By James Kail, Point Park News Service:
A $350,000 budget for a remodeled gym, new signage and tools to build a safer environment for kids in 2018 was the first among many topics discussed Sept. 28 during the Friends of Phillips Park meeting at the park’s recreational center in Carrick.
During the meeting members of Carrick’s community and leaders associated with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservatory discussed and pitched ideas as to how to clean up the area and beautify the park to ensure kids have a safe, fun place for activities.
“A big concern for us is that we have a lot of kids just hanging out on a Friday night and it’s usually like 40-50 middle school kids,” said Park Director Sam Shepard, who believes this budget would help older kids get involved.
“They’re the hardest group to accommodate. This budget will help a lot with that, but it can only happen once we put together an advisory council,” Shepard said.
Prior efforts to secure funding were unsuccessful due to a lack of people stepping in to help, so the center is seeking additional people to volunteer and help plan the next steps for improvements. That is how the Friends of Phillips Park Group began. Pittsburgh Councilwoman, Natalia Rudiak, is working with Phillips Park to make sure they are successful in their efforts.
“Natalia (Rudiak) was unsuccessful at getting money until we were at least able to put together a group like this,” said Amy Kline, who moderated the meeting. “We even want to go as far as starting an Instagram account to show how the park can be improved.”
In addition to funds being considered for the park, residents of Carrick addressed concerns for safety around the park, especially at night. Eve Zimba, who lives right by the park said that there is currently a problem with people riding dirt bikes through the park.
“These people fly all over our street with them. The bikes don’t have any plates on them, and whenever we call the police, they get fined a small amount of money, but [we] get them right back,” said Zimba.
The majority of kids who participate in games at the park are under the age of 12, so the dirt bikes create concern parents.
Safety is always the first priority, said Shepard. “We encourage you all to call police as much as possible, no matter how small the issue. There are cameras in our gym area, but until we have a solid group to be able to get this funding, it’s hard to get everything monitored outdoors,” said Shepard.
Peter Dawida oversees outdoor disc-golf for kids who come to play and is excited about what this money can do for everyone outdoors.
“We certainly want more kids outdoors. Since I’ve taken over the disc golf games, I only have a couple kids at each event,” said Dawida. “If we can get this budget, we’ll be able to get a new course put in and fix the steps all around the park. It’ll go a long way into attracting new kids.”
The Friends of Phillips Park group is hoping to hear back about the status of the budget as early as next week.