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The challenges of rock excavation when developing a tournament quality softball complex

The Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority is developing several new regional parks near State College.  The first to be constructed is a park that includes four tournament quality softball fields.  There have been a number of challenges related to the existing terrain including slopes that appear to be fairly level until one tries to design 10 acres of public facilities, resulting in multiple terraces.  The shallow depth to bedrock was a challenge and we had to entertain blasting versus hoe ram excavation during the bidding process.  With the limestone geology, we have to worry about limestone sink holes although we have not run into one yet.  We also had to find an area that did not have rock in the soil on the site to accommodate a septic field for the restroom/concessions building.

Oak Hall Regional Park Site Grading
Oak Hall Regional Park Site Grading

Leonard S. Fiore is the site general contractor and has agreed to do the excavation without blasting.  They have made great progress in constructing the fields this spring.  They have cut into the rock and after two months of excavation, you can see the four fields emerging from the ground.  Working with the contractor and client, we have found suitable locations to bury rock the size of Volkswagons and ways to insure that water could drain through a rock subgrade under the sports fields.  We have worked to integrate a surprising amount of topsoil to the benefit of the project while retaining the balance of cut and fill.

Excavation in rock can be a challenge but a good contractor, geotechnical consultant and a little bit of imagination can lead to a quality outcome that serves the recreation needs of the community while minimizing environmental disturbance.

Site Accessibility: Trying to Follow Conflicting Regulations

Some of the most interesting work we do in site development is making sure that the entire site is accessible to those that have physical or mental challenges. With the Baby boomers entering their 60’s, this rapidly growing

Testing the firm, stable, and slip resistance of a paving surface
Testing the firm, stable, and slip resistance of a paving surface

population needs to have full access to our sites.

We have run up against conflicting rules and regulations and navigating those sometime conflicting requirements is difficult.  Add in a challenging topography in this part of the country and we find ourselves trying to accommodate everyone without compromising the overall project goals.

On a recent project in central Pennsylvania, we found it almost impossible to meet the Township’s requirements for pedestrian access from the public right of way, regardless of the grade and the International Building Code requiring an accessible route from the “public way.”  Further, the interrelationship between the IBC, 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, and proposed Outdoor Developed Area Guidelines can be very difficult to interpret.  In this instance, the Federal guidelines for ADA were very reasonable and provided for instances when an accessible route up a very steep grade is simply not feasible without negatively altering the natural area of the site.

As new rules and regulations become law, we must be vigilant to incorporate those requirements in our design of sites.  This week, many of us at Pashek Associates attended a webinar on accessibility and plan to continue this dialogue.  We look forward to applying what we have learned on the next site development project.

In Pittsburgh, Green is in the Air

It’s summer and that means the City is green with trees.  Not only are plants in the midst of their growing season, but people are in the midst of launching green initiatives.  Last week we attended a poster  session during the Who’s Who in Green Infrastructure Implementation event hosted by the Green Building Alliance and organized by 3 Rivers Wet Weather.  The event was packed with people interested in sharing their projects and learning more about green infrastructure.

We brought along information on several of our green roof, green school, and green park projects.  At an elementary school in New Castle we were able to reduce the amount of stormwater piping and decrease the size of underground storage tanks through a combination of planted meadow areas, rain gardens, pervious overflow parking and fire lane, and a series of vegetated swales.
Y:New Castle Lockley Elementary School - 10029Rendering Bases
For Whitehall Road Regional Park in Centre County, we are pulling out all the green stops by including rain gardens, steep slopes with meadows, vegetated buffer strips, infiltration trenches, and cisterns.  In addition, 44% of the total parking spaces are stabilized turf, which further reduces the amount of stormwater runoff.
Whitehall Road MP NO Buildings rev TJ
Our last poster featured our designs for the David Lawrence Convention Center green roof, the Allegheny County Office Building green roof, and the rain gardens at Seven Springs.
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This morning over 80 people packed a Pittsburgh Zoo conference room to kick-off this year’s Green Workplace Challenge (GWC), a program of Sustainable Pittsburgh.  We took part last year in the challenge and are excited to enter again this year with the revamped program.

This year’s GWC promises to be bigger, better, and have an even larger environmental impact than last year.  There are more points to acquire, more actions to take, and more resources available to help guide your business, non-profit, university, or municipality towards becoming more sustainable as well as saving money.
Last year we saved 19.9% on our energy usage without spending a lot of money.  This year we want to reduce our energy usage even further by tightening up our building envelope.  We will also start to phase out our older lighting with new highly efficient lighting.  We highly recommend any organization in Southwestern Pennsylvania sign up for this friendly competition before the deadline on July 31st, 2013.  Good luck to all participants.  Together, we can make a huge impact!

Uniting Around the Idea: Playground Fun for All

The new Kid’s Castle playground in Cranberry Township will be a truly unique place.  In fact, it is called a “Uniting Playground” because it brings many people and ideas together, including activities for children of different ages, interests, and abilities.  In addition, the playground design was organized around three main themes reflecting the developmental timeline of the Township; Yesterday (a more natural play area with farms and forested rolling hills), Today (clock tower play structure reminiscent of the Town Center), and Tomorrow (a more futuristic-looking play area with wavy poles and mobius climbers).

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The new playground will be constructed near the former PlayTime Palace in Cranberry Township’s Community Park, in Butler County.   Pashek Associates created the design through the eyes and vision of the Township, by incorporating elements for children to develop physical, social, communicative, sensory and cognitive skills through play.

One of the newest technologies we are incorporating into the design are sound buttons.  These “buttons” are sensors hidden underneath the safety surface that send a signal to a nearby sound “tower” that emanates different preprogramed sounds.  A new sound will resonate from the tower every time a person steps or rolls onto the sensor.  These sounds will surely pleasantly surprise new comers.

Other features include synthetic turf safety surfacing, play stage, bongo drums, ball-rolling troughs, multiple textured pavements, and leaf and hand imprints in the playground perimeter edging.

Stay tuned for photos of the playground after construction!

Making Connections… The Forks of the Ohio Regional Trails Symposium

This past Friday John Buerkle and Mike Kotyk attended this symposium which focused on advancing trail planning and development efforts in the Power of 32 region (www.powerof32.org), which includes PA, OH, WV, and Maryland.  The Symposium gave John and Mike an opportunity to rekindle relationships with former clients and friends, as well as participate in “Setting the Regional Trail Agenda”.

The Symposium brought together the “who’s who of trail development” within the four-state area.  It was a great opportunity for veterans to discuss how to expand the trails into a regional network and to tackle those difficult challenges.  It also was an excellent opportunity for new trail advocates to garner knowledge and support from those who “have been there and done that”.

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Mike enjoyed the opportunity to network as well as gain new knowledge related to asset based community development and economic impacts from trail development, as well as learning more about the development of the regional trail planning tool.

During the symposium, it became evident that the geographic area of the Power of 32 should include more counties as there are other opportunities to expand the regional trail network.  Presenters frequently referenced the Power of 32, 48, 64, or Power of 32×2.

John and Mike were happy to share their thoughts on bringing Chautauqua County, NY into the fold.  They are working on a trail feasibility study to connect Chautauqua Institution to Barcelona Harbor on Lake Erie.  The trail will eventually connect to the northern segment of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail (www.eriepittsburghtrail.org). This effort is being undertaken through the Westfield Development Corporation (www.westfieldny.com) and the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development (http://www.planningchautauqua.com) with the assistance of Pashek Associates.

Our current and past clients, as well as friends in trail community, present at the symposium included:

Off-road and on to Adventure

Northumberland County is on its way to fulfilling the vision of creating a world class off highway vehicle and recreation area.  Off-roading enthusiasts will have a new destination in Pennsylvania when the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) opens in Northumberland County in late fall 2013. The recreation area will welcome all types of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) to trails that provide a range of experiences for riders of different skill levels. The site also will accommodate non-motorized recreation such as horseback riding, bicycling, hiking and rock climbing.

Photo by Jacy Marquette Photography
Photo by Jacy Marquette Photography

AOAA lands, which are owned by the county, run about 13 miles east-to-west and amount to about 6,500 acres. Much of the land encompasses old coal mines, some of which are being reclaimed, and the kinds of landforms that attract people with all-terrain vehicles, off-road vehicles, utility ATVs and off-highway motorcycles. Eventually, the site will include campgrounds, a vehicle washing station, picnic areas and other amenities that will make the adventure area a travel destination for off-roaders from Pennsylvania and beyond.

Pashek Associates created the master plan for the recreation area, working in conjunction with Northumberland County officials, citizens and Pennoni Associates. Northumberland County adopted the plan in 2012, in in January 2013 the Commissioners created a municipal authority to manage and operate the new recreation facility.

The AOAA so far has received these major grants to get the project under way:

  • $1.9 million from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Community Conservation Partnership Program to plan and begin developing the project.
  • $300,000 from the federal Appalachian Regional Commission to construct an access road.
  • $30,000 from vehicle manufacturers for maps and signage and for trail development.
  • $1.2 million from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation to remediate hazards.
The land development planning process is nearly complete, says Patrick Mack, Northumberland County’s planning director and vice chairman of the AOAA authority. Next up is to begin construction of the trailhead area, which will include a maintenance and security building with both a small retail counter and restrooms, parking, and a picnic area.
Several sponsored events have been scheduled at the AOAA for 2013, including:
  • Valley Forge Trail Riders Hare Scramble, May 11-12, 2013
  • 2nd Annual Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree, Aug. 1-3, 2013
As the AOAA comes on-line, it is expected to generate demand for the private sector to provide lodging, camping, dining and other support service businesses in the area.
We congratulate Northumberland County on taking the next steps to turn the AOAA vision into a reality!

Pashek Associates Receives Planning Award

This week David Brooks, of the Austin Dam Memorial Association and Executive Director of the Potter County Visitors Association and John Buerkle, Vice President of Pashek Associates, attended the American Planning OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAssociation Pennsylvania Chapter’s annual meeting to receive the 2012 Planning Excellence – Best Practice Award for a recently completed master plan and economic development strategies for the Dam Park in Austin, Pennsylvania.

Pashek Associates led a planning team that included Albertin Vernon Architecture, who provided interpretive planning and master planning support.  The team encouraged the community to reflect on their history and environment in a way that made them realize the significance of what they have; how they can capitalize on it by marketing themselves; and how to promote and interpret their unique history, environment, and culture of days past and present.

This project serves as a case study on how to understand and convey a ‘sense of place’ and to gain the buy-in of local residents and business owners to think regionally – recognizing local economic development can be enhanced by marketing the Dam Park and Austin Borough as part of the regional PA Wilds, Lumber Heritage, and PA Route 6 initiatives.

The plan has also earned two regional awards for excellence.  David Brooks, the driving force behind developing the plan, was named the Pennsylvania Wilds Outstanding Leader for his role in the planning effort.  Further, Austin Borough was named a Pennsylvania Route 6 Heritage Community of the Year based on the master plan and their centennial observance of the flood of 1911 that resulted from the failure of the dam.

Congratulations to all who contributed to the plan!  For more information about the Dam Park click here.
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Pashek Lectures on Park Master Planning at Slippery Rock University

students-use-after-cropping-left-side-for-blog-236x300Jim Pashek, president of Pashek Associates was the first of three lecturers from the firm invited to speak at Slippery Rock University on park planning. The lecture Jim presented focused on the five steps typically found in master planning for parks, (1) Community background data collection, (2)Public Participation, (3) Site Analysis, (4) Programming the Activities in the park, (5) Developing the concepts, final master plan drawings and cost estimates. After an introductory lecture to orient students to public processes, they participated in a mock town meeting, generating park ideas and prioritizing those needs. Professor Christine Glenn commented on Pashek’s mock meeting, “I was struck by how effectively you guided the public meeting. I’ve seen those types of meetings get quickly unfocused. Yesterday, you effectively modeled key techniques which help to maintain control of the discussion and direction of the meeting. I was very impressed with this, and learned a great deal, which I hope to utilize in the future.”

After learning about criteria often used to layout parks, the students were broken up into teams of 4-5 each and given a park site analysis and program to fit to the site. They were cautioned to respect environmental constraints, the proper solar orientation of facilities, and important activity adjacencies.

Each team then reported why they selected the park plan they developed and how they were able to apply some of the design principles taught in the class.

John Buerkle will be lecturing on the design of Athletic Fields and Mike Kotyk will be providing information on how to plan greenway corrdiors during the next two lectures.