The Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society awards are presented annually to those individuals who have demonstrated professional leadership, contributions having a lasting value to the parks and recreation profession, and a commitment to the advancement of the Society. The winner of the 2021 PRPS Distinguished Member Award in honor of Robert D. Griffith, from Pashek + MTR, Heather Cuyler.
The Distinguished Member Award is named in honor of Robert D. Griffith, the longtime Executive Director of PRPS, and seeks to recognize those professionals who have consistently contributed to the advancement of the Society, affiliated organizations and the parks and recreation profession.
Heather began her career as a part-time Director and quickly became the first ever full-time Director of Parks and Recreation in Marshall Township. Over the next 20 years, her passion for our field has guided her career, both professionally and as a volunteer. Her efforts and significant achievements as an advocate, volunteer and professional have advanced public recreation and parks and have had tremendous impact on the quality of life in her region and across the state. She has been involved with the Moraine Preservation Fund for more than 20 years, is the co-founder of the Recreation Alliance of North Pittsburgh and is now a Recreation Planner for Pashek + MTR. Heather is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, Certified Playground Safety Inspector, & Certified Pool Operator.
Heather is deeply committed to PRPS having served on numerous Annual Conference Committees, and the Membership, Governmental Affairs, and Recognition and Awards Committees, as well as holding leadership positions throughout her very active years in District One. As her nominator stated in her application for this award, “Heather has consistently contributed to the advancement of the Society, affiliated organizations, and our profession in countless ways, and been a champion for parks, trails, greenways, and open space preservation throughout the Commonwealth”. Certainly, appropriate words befitting a Distinguished Member.
We are pleased that Eric Brightman has joined the Pashek+MTR team. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Eric honed his design and project management skills through his work for public and private landscapes in the New York City area. His understanding of materials, historic landscapes, playground safety, accessibility, water features, custom detailing, and construction administration for high profile public projects enriches Pashek+MTR’s practice.
Eric’s fifteen years of landscape architecture practice include five years as a project manager for the Planning, Design, & Construction team at the Central Park Conservancy (CPC) as well as ten years with Michael Van Valkenburg Associates (MVVA).
While at CPC, he played a fundamental role in the documentation and management of projects ranging from rehabilitation of historic landscapes to complex multi-million dollar renovations of iconic Central Park playgrounds, totaling nearly $18 million in Park improvements during his tenure.
Eric’s experience at MVVA included the planning, design, and construction of a 350-acre upstate New York residential estate. He also led the construction documentation and construction observation phases for the Novartis Pharmaceuticals campus expansion project in central New Jersey, which required close collaboration with architects, engineers, ecologists, and arborists.
Since relocating to Pittsburgh, Eric enjoys exploring new neighborhoods, parks, playgrounds and looking for the perfect pierogi. He also spends time volunteering at the Tree Pittsburgh Heritage Nursery and is a member of the gardening committee at his daughter’s school where he is helping to connect children with nature through establishing and maintaining gardens on school property.
The next time you see Heather Cuyler, congratulate her!
Many of you know Heather Cuyler. If you don’t, please read this anyway, as we want to share her good news. Heather joined Pashek+MTR a little over a year ago as our recreation practitioner. In that role Heather is responsible for working with and advising many of our clients on park and recreation matters, from long-term planning to day-to-day operations and management.
With her extensive experience as a municipal director of parks and recreation, Heather decided to validate her abilities this year by garnering credentials. She has acquired new certifications, passing both the National Park and Recreation’s Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP) and their Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) exams.
What does this mean to you?
- The Certified Park and Recreation Professional certification is the national standard for all parks and recreation professionals who want to be at the forefront of their profession.
- The Certified Playground Safety Inspector certification program provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues, including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods.
All of this means Heather is recognized by her peers and in the industry for leadership in the parks and recreation profession, and more importantly, that she is extremely qualified to guide you in your park and recreation endeavors.
Please contact Heather if you would like to:
- Prepare or update your community’s Comprehensive Park, Recreation, and Open Space Plan, Active Transportation, Trail, or Greenway Plan;
- Prepare a master plan for a new or existing park;
- Determine whether your playground meets current safety requirements; or
- Design and build a new play area.
She would love to speak with you!
412-321-6362 Ext. 116
This brief essay is from Pashek+MTR’s founding partner, Jim Pashek. It is excerpted from “Good for You. Good for All,” Pennsylvania Recreation & Parks, Spring 2018.
GOOD FOR FAMILIES
Every summer we enjoy the beauty of Moraine State Park. We have been going to the park for more than 20 years as a family and have many fond memories. Our sons love to ride on the bike trail through the woods and along the lake each time we go to Moraine. We drop them off at the beginning of the bike trail and then drive along the north shore to the marina to get the boat ready. The joy on their faces when they arrive at the marina at the end of their six-mile ride is very special to me. This summer, we have introduced a new generation to the bike trail. Our grandson, who is six, took his first bike ride on the Moraine trial. It was a great success, and we know that he will be excited to try a bike ride again this coming summer.
My wife and I have an older Flying Scot sailboat that we store though the summer at Moraine. We also bring kayaks with us so everyone can enjoy the lake. The lake is really beautiful, and we love to both sail and kayak. There is something very therapeutic in watching the wind fill the sails and feeling the warm sun. Any tensions we bring to the park seem to melt away as we drive along the park road into the marina and picnic area. We explore the shore habitats as we kayak, and see great blue heron, green heron, osprey, eagles and other lake birds. Even a very lost seagull is spotted from time to time. For the first time this past summer, our sons sailed the boat on their own. They were very proud of their achievement, and I was glad no one sustained a concussion as they “came about.”
Our lives are very busy. However, when a family trip to Moraine is planned, everyone works their schedules to be able to join in. Food is shared, memories are made, and there is a lot of laughter. Like most families, we have had our challenges. But when we arrive in the park, our cares seem to disappear. Even leaving the park can be a very special time. As we leave at dusk, the animals are out, and we have fun identifying them. Going to Moraine is a wonderful family tradition that we hope to continue for a long time.
Jim Pashek, founding partner, Pashek+MTR,
PRPS member since 1987
Our intern, Tori Frydrych, was fortunate enough to study in Barcelona, Spain earlier this summer. Before she left to go back to school, she wrote about her experience:
During my time abroad, I received an entirely new perspective on design, one that differed greatly from design practices here in the United States. To begin the six-week courses, I was introduced to the history of Barcelona and how it has become the bustling tourist destination that it is today. We learned first of the four main concepts of Ildefons Cerda’s Theory of Urbanization; hygiene, circulation, public services, and code of urban ordinances. These four areas were the main building blocks for the unique gridded expansion of the city in the mid-19th century, otherwise known as L’Eixample. He saw the need for more natural lighting, green spaces, public services, and the seamless movement of people, goods, and services within the City of Barcelona.
To achieve this, Cerda’s new grid system was laid out with an even ratio of roadway and sidewalk width. In other words, the sidewalk would reach out from the buildings 10 meters, followed by 20 meters of roadway, followed by another 10 meters of sidewalk. The corners of all blocks were also cut off at 45-degree angles, making crossing streets safer and helping breezes move through the city more easily. The interior of each block was meant for public greenspaces.
My focus was then narrowed specifically on the coastline of Barcelona. The goal of my design studio was to transform an outdated, underutilized beach athletic club into a coastline destination that would better link the urban fabric of the city to the shore. The history of Barcelona’s shoreline is not one of nature but one of man’s alteration and construction. As industry grew, it became a dumping and transportation nightmare, only to be manually overhauled in time for the 1992 Olympic Games.
In order to accommodate the Olympics, intense urban renewal occurred throughout the city to prepare for the Games and the immense amount of people that would arrive in the city. Most of these improvements occurred in the coastal shoreline areas of the city. Additionally, it was relatively blocked off from people because of the many rail lines that were running along the coast. In preparation for the Games, these rail lines were redirected and new transportation highways were added. This opened access to the shore and six artificial beaches were created to be used during the Olympics and to attract tourism long afterwards.
Keeping this history in mind, I created a site that both physically connected the land and sea while also visually mirroring the two domains, showing that they will be forever linked in the city’s history of expansion and growth. Overall, I created a design that allowed for public gathering plazas, cafés featuring locally caught fish, performance spaces, recreation areas, and largely a better connection from the nearby commercial district to the popular beaches.
I greatly enjoyed my time abroad and will keep Cerda’s design principles in mind as I enter my fourth year studying Landscape Architecture at Penn State University. I will be studying abroad in Bonn, Germany next fall and I am eager to see how other areas of Europe approach the design process.
The Borough of Export is excited to announce the preparation of a Master Plan for a new park in the heart of town. JM Hall Jr. Park is located on the former site of the Export No. 2 Mine off Old William Penn Highway, next to the American Italian Club, and within easy walking distance from downtown Export. The park will aim to connect locals and visitors to the rich history of Export’s founding, former coal industry, and landscapes.
The park will be centered on a plaza simulating features of the mine during operational years. Restrooms inset into the hillside paired with a mural will give guests the illusion of walking into the mines. Extending across the plaza from the restroom “mine entrance” will be rail car tracks and a structure replicating the remnants of a tipple, just as an actual tipple once extended out over Old William Penn Highway. A picnic shelter is incorporated into this interpretive modern-day tipple structure, appearing to be a section of tipple with metal roof still intact. Adjacent is a seasonal plaza which converts to an ice rink during winter.
A quarter mile scenic loop trail will extend from this plaza, connecting visitors to an open recreation lawn, amphitheater, nature playgrounds, vistas, a second picnic shelter, historic panels, and a woodland hiking trail. Interactive historic references include passing through a black locust tree grove, once used to provide supports for the mines, and recreated grassy tailing pile hills. Nature playgrounds include embankment slides, climbing rocks and logs, a sand pit, small tunnels, and a large grassy “tailing pile” with climbing features and a slide.
JM Hall Jr. Park will be capable of hosting small festivals, family reunions, picnics, and school groups. With the development of the regional trail along Turtle Creek to the entrance of the park and the new community park, visitors will stop and patronize the nearby local businesses during their visit. With the completion of the Master Plan in the fall of 2017, efforts will shift toward funding the construction of this wonderful park. Once built, JM Hall Jr. Park will join the other unique assets of Export, attracting both existing and potential families.
This morning, Matt Shaffer and Jim Pashek rode into work today from Etna, logging in just a little more than the nine miles we needed to total 1,000 commuter miles on our bikes in 2014. The sun rise this morning was spectacular as Matt traversed along the Allegheny River toward the Northside. The temperature at 27 degrees, was a little chilly this morning and Jim’s finger tips and Matt’s toes were cold the entire way in this morning. Jim will be asking for warmer bike gloves for the holidays.
There are so many wonderful reasons why I ride to work as often as the weather and my schedule permits. Probably the most important is the exercise this old body gets. But each trip has so many wonderful experiences. This morning I enjoyed riding the edges of frozen puddles, listening to the crack of the ice under my tires. As I write this blog, I can’t help but think back to those many warm rides this year, the people watching on the trail, the wonderful smells and sounds, cheering on the high school kids practicing in their sculls, and the play of light on the river landscape.
We are fortunate to have visionary leaders like Friends of the Riverfront, the County and City planners and now Bike Pittsburgh as they advocated the return of the riverfronts for trail and other recreational uses. We at Pashek Associates are proud of our contribution over the years to the planning of the riverfront trail along the Allegheny River, along the Southside, a gap study of the entire trail system in the City and the design of the mile markers used on the trail. In fact, if you have all of your shopping done, please come out to a presentation in Millvale on Wednesday, December 10 at 6:00pm at the Millvale Community Center about extending the trail from Millvale to the northern reaches of the County along the Allegheny River.
Sometimes it’s fun to look some distance away for an example of a cool new use for an old landscape.
Today we travel to Portland, Conn., the location of some historic quarries, from which brownstone was mined in the late 1800s for construction purposes in cities in the eastern United States. (When you hear of a New York City “brownstone,” chances are the stone for that structure came from Portland.)
The quarry fell into disuse over time, and filled with water as deep as 120 feet. The town of Portland bought the site in 1999, and in 2000, the quarry became listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Today the quarry has a new use, as an adventure park. Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park leases and operates the recreation area, which offers swimming, snorkeling, rock climbing, cliff jumps, scuba diving, wakeboarding, bouncy floats to jump around on, kayaking and biking/hiking. Water temperatures rise in the summer as the sun heats the brownstone walls, and the walls heat the water. But as of today, it’s an invigorating 65 degrees. So if that cliff jump doesn’t put a chill down your spine, maybe the water will.