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Welcome Eric Brightman to Pashek+MTR!

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.

Heather Cuyler Receives Park and Rec Certifications

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!

Contact info:

Heather Cuyler

412-321-6362 Ext. 116

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).


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!

Natural Playgrounds

More and more research is showing that children benefit from playing outdoors, specifically in nature. Children are happier, healthier, and smarter when they connect with nature. Several new movements in playground design have sought to incorporate nature in the play experience. In addition, several playground manufacturers have responded by creating new lines of play structures and features that are nature inspired.

What are natural playgrounds? Simply put, they are areas where children can play with natural elements such as wood, plants, rocks, dirt, and water. Natural playgrounds incorporate features such as tunnels made from hollowed out trees, grass mounds, slides built into the hillside, tree stumps to climb and sit on, boulders to climb over, edible plants, butterfly gardens, and vegetable gardens. Natural playgrounds offer opportunities for environmental education, unstructured play, social interaction, along with a more aesthetic setting.

A natural playground concept
A natural playground concept

Some playground equipment manufacturers are creating equipment made to look like tree houses, stumps, climbing boulders, and balance beams. They are also promoting placing equipment into more naturalized settings with lots of trees and shrubs. Whether you can call this a true “natural playground” is not the point. The bottom line is, children should have access to playgrounds with more natural features, whether it is an existing playground that integrates manufactured play equipment with lush plantings, a brand new playground that includes all natural features, or a combination of both.

Traditional playground equipment incorporated into a naturalized play space
Traditional playground equipment incorporated into a naturalized play space

For more resources on natural or naturalized playgrounds check outNatureGrounds and the Natural Learning Initiative.  Or contact us about designing a natural playground for your community.