall Borough Council have on the Aspinwall Riverfront Park Inc. board of Directors?

By design, there has always been a member of Aspinwall Council on the Park’s Board of Directors.  Tim McLaughlin is on the board of the Park. Kevin Gordon, who finished his term on Council last year, represented Council prior to Tim’s election. Both have been on the board since the property’s purchase, and Tim was intimately involved in the creation of the Park through his work as President of the Fox Chapel District Association.

 

  1. Does ARP, Inc. public an annual financial statement and who audits the statement (if no statement is issued, WHY is a statement not issued)?

Yes. It is available on Guidestar https://www.guidestar.org/profile/45-3071366  (and please read the footnotes). We also distribute pie chart annually to our donors describing the year’s accomplishments and how money was spent. We are audited by Hess and Company.

 

  1. Who is legally liable for damage or injuries occurring at the ARP?

If such damage or injury occurs as a result of negligence by Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc., the Park is.

 

  1. Who holds the insurance policy and with what insurance company is involved?

Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. Is insured by Liberty Insurance.

 

  1. Who pays for the security and policing of ARP, and under what agreement between ARP, Inc. and the security provider (is the agreement available for review)?

Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. has a security system. Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. monitors the cameras. As a property owner in the Borough, Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. is also protected by the Aspinwall Borough police who make their rounds in the park as they do in other Borough areas.

 

  1. Who pays for the upkeep and maintenance of the ARP physical facility and how is it funded?

Unlike the vast majority of public parks, Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. pays for all upkeep and maintenance of the Park. For our 10 acre Park, just utilities, insurance and taxes alone cost us over $50,000 annually – and that’s before a single blade of grass is cut, bag of garbage is taken out, weed is pulled, plant replaced, trees inoculated and trimmed, sculpture maintained, geese poop scooped up, mulch around the sculpture replenished (bi monthly), limestone path replenished (annually). We could go on and on. These items bring the annual total to well over $100,000.

A maintenance endowment fund has been established largely through the generosity of two board members. When our endowment is fully funded we expect it to contribute $60,000 towards Park maintenance. Current Park maintenance is paid for through privately raised funds.

 

  1. Is it true that the ARP property ends at the boundary between the Borough of Aspinwall and O’Hara Township? (If not, please explain the ownership of the excluded properties).

No. Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc.’s property ends at the fence line downstream from the train trestle. Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. has no ownership interest in the property from that point to O’Hara Township. The ownership of the property between those two points can be determined by reference to the Allegheny County website referred to above

 

  1. Who owns ALL the property adjacent to and on the riverside of Freeport Road (between Western Avenue and the existing entrance to the Aspinwall Borough DPW facility including the lease parking areas.

Unknown. Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. does not own any of that property. We suggest did you contact one of the title companies operating in western Pennsylvania to assist you with this inquiry.

 

STATEMENT:  Aspinwall’s Eastern Avenue runs very roughly North and South. A vector projected parallel to the Eastern Avenue centerline towards the Allegheny River will cross through a portion of the ARP that has been developed by landscaping, planning of trees and foliage and general improvements. MUCH OF THIS WORK WAS DONE BY (or assisted by) ASPINWALL RESIDENT LABOR.

This planting designed by Landy Dowler and was done on Norfolk Southern property and Norfolk Southern reserves the right to remove the plantings if it needs the area for its use.

This area of the ARP was presented by the original design submission (and approved by various contributors) is vital for maintaining the original scheme of a green, traffic-free, area which can be safely used by the very young and old. It should be noted that the PAVED road that serves the ARP currently ends at about the point where the elevated railroad crosses the ARP property and from that point a boardwalk (not suitable for vehicular traffic) extends to the West area of ARP.

The boardwalk, like the covered wooden bridges of old, is specifically designed to hold vehicular traffic. Alcosan has an easement on this road and uses some of the heaviest equipment on the road to inspect its sewer drains daily. The former scrapyard used this road as well. The Riverfront 47 property owner may currently have the right to use this road (although its current owners do not intend to do so).

Removable barricades (for maintenance) have been placed at the point where the paved road meets the wooden board walk to protect the green area from traffic. The removable barricades are in place so that only Alocosan and Park vehicles have access. Because this road is not public, only traffic permitted by property owners with the easement is permitted.

 

STATEMENT:  If Freeport Road traffic were to be allowed to enter from Brilliant Avenue OR from Eastern Avenue to provide access to riverfront property located downriver in O’Hara Township and other downriver properties, the traffic would destroy the entire concept of an ARP that was originally embraced and supported so enthusiastically by so many resident property owners and other residents of the Borough of Aspinwall.

 

The mission of Aspinwall Riverfront Park has always been to create a community treasure and catalyst for trail expansion. An industrial development inhibits the public access and trails. Indeed, when our next door neighbor was a scrapyard the trail could not be expanded across its property. There has been no public River access in this section of the River for over 80 years.

The Park welcomes the idea of a non-industrial neighbor. Riverfront 47 has engaged some of the world’s best master planners and experts. Overland Partners, the architect, has designed access for the Grand Canyon as well as the Master Plans for two World Heritage Sites. The firm is among the best regarded in the world in terms of its environmental practices and has won Building of the Decade”. The Riverfront 47 team has also engaged Environmental Planning and Design, the Park’s landscape architect to cohesively tie the two properties together.

The planned residential use will increase safety at the Park because of additional “eyes” on the Park, visitors, and most importantly, enable the expansion of the trail system, public River access and the restoration of natural systems along the River.

 

STATEMENT:  While it is recognized that the future COMMERCIAL development of the properties located in the communities downriver from our ARP might be hindered by the existing limited access to those properties, it MUST be the duty of THE AFFECTED COMMUNITIES to provide relief to the Riverfront 47 LP Corporation by establishing access to the riverfront from THEIR communities. It is THE DUTY of the elected managers of the Borough of Aspinwall (Mayor and Borough Council) to be true to the original Aspinwall Riverfront Park concept as it was originally embraced and supported by the people of the Borough of Aspinwall TOTALLY WITHDRAWING ALL SUPPORT for the Riverfront 47 LP proposal allowing the routing of through traffic access through the Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

As this is opinion and not a question, no answer can be provided. If the writer of this opinion desires to debate the matter, please provide your name address and telephone number to the Borough manager.

 

STATEMENT:  The access to thee ARP by Aspinwall residents must be at the Brilliant Avenue location as planned and NO THROUGH TRAFFIC to adjacent properties should be allowed.

See response to prior paragraph.

 

The questions and points below have been added by the Park in response to other questions that have been raised:

 

  1. Why does the Park board favor the Eastern Avenue entrance as proposed by R47?

The ARP board of directors favors the Eastern Ave entrance as proposed by R47 for the following reasons:

  1. It has been deemed the safest option by Penn Dot and Norfolk Southern Railroad because of visibility (no trestle).
  2. Park visitors would no longer have to travel through the public works compound in order to get to the park.
  3. R47 will be funding the replacement of the concrete surrounding the marina buildings with a lawn area connecting East and West Park. ( estimated cost $429k)
  4. R47 will be giving ARP 1.75 acres of land adjacent to ARP along the river.
  5. Easement to R47 via Middle Alley (the boardwalk) which would result in vehicular traffic through the center of the park.

 

  1. Why is access important?

To create residential development on the property, there needs to be more than one entrance to the site so that in case of emergency people would not be stranded.

 

  1. How much green space will the Park gain from the collaboration with Riverfront 47?

Our 8.3-acre park will increase its green space substantially. We will gain 1.75 acres of parkland on the River (increasing the size of the Park nearly 20%), and .97 acres of concrete will be removed around the marina building to create a lawn that connects the two sides of the Park. The right of way to the new development is .42 acres which includes the road and the space needed for drainage, barriers and lighting. The right of way for the additional connection to East Park is .33 acres. The right of way is 40 feet wide and includes space needed for drainage, barriers and lighting. Only 22 feet of the total 40 feet would be occupied by road, so less than half an acre would be paved. In sum, we are gaining nearly 2.72 acres of green space. For a Park in an area classified as “densely populated” that started out as 8 acres, that’s significant.

 

  1. How did the plan for the Park develop?

When we were working to buy the Aspinwall Marina property landscape architect Landy Dowler created a conceptual plan based on the vision of and at the request of founding members of the Park. This plan included a trail and multiple ponds on the property to filter waste water on the site. Upon taking ownership of the site, we learned that these ponds, among other elements in the design, were not technically feasible. The original plan for the Park did not include any changes to the current entry at River Avenue – which does not have a traffic light or railroad gates.

Upon taking ownership of the property, the Park conducted a national search for landscape architects so that the way the Park looked was not chosen by a few people. The Park then did a survey of nearly 10% of the population in the surrounding communities asking what people wanted in a park. The community’s responses were in order of priority: trails, a playground, and River access. The Park board and design committee members have worked towards executing those goals, in that order, ever since.

 

  1. How have Park board members been chosen and what have they contributed?

Nine of the thirteen-member Park board has been intimately involved with the project since it was just an idea. All have spent countless hours on the project and met weekly for the first year and monthly thereafter. All board members are volunteers. Each year, they collectively donate more than 500 hours of their time. The Aspinwall Riverfront Park’s board have collectively raised – through organizations they lead or personally contributed – over $5 million to purchase, build and sustain the Park. The Aspinwall board members alone have donated over 10% of the total funds that have come from the Borough.

Aspinwall Riverfront Park board members include an Aspinwall Council representative, two former Presidents of the Fox Chapel District Association, long-time, well respected trail advocates, two foundation presidents, business leaders and lawyers. Their pro bono donations of their technical expertise saves the Park over $100,000 annually.

In addition to our professional audit, the Park’s finances are overseen by a Finance committee which meets bimonthly. Thanks to the foresight and leadership of this committee, our Park has planned for its long-term sustainability since the project’s inception.

Annually, each board member signs and adheres to a conflict of interest statement as well as our statement of board expectations.

 

  1. What is the role of the Crookstons in both the Park and the Riverfront 47 development?

Upon hearing that the Aspinwall Marina property was to become a parking lot, Susan Crookston came up with the idea to purchase the property and to develop a riverfront park and link in the trail system. A former president of the boards of both the Fox Chapel District Association and The Community Trails Initiative, she gave up her consulting practice to pursue the idea and volunteered full time for a year to get the project off of the ground. This was a significant financial hardship for her family. Before the property was purchased, Susan landed a lucrative, long-term consulting contract and offered to continue volunteering for the Park but at a much more limited capacity.

The board of directors of Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc., however, requested that Susan devote all of her attention to the development of the park and that her husband assist in this effort and run he marina operation. To formalize this arrangement, Susan and her husband formed Allegheny Development Partners to contract with Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Inc. and to provide those services.

In 2014, when Susan learned that the AZCON scrapyard property was for sale, she asked the board of Aspinwall Riverfront Park to buy it so that the property could become wholly a Park. Given the magnitude of the project, and the uncertainty about the environmental contamination on the site, the ARP board declined. She then asked several other major nonprofits and foundations to buy it to create a Park. All declined because of the costs and risks the property presented, and the AZCON property went under agreement with another scrapyard.

When the new scrapyard failed to complete the purchase of the property, the Crookstons flew to New York to negotiate with the seller and put down a $50,000 nonrefundable deposit to secure an option on the property – despite the fact that they did not know if there was environmental contamination on the site or if it had the potential to be developed. They then spent much of their retirement money to do the testing of the site needed to secure a partner to complete the purchase of the property.

The Crookstons then vetted many prominent local developers. They were introduced to The Mosites Company by The Heinz Endowments. They chose to partner with The Mosites Company because that company shared the same values. TMC is well known for spearheading the revitalization of East Liberty and their commitment to sound environmental practices. The Mosites Company is the general partner of the ownership of Riverfront 47, LP – meaning they are ultimately financially and legally responsible for the property and its development. While a minority partner, Allegheny Development Partners remains a core member of the development team.

 

  1. What measures are taken to mitigate the conflict of interest?

The Crookstons actively advocate for the Park. Before creating their partnership The Mosites Company, the Crookstons and TMC agreed that the trail system and nature would be a key component of any nonindustrial development on the site, and that Aspinwall Riverfront Park should get additional property that would enable it to truly be a place where the River is publicly accessible.

In terms of the Park, the Crookstons do not and have never had a vote on Aspinwall Riverfront Park’s independent board of directors. They are not present when matters related to Riverfront 47 are discussed amongst the board.

 

  1. Will the Crookstons or The Mosites Company make money on Riverfront 47?

It’s unknown. Development is risky and many developments fail. This site is particularly difficult and costly to develop because it is long and narrow and utilities are not readily available. The site also requires expensive site preparation to be ready for residential development. Projects of this size and complexity often take 20 years or more to complete.

If the development is successful, as a minority partner in Riverfront 47, LP the Crookstons would likely make money. Every local property owner and municipality will also profit because of the increase in tax revenues and property values. A similar project in the City, Summerset at Frick, generates more than $5 million in tax revenue annually.

At this point, the most likely way for the Riverfront 47 team to make a profit would be to sell the property as an industrial site. The property is clean by an industrial standard and is one of two tri-modal sites in the region – meaning it offers river, rail and road access. But doing this would hinder trail development and public river access and defeat the purpose of the reason for the property’s acquisition.

 

  1. Is there any foundation for the allegations that the Crookstons have behaved in an unethical manner?

No. They have disclosed their minority interest in the former junkyard property with the relevant parties and kept the Aspinwall Riverfront Park board informed of their activities through a written updates and reports. They tried to get the Aspinwall Riverfront Park and other nonprofits to buy the property, and tried to have the Borough purchase the Aspinwall marina property.

If the Crookston’s original goal was to become developers (and that in itself is not unethical), it would have been far easier, faster and cheaper for them to purchase the Aspinwall Marina property outright to build housing. Any other person, or developer, could have done what they did. The Crookstons did not know either property owner prior to entering into negotiations to buy the sites.

 

  1. What are some of The Mosites Company’s credentials?
  • The Mosites Company won the Urban Land Institute’s Global Award for Excellence in the Americas for their Eastside I & II projects (the equivalent of the Oscar for developers).
  • Chris Minnerly, one of the partners in Riverfront 47, was the lead architect on the Phipp’s Center for Sustainable Landscapes. The Center is now the first and only project to attain all four of the highest sustainable building certifications in the world. He is prominently featured in the book Building in Bloom.
  • Another partner, Mark Minnerly, spent 20 years working in community development prior to coming to Mosites. He is an adjunct professor at CMU and was chosen as part of a small group to be on the Heinz Endowments’ advisory board for their P4 environmental initiatives.
  • They have been featured in The New York Times as being one of the two major developers behind East Liberty’s transformation